Jul 08 2016

Rolf Jacobsen – When They Sleep

Published by under Poetry

When They Sleep
by Rolf Jacobsen

English version by Robert Hedin

All people are children when they sleep.
there’s no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.
They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.
If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
— God, teach me the language of sleep.

— from Night Music: Selected Poems, by Rolf Jacobsen / Translated by Robert Hedin


/ Image by poudoudoup /

It has been a difficult few weeks in the world, so many terrible things done and said and imagined. So today why not a meditation on the wisdom of sleep?

In sleep, we rediscover our simple innocent being. We are open, vulnerable, in an odd way supremely present in that unconscious state.

All people are children when they sleep.
there’s no war in them then.

All our careful defenses, which have a way of mutating into unnoticed cruelties, loosen in sleep, and slide off our shoulders like a heavy coat. All harm and armor are set aside.

…a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.

Even when our hearts struggle to trust and rest, we have a built-in biological faith that kicks in at night.

The stars stand guard…

The chest unlocks, and the stifled tide of the breath resumes its flow in and out again.

They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.

Imagine the waking world blessed with such unavoided honesty. Think what words and deeds our blossoming hearts would draw to them.

If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.

I look outside the window, another warm, drowsy summer morning. The call of a lone finch echoes through the morning air. My breath slows and deepens. My eyelids grow heavy.

– God, teach me the language of sleep.


Recommended Books: Rolf Jacobsen

The Winged Energy of Delight The Roads Have Come to an End Now: Selected and Last Poems of Rolf Jacobsen Night Music: Selected Poems North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen, A Bilingual Edition Night Open: Selected Poems


Rolf Jacobsen, Rolf Jacobsen poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rolf Jacobsen

Norway (1907 – 1994) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

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Jul 08 2016

every action

Let every action
be a perfect stillness
in the heart.

No responses yet

Jul 06 2016

John of the Cross – The Fountain

Published by under Poetry

The Fountain
by John of the Cross

English version by Willis Barnstone

How well I know that flowing spring
      in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen.
How well I know where she has been
      in black of night.

I do not know her origin.
None. Yet in her all things begin
      in black of night.

I know that nothing is so fair
and earth and firmament drink there
      in black of night.

I know that none can wade inside
to find her bright bottomless tide
      in black of night.

Her shining never has a blur;
I know that all light comes from her
      in black of night.

I know her streams converge and swell
and nourish people, skies and hell
      in black of night.

The stream whose birth is in this source
I know has a gigantic force
      in black of night.

The stream from but these two proceeds
yet neither one, I know, precedes
      in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen
in living bread that gives us being
      in black of night.

She calls on all mankind to start
to drink her water, though in dark,
      for black is night.

O living fountain that I crave,
in bread of life I see her flame
      in black of night.

— from To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light, Translated by Willis Barnstone


/ Image by plutonicfluf /

In this poem, John of the Cross is speaking of a secret fountain as if it is a divine, living being — and it is. This isn’t merely a poetic metaphor, it is a description of actual mystical experience rendered into the language of poetry.

Mystics throughout the world and in all traditions describe an awareness of a flowing of water, a water that is alive. Coming into contact with that water, touching it, drinking it, feeling it flow inside you and all around you, quickens a new sense of life within. Everything, yourself included, is suddenly seen as radically alive in a way that could not have been imagined before. It is this water that is the foundational “stuff” of the manifest world, all things are formed of it and exist within it.

Accompanying this is a sense of a rising up and overflowing of energy — a fountain. This is felt as originating in the seat, beginning to spread out in the solar plexus, flowing generously in the heart, and anointing the crown with a glistening light.

John of the Cross refers to this fountain as “she,” equating it with the Holy Spirit in Christian tradition.

And why is this fountain always discovered “in black of night”? Night, the dark night of the soul, is fundamental to the mystical language developed by John of the Cross. One way to understand it is as the disorienting space of initiation, when the awareness has released its identification with material creation, and waits uncertainly for the Divine. Understood this way, the night is the spiritual threshold. It is within this psychic emptiness that we discover the fountain.

PS – Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends! I hope this Ramadan was a time of blessings and beauty and renewal.

PPS – My heart breaks for the people of Bangladesh and the world affected by the recent terrible attacks. I have no proper words to express the grief and horror.

PPPS – RIP Elie Wiesel. The world has lost a great soul. May his passing awaken within us all the seeing conscience he so nobly embodied.

