Mar 27 2015

every corner

In every corner of the world,
the entire mystery of life and death
can be found.

No responses yet

Mar 25 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke – I find you, Lord, in all Things

Published by under Poetry

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Stephen Mitchell

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world:
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

— from Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell

/ Image by Ben Frdericson /

First, let me say “thank you” to everyone who has sent in a donation in response to my request for help on Friday. And thank you, also, for the many notes of support and encouragement. I am deeply moved by the broad community response. Wow.


Now, for today’s poem. It has been too long since we had a poem by Rilke…

and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

Isn’t that a great line? But it’s not just a nice poetic turn of phrase. In the second verse Rilke is really saying something of deep insight about this:

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world…

The “power” he is talking about is obviously not power over; not the domination of the warlord or the predator. Following on his first verse, we can read power as the power of the Lord “in all Things.” It is the power of life itself, awareness, presence. The use of the word “power,” makes us question the assumptions of common language: Perhaps this is real power, rather than the fleeting hold of force and fear. How are life and presence the greater power…?

This real power plays a game in the world of things. It asserts its power through submission, rather than control. Like water, it yields and so finds its destination. It allows, and so fulfills its purpose. It is supremely humble, and so able to be humbly present everywhere, in all things, without prejudice or rejection. It rises from the lowest to the highest, vivifying everything it touches–

groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

This power flowing through us and all our “fellow creatures” binds us all with the same life. You’ll notice, it is not even our life at all. Rilke says “your life,” the Lord’s life. It is something we participate in, a current we ride as it flows through us and the world, but it is not our own. Rilke is hinting at a larger vision in which there is only one Life flowing through a million “Things.”

Hildegard von Bingen, the great medieval mystic, called this the Viriditas or Greening power of God.

Too much of our relationship with the natural world is built on ideas of separation and domination. Such foolishness can only ever harm us. When we see clearly, we see as Rilke does that we are part of the same shared Life. To harm the natural world is to rebel against God. Is that language too religiously loaded? Reread Rilke’s poem, and then think about it.

Have a lovely day in this lovely green world!

Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
More Books >>

Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

2 responses so far

Mar 25 2015

like a tree

We don’t float to heaven.
Like a tree, we sink roots deep into the rocky soil,
and so, year-by-year, reach higher into the heavens.

No responses yet

Mar 20 2015

Support Poetry on This Spring Day

To goslings
just hatched, the entire world
is a spring day

by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by Tristam Brelstaff /

Ivan M. Granger
Happy spring! It is also the new moon and an eclipse today. A potent time to look up. Or look within. Or look around in appreciation of the new life emerging everywhere…


Among my deepest satisfactions in my Poetry Chaikhana work is being able to read the emails you send me. I get to savor your thoughts on spirituality, wisdom, enlightenment, and art. The most touching to me are your notes about how much a particular poem or commentary has meant to you. Even when I am unable to respond, I read and cherish your messages. That is a big part of what fuels my commitment to the Poetry Chaikhana.

But, although it is difficult to admit, I am struggling right now.

It always feels uncomfortable to bring up directly, but I need to request more financial support from the Poetry Chaikhana community.

While I do have a regular job, I can only work so many hours before chronic fatigue patterns kick in, especially when I also dedicate so much time and energy to the Poetry Chaikhana. During the past year, I have been pushing myself in my day job to work through exhaustion in order to meet my basic expenses. While exercising that sort of steely determination has its own practical and spiritual values, it also has made it difficult for me to focus with full energy on the Poetry Chaikhana.

You may have noticed that the Poetry Chaikhana emails have not been as regular in recent weeks.

Donations and Publications

I am working to shift the Poetry Chaikhana’s dependence on donations over to income from publishing, but that is a long-term goal. And while your enthusiastic reception of The Longing in Between was a huge help at the beginning of the year, book sales have dipped now that it has been out for several months — which is entirely natural. I do have plans for additional anthologies and future publications but, of course, those take time and significant energy to bring to completion.

For the moment, at least, the Poetry Chaikhana is still primarily dependent on your financial donations.

The Poetry Chaikhana Community

I am still amazed to be able to say that we have 9,000 people on this email list! Another 5,000 follow the Facebook page. With such a large community, I believe that collectively we can support my continuing work with the Poetry Chaikhana.

Without enough community support, I may have to drastically trim back the time I dedicate to the Poetry Chaikhana, which would be a shame. Even though I will continue forward with the Poetry Chaikhana in some fashion, such as future publications, I have always felt that the regular communication with you through these emails is the heart of the Poetry Chaikhana. For me, these emails feel personal, a long-term conversation with you on the nature of spirit and art, and how the two interweave and contribute to each other — enlivening us all in the process. While much of that conversation can take place through the patient medium of books, I would miss the immediacy and friendly dialog of our emails.

Around the World

/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

One of the purposes of the Poetry Chaikhana is to help us recognize the unity behind the world’s religions as expressed through the poetry of mystics. Poetry, being a very personal medium that is largely free from dogma, reaches across cultural divides, softens prejudices, and sheds light on misunderstandings. Sacred poetry can be a powerful healing balm when cultures clash.

Also, it is worth remembering that, through the Poetry Chaikhana’s global community, each of us is connected to people and places all over this world we share. The Poetry Chaikhana has had visits from more than 220 different countries and territories! That’s nearly every country in North America, South America, Europe, and across all of Asia. We’re only missing a few countries in central Africa, and we’re also waiting for that first visit from Antarctica. (Any poetic penguins out there?)