May I share with you one of the principles that governs my life? It is the realization that what I receive I must pass on to others. The knowledge that I have acquired must not remain imprisoned in my brain. I owe it to many men and women to do something with it. I feel the need to pay back what was given to me. Call it gratitude.

Isn’t this what education is all about?

There is divine beauty in learning, just as there is human beauty in tolerance. To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.

~ Elie Wiesel


Recommended Books: John of the Cross

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
More Books >>


John of the Cross, John of the Cross poetry, Christian poetry John of the Cross

Spain (1542 – 1591) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Jul 06 2016

back at breath

Words are built of breath,
and thoughts of words.
When we find the silent, knowing space
beneath words and thoughts,
we are back at breath.

No responses yet

Jul 01 2016

Mansur al-Hallaj – If They Only Knew

Published by under Poetry

If They Only Knew
by Mansur al-Hallaj

English version by Michael A. Sells

What earth is this
      so in want of you
they rise up on high
      to seek you in heaven?

            Look at them staring
                  at you
            right before their eyes,
                  unseeing, unseeing, blind.
. . .

            I was patient,
                  but can the heart
be patient of
      its heart?

                  My spirit and yours
            blend together
                  whether we are near one another
            or far away.

            I am you,
you,
      my being,
            end of my desire,

      The most intimate of secret thoughts
            enveloped
and fixed along the horizon
      in folds of light.

                  How? The “how” is known
            along the outside,
                  while the interior of beyond
      to and for the heart of being.

      Creatures perish
            in the darkened
blind of quest,
      knowing intimations.

                        Guessing and dreaming
            they pursue the real,
                  faces turned toward the sky
      whispering secrets to the heavens.

            While the lord remains among them
                  in every turn of time
abiding in their every condition
      every instant.

                  Never without him, they,
            not for the blink of an eye —
                  if only they knew!
            nor he for a moment without them.

— from Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality), by Michael A. Sells


/ Image by kayrey18 /

This is a great poem by the Sufi mystic and martyr, al-Hallaj.

A reminder to us all that, wherever we look, we are always staring at the face of God, “right before [our] eyes.” Everyone, knowingly or unknowingly, is always searching for the Eternal, but too easily we become lost in our search. The idea of a search is already to be lost — “a blind quest.” We imagine that the Goal will be found elsewhere, somewhere that we are not, and so we rush about looking, looking. “Guessing and dreaming,” looking for God in some distant heaven instead of beneath our feet and between the span of our arms, we blindly have our “faces turned toward the sky.” But doing that, we never recognize that “the lord remains among [us]” in our “every condition / every instant.” We are never without the Divine Presence, “not for the blink of an eye!”

Hallaj says it very simply, speaking to God as the Beloved who is everywhere and, at the same time, the heart of the heart:

My spirit and yours
blend together
whether we are near one another
or far away.

I am you,
you,
my being,
end of my desire.

And his conclusion:

Never without him, they,
not for the blink of an eye —
if only they knew!
nor he for a moment without them.


Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology
More Books >>


Mansur al- Hallaj

Iran/Persia (9th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jul 01 2016

just selfish enough

Be just selfish enough
to insist on what is
spiritually important to you.

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Jun 29 2016

Truth, Tea, and Poetry

Yesterday’s Istanbul bombing. The Brexit vote. The murder of Amjad Sabri, the Sufi qawwali singer, in Pakistan last week. We could add several things from the American scene to this list. While it is not always the role of the Poetry Chaikhana to dwell on these sorts of events in depth, I do hope my occasional comments inspire serious thought, new perspectives, and deep discussion with those around you.

Poetry, especially sacred poetry, has a way of bringing down barriers and sidestepping dogmas, guiding us to the hidden strands of unity. Sacred poetry reminds us of our shared humanity and our shared divinity.

The poetry of Muslim Sufis and Christian mystics, the songs of shamans and Hindu rishis, of Jewish rebbes and Zen Roshis — these outpourings from the enlightened heart heal the world in ways that politics and social institutions were never designed for. The right word moves from the heart to the tongue to touch a new heart, and so quietly spreads through the world. An elegant formulation of thought and feeling and breath, the poetic word is itself utterly insubstantial, a phantasm, yet somehow alive with truth and beauty… and the recognition of the underlying unity we all are part of. And so poetry, in its quiet way, flows on hidden currents through humanity, unaffected by borders or bullets.

I believe poetry, sacred poetry, is essential to the healing of this suffering world.

The Poetry Chaikhana seeks to honor the way the mystic’s ecstatic insight flows naturally into poetic utterance, doing away with all the dogma and internecine sectarian squabbling. This idea was central to my decision years ago to call this site a “chaikhana.”

Chaikhana

I often get asked what a “chaikhana” is. The short answer is that it is a tea house (chai = tea). The inevitable second question is, why a “poetry chaikhana”? What does poetry, especially sacred poetry, have to do with tea? The act of sipping tea naturally has a contemplative quality to it, but there’s a deeper reason why I chose the name Poetry Chaikhana all those years ago. I was inspired by a Sufi story–


/ Photo by Doubtful-Della /

The Story of Tea

In ancient times, tea was not known outside China. Rumours of its existence had reached the wise and the unwise of other countries, and each tried to find out what it was in accordance with what he wanted or what he thought it should be.

The King of Inja (‘here’) sent an embassy to China, and they were given tea by the Chinese Emperor. But, since they saw that the peasants drank it too, they concluded that it was not fit for their royal master: and, furthermore, that the Chinese Emperor was trying to deceive them, passing off some other substance for the celestial drink.

The greatest philosopher of Anja (‘there’) collected all the information he could about tea, and concluded that it must be a substance which existed but rarely, and was of another order than anything then known. For was it not referred to as being an herb, a water, green, black, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet?

In the countries of Koshish and Bebinem, for centuries the people tested all the herbs they could find. Many were poisoned, all were disappointed. For nobody had brought the tea-plant to their lands, and thus they could not find it. They also drank all the liquids which they could find, but to no avail.

In the territory of Mazhab (‘Sectarianism’) a small bag of tea was carried in procession before the people as they went on their religious observances. Nobody thought of tasting it: indeed, nobody knew how. All were convinced that the tea itself had a magical quality. A wise man said: ‘Pour upon it boiling water, ye ignorant ones!’ They hanged him and nailed him up, because to do this, according to their belief, would mean the destruction of their tea. This showed that he was an enemy of their religion.

Before he died, he had told his secret to a few, and they managed to obtain some tea and drink it secretly. When anyone said: ‘What are you doing?’ they answered: ‘It is but medicine which we take for a certain disease.’

And so it was throughout the world. Tea had actually been seen growing by some, who did not recognize it. It had been given to others to drink, but they thought it the beverage of the common people. It had been in the possession of others, and they worshipped it. Outside China, only a few people actually drank it, and those covertly.

Then came a man of knowledge, who said to the merchants of tea, and the drinkers of tea, and to others: ‘He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not. Instead of talking about the celestial beverage, say nothing, but offer it at your banquets. Those who like it will ask for more. Those who do not, will show that they are not fitted to be tea-drinkers. Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.’

The tea was brought from one stage to another along the Silk Road, and whenever a merchant carrying jade or gems or silk would pause to rest, he would make tea, and offer it to such people as were near him, whether they were aware of the repute of tea or not. This was the beginning of the Chaikhanas, the teahouses which were established all the way from Peking to Bokhara and Samarkand. And those who tasted, knew.

At first, mark well, it was only the great and the pretended men of wisdom who sought the celestial drink and who also exclaimed: ‘But this is only dried leaves!’ or: ‘Why do you boil water, stranger, when all I want is the celestial drink?’, or yet again: ‘How do I know that this is? Prove it to me. Besides the colour of the liquid is not golden, but ochre!’

When the truth was known, and when the tea was brought for all who would taste, the roles were reversed, and the only people who said things like the great and intelligent had said were the absolute fools. And such is the case to this day.

– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani (1098 – 1131)

Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years
by Idries Shah

I hope the poems and thoughts I share through the Poetry Chaikhana bring a taste of that essential truth to your lips. This deep truth is loving and accepting, utterly unthreatened by the multiplicity of ideas, ancient and modern, that so threaten the rigid-minded. This truth permeates and enlivens the best of our notions and aspirations without being limited by them. And when a line of sacred poetry entrances us with its beauty, we have caught a holy glimpse of that truth, which is nothing less than the eternal Face of the Beloved, ever smiling just beneath the surface, drawing our spirits deeper, deeper into understanding, deeper into truth, deeper into compassion and connection.

Truth, tea… and poetry. Chaikhana.

He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not… Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.

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Jun 24 2016

Rabindranath Tagore – In one salutation to thee

Published by under Poetry

(103) In one salutation to thee, my God (from Gitanjali)
by Rabindranath Tagore

English version by Rabindranath Tagore

In one salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out and touch this world at thy feet.
      Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed showers let all my mind bend down at thy door in one salutation to thee.
      Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee.
      Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to their mountain nests let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home in one salutation to thee.

— from Gitanjali, by Rabindranath Tagore


/ Image by Muffet /

What a lovely outpouring of the heart to God by the great Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore.

Imagine the courage it takes for a poet, a singer of songs, to say, “Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee.”

When a poet wants fame, he wants each line to make a great noise and proclaim his name. But when a poet is truly great, he wants each strain to lead to silence, the lines washing away all noise, even the voice of the poet himself!

That is the way, the only real form of prayer: One all-encompasing salutation to the Divine that leaves us utterly empty of self, that leaves us standing in spaciousness and silence. Such a pure yielding turns all of life into a voyage that continuously returns us to our eternal home.

In one salutation…


Recommended Books: Rabindranath Tagore

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Gitanjali The Lover of God The Fugitive Lover’s Gift and Crossing
More Books >>


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India (1861 – 1941) Timeline
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Jun 24 2016

remember

Our awareness is too often
separated segmented, disunified.
Return every part of yourself to a single wholeness.
Re-member yourself.

No responses yet

Jun 22 2016

Kelsang Gyatso – Little Tiger

Published by under Poetry

Little Tiger
by Kelsang Gyatso

English version by Thubten Jinpa and Jas Elsener

The honey bee, a little tiger,
is not addicted to the taste of sugar;
his nature is to extract the juice
from the sweet lotus flower!

Dakinis, above, below, and on earth,
unimpeded by closeness and distance,
will surely extract the blissful essence
when the yogins bound by pledges gather.

The sun, the king of illumination,
is not inflated by self-importance;
by the karma of sentient beings,
it shines resplendent in the sky.

When the sun perfect in skill and wisdom
dawns in the sky of the illuminated mind,
without conceit, you beautify
and crown the beings of all three realms.

The smiling faces of the radiant moon
are not addicted to hide and seek;
by its relations with the sun,
the moon takes waning and waxing forms.

Though my gurus, embodiment of all refuge,
are free of all fluctuation and of faults,
through their flux-ridden karma the disciples perceive
that the guru’s three secrets display all kinds of effulgence.

Constellations of stars adorning the sky
are not competing in a race of speed;
due to the force of energy’s pull,
the twelve planets move clockwise with ease.

Guru, deity, and dakini — my refuge —
though not partial toward the faithful,
unfailingly you appear to guard
those with fortunate karma blessed.

The white clouds hovering above on high
are not so light that they arise from nowhere;
it is the meeting of moisture and heat
that makes the patches of mist in the sky.

Those striving for good karma
are not greedy in self-interest;
by the meeting of good conditions
they become unrivaled as they rise higher.

The clear expanse of the autumn sky
is not engaged in the act of cleansing;
yet being devoid of all obscuration,
its pure vision bejewels the eyes.

The groundless sphere of all phenomena
is not created fresh by a discursive mind;
yet when the face of ever-presence is known,
all concreteness spontaneously fades away.

Rainbows radiating colors freely
are not obsessed by attractive costumes;
by the force of dependent conditions,
they appear distinct and clearly.

This vivid appearance of the external world,
though not a self-projected image,
through the play of fluctuating thought and mind,
appears as paintings of real things.

— from Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening, Translated by Thupten Jinpa / Translated by Jas Elsner


/ Image by chefranden /

It has been a while since we last explored a poem from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I love the wisdom poetry from that rich tradition, but to the casual reader they can feel rather technical. Often they are declarations of enlightenment through precise delineations of the nature of reality and perception. For the seeker who has been struggling to conceive of subtle and elevated concepts or, better still, who has begun to experience heightened states but doesn’t yet have the language for them, the poems of Tibetan masters are a delight of lucidity and elegance. But how to enter that world for the first time? I thought this poem might feel more approachable, inviting deeper exploration.

…when the face of ever-presence is known,
all concreteness spontaneously fades away.

I love that line!

There is a lot being explored in this wisdom poem…

In so many ways the “vivid appearance of the external world” can become a trap for the distracted mind. Through the intensity of contact we get caught in constant reaction, running after pleasure, running from pain.

But this poem reminds us that such experiences are not inherently ‘real.’ It is not so much that things are unreal; rather, we tend not to see reality directly and, instead, see our own mental reproduction of reality. It is like looking at “paintings of real things” without realizing it.

This vivid appearance of the external world,
though not a self-projected image,
through the play of fluctuating thought and mind,
appears as paintings of real things.

What we call “experience” is really a story we tell ourselves, a story reflexively created by “fluctuating thought and mind” when it reaches out and touches an object that it perceives to be outside of itself. “Experience” is a mental overlay, and not the thing or event itself.

In the truly natural state, the awareness is at rest, perceiving without tension, encountering reality without an overlay of stories, without attraction or repulsion. In that pure awareness, life becomes a flow of events and interaction, not pushed by the self-will of likes and dislikes. We no longer imagine, “I have done this” or “I have experienced that.” We are simply as we are, in our pure state. Actions are done, but we do not do them. Events still occur, but they don’t happen to us, they simply unfold. We are no longer addicted to the “hide and seek” of life experience; its “waning and waxing” is simply its natural flow.

Then we become like the sun, illuminating and beautifying “without conceit.” We are rainbows, not obsessed by our “attractive costumes,” yet beautiful nonetheless. And like the honey bee, the “little tiger”, we are fiercely true to our nature, gathering nectar, not because we are addicted to its sweetness, but because that is what is in our nature to do.

The honey bee, a little tiger,
is not addicted to the taste of sugar;
his nature is to extract the juice
from the sweet lotus flower!


Recommended Books: Kelsang Gyatso

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening


Kelsang Gyatso, Kelsang Gyatso poetry, Buddhist poetry Kelsang Gyatso

Tibet (1708 – 1757) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Jun 22 2016

see

See for yourself.

No responses yet

Jun 17 2016

Wislawa Szymborska – The Camel

Published by under Poetry

The Camel
by Wislawa Szymborska

English version by Joanna Trzeciak

Don’t tell a camel about need and want.

Look at the big lips
pursed
in perpetual kiss,
the dangerous lashes
of a born coquette.

The camel is an animal
grateful for less.

It keeps to itself
the hidden spring choked with grass,
the sharpest thorn
on the sweetest stalk.

When a voice was heard crying in the wilderness,

when God spoke
from the burning bush,

the camel was the only animal
to answer back.

Dune on stilts,
it leans into the long horizon,
bloodhounding

the secret caches of watermelon

brought forth like manna
from the sand.

It will bear no false gods
before it:
not the trader
who cinches its hump
with rope,
nor the tourist.

It has a clear sense of its place in the world:

after water and watermelon,
heat and light,
silence and science,

it is the last great hope.

— from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, by Wislawa Szymborska / Translated by Joanna Trzeciak


/ Image by Al-Shamary /

I like this poem because it gives us an opportunity to consider the energies embodied by the camel, what it represents, what we can learn from it.

The camel is one of my favorite symbolic representations of the spiritual seeker.

Don’t tell a camel about need and want.

First, the camel is a natural ascetic. It can survive on so little in the harshest desert environments.

The camel is an animal
grateful for less.

As such, the camel represents a purity and essentialism, needing nothing extraneous. It is a being complete and capable within itself.

It is also a good symbol for conservation. What little it needs it carefully gathers and stores within itself, wasting nothing.

And, of course, the camel is the quintessential journeyer:

Dune on stilts,
it leans into the long horizon…

It travels through the hidden and forgotten places with endurance and persistence, practically becoming part of the landscape it passes though.

The camel’s special gift is that, unlike other creatures, it discovers the desert’s secret places and hidden treasures, unrecognized and unappreciated by others.

It keeps to itself
the hidden spring choked with grass,
the sharpest thorn
on the sweetest stalk.

The camel is a knower of secrets, an imbiber of secret sustenance.

And let’s not forget that the camel has attitude. Unlike the docile horse, camels are famous for their rebellious nature. The camel is no meek follower of rules. The camel is an independent thinker.

It will bear no false gods
before it:
not the trader
who cinches its hump
with rope,
nor the tourist.

The camel knows itself and doesn’t try to conform to the demands and expectations of society.

It has a clear sense of its place in the world:

after water and watermelon,
heat and light,
silence and science,

it is the last great hope.

Seeker, become like the camel, a journeyer, far seeing, at ease in the open, solitary, silent spaces, drinking from secret springs, content and whole in yourself.


Recommended Books: Wislawa Szymborska

Poems New and Collected Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska Nothing Twice: Selected Poems Here Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts
More Books >>


Wislawa Szymborska, Wislawa Szymborska poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wislawa Szymborska

Poland (1923 – 2012) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jun 17 2016

world at rest

The happiest moment is when you discover
the world at rest
in your heart.

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Jun 13 2016

Rumi – (Orlando) We are the mirror as well as the face in it

Published by under Poetry

We are the mirror as well as the face in it
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours.

— from Open Secret: Versions of Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks / Translated by John Moyne


/ Image by vanillapearl /

How dare a man call himself a Muslim or a Christian or a person of any faith with such hatred in his heart?

One man turns to mass murder and we rightly condemn such hideous actions. Yet his unbalanced mind and heart drank in the hatred served up by people who call themselves religious. I am tired of people justifying their hatreds by citing scripture or ancient tradition.

I will say bluntly what religious leaders of all faiths should be saying loudly: God does not condemn gay and lesbian people. I don’t care what you can quote from the Bible or the Quran or any scripture, the truth is the truth. Homosexuality is not a sin, it is not evil, it is not amoral, it is not against nature, it is not against God. Homosexuality is. Gay and lesbian people are. They are our brothers and our sisters, fellow children of God, made by God as they are. They have a place and a purpose in the world, bringing their unique balancing perspectives and energies and life into society.

All of my life I have had friends who are gay and lesbian. Some of the finest people I have been blessed to know are homosexual. I would go further still and say that some of the wisest and genuinely enlightened souls I have known are gay and lesbian.

The LGBT community, like any community, covers the whole range of human possibility and character. One can be gay and entirely in alignment with God. I say without any hesitation that one can be homosexual and holy — and without denying one’s homosexuality. I have been lucky enough to know a few such elevated souls. But we don’t have to reach for such heights, either; one can be profoundly good and moral, though still flawed and human, and be gay or lesbian. Why aren’t more religious voices speaking this obvious truth?

I will not sit by and listen to so-called religious people say with one breath that, of course the Orlando shooting are terrible, yet with the next breath say that the gay victims of those shootings were still sinners in the eyes of God. Unlike humans, the Eternal One sees clearly, completely unconstrained by history, prejudice, or religious dogma. The Eternal One sees the goodness of the heart wherever it exists, paying no attention to labels or the social categories of people.

Hatred, cold-heartedness, these are not the ways of God. Caring for the vulnerable and welcoming the stranger, keeping an open heart and a questioning mind, these are the ways of God. Enough religious justification for hatred of gay and lesbian people. Enough justification for cruelty and murder. Enough.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours.


Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Open Secret: Versions of Rumi
More Books >>


Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (Persia) (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jun 13 2016

alien

Walk through this world
as an alien being
with curiosity and wonder
and constant questioning.

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Jun 10 2016

Bulleh Shah – Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Published by under Poetry

Bulleh! to me, I am not known
by Bulleh Shah

Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharaoh

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s intoxicated craze
Neither awake, nor in a sleeping daze

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk, nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?

Bulleh! to me, I am not known


/ Image by firdausmahadi /

Bulleh Shah has given us a riddle to unravel today.

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Ask yourself, What or who is not known when he keeps saying that he is “not known”? How can he say to himself that he is not known?

The little self, the ego, the self of attributes with a place in the world, the self that answers to the name Bulleh (“I am not the name I assume”) — that self can’t know the deeper Self. Why? Because the True Self is far too immense. The True Self is “not a believer… nor a pagan.” The True Self is not involved “in happiness nor in sorrow.” The True Self is too big to be contained by those definitions; it permeates them and encompasses them, without being caught by them.

Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

The True Self is not hemmed in by beginnings and ending.

From Adam and Eve, I am not born

One’s True Self is eternal.

I am the first, I am the last

And utterly whole and all-encompasing, with nothing external.

None other, have I ever known

No surprise then that the little self that clings to definitions and boundaries cannot know the Self Bulleh speaks of. The great, flowing vastness one is, well, it is perceived, but it is not ‘known.’

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

To encounter the deepest mystery, we have only to look in the mirror.

Ivan

PS- A blessed Ramadan to all of my Muslim friends. Ramadan Mubarak!

PPS- And also let me quickly acknowledge the passing of Muhammad Ali. He gained fame as a boxer, but it was his greatness of spirit that made him an international icon. He was a verbal poet, a social activist, a courageous man nobly living with a debilitating illness. He was a genuinely kind and wise man… and, less well known, he was a follower of the Sufi path. His presence was a gift to the world. RIP.


Recommended Books: Bulleh Shah

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Bulleh Shah: The Love-Intoxicated Iconoclast (Mystics of the East series) Saint Bulleh Shah
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Bulleh Shah, Bulleh Shah poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Bulleh Shah

Punjab (Pakistan/India) (1680 – 1758) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jun 10 2016

masks

Even our masks reveal us.

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