As I have said in a previous email… The next time a poem touches that warm ember deep in your chest, and your thoughts stop, and your mind clears, and a quiet smile spreads across your face… reach out and feel who else on this planet is feeling exactly the same thing. It could be someone who wears different clothes or has different colored skin, someone who speaks with a different accent or an entirely different language, someone who sits or kneels or bows to worship. Reach out and recognize that person as a brother or sister who, like us all, is walking through the human journey, pausing occasionally to sing songs of the Divine.

The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Your Help

It is a joy to do all of this, but it isn’t easy, and I can use your help.

For me to keep doing this work, I need the support of the Poetry Chaikhana community.

If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.

Please, never contribute more than you can comfortably afford, however. A modest amount from many people is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.

/ Photo by SaxX69 /

Ways you can contribute:

– You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana home page at

– You can sign up for a voluntary monthly donation of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button.

(A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook — and easier to justify as less than the cost of one snack or drink per month.)

– You can send a check or money order in US funds, addressed to:

Poetry Chaikhana

PO Box 2320

Boulder, CO 80306

– Purchasing copies of The Longing in Between and Real Thirst is another excellent way to help. You also support the Poetry Chaikhana when you purchase other books through the links on the Poetry Chaikhana website.

I want to also make sure I gratefully acknowledge that several of you have been generous with your contributions to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, whether financial or energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone! And have a beautiful beginning to your springtime!

Ivan M. Granger Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

More poetry by Ivan M. Granger

6 responses so far

Mar 18 2015

Yuan Mei – P’u-t’o Temple

Published by under Poetry

P’u-t’o Temple
by Yuan Mei

English version by J. P. Seaton

A temple, hidden, treasured
                        in the mountain’s cleft
Pines, bamboo
                  such a subtle flavor:
The ancient Buddha sits there, wordless
The welling source speaks for him.

— from A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry, Edited by J. P. Seaton / Edited by Dennis Maloney

/ Image by nurpax /

This poem feels like a brush painting. A few simple strokes suggest the scene: A temple. A mountain’s cleft. Pines, bamboo. A Buddha.

That’s all we need to be brought, with the Buddha, to wordlessness and the “welling source.” Mm.

Recommended Books: Yuan Mei

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry I Don’t Bow to Buddhas: Selected Poems of Yuan Mei Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories of Yuan Mei

Yuan Mei, Yuan Mei poetry, Buddhist poetry Yuan Mei

China (1716 – 1798) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Mar 18 2015

most sacred place

You live in the most sacred place
in the universe:
right here,
right now.

No responses yet

Mar 13 2015

Wendell Berry – The Real Work

Published by under Poetry

The Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

— from Standing by Words: Essays, by Wendell Berry

/ Image by myINQI /

Ooh, I just like this, don’t you? As I get older and encounter more of the world and more of myself, I grow increasingly wary of answers. It’s the questions that awaken the soul.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Berry is reminding us that struggle and confusion — and wonder! — are signs that we are on a good path, that we are paying attention, that we are still seeking and discovering, that we are alive. The scariest people are those who’ve grown tired of questions and so brutalize the world with simple answers.

Okay, a poetic confession: This was not originally a poem in verse. I did a bit of research and found that this is actually an excerpt from one of Wendell Berry’s essays that someone later versified. It’s been circulating as a poem ever since. I guess you can’t trap a good poet in prose for long. My apologies to the poetry purists out there.

Now, let’s discover a new path through this magical, unknown day…

Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Selected Poems of Wendell Berry Given: Poems A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
More Books >>

Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wendell Berry

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Wendell Berry

2 responses so far

Mar 13 2015


Each kind act
and simple insight
is a victory.

One response so far

Mar 10 2015

Ko Un – A Smile

Published by under Poetry

A Smile
by Ko Un

English version by Brother Anthony of Taize

Shakyamuni held up a lotus
so Kashyapa smiled.
Not at all.
The lotus smiled
so Kashyapa smiled.

Nowhere was Shakyamuni!

— from What?: 108 Zen Poems, by Ko Un

/ Image by GaryKo /

This poem recalls for us a famous story about the Buddha’s “Flower Sermon.” The Buddha (sometimes referred to by his clan name “Shakyamuni”) gave a sermon in which all he did was to hold up a lotus flower. All of the Buddha’s disciples were confused, except for his disciple Kashyapa, who smiled in understanding and enlightenment.

But, no, Ko Un says that’s not how it happened. “Not at all.” Here’s what really happened: The lotus smiled, so Kashyapa smiled back. The Buddha, being utterly free from the limits of self and identity, was not there at all.

The other disciples saw a man holding up a flower. Only Kashyapa saw an open field of spaciousness upholding the glow of enlightenment. And the enlightenment within himself reached out in self-recognition.

Instead of grasping at nowhere present Buddhas, like clutching at the continuously flowing river, perhaps we can, like Kashyapa, recognize the smile in all things until we feel it reflected back from within ourselves. Then, who knows, maybe we cease to be there too and, instead, we are wherever the smile goes.

Recommended Books: Ko Un

What?: 108 Zen Poems Ten Thousand Lives The Three Way Tavern: Selected Poems Little Pilgrim: A Novel Flowers of a Moment

Ko Un, Ko Un poetry, Buddhist poetry Ko Un

Korea (1933 – )
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Mar 10 2015


Joys, hurts, hopes, history,
hold them
— while practicing contentment.

No responses yet

Mar 04 2015

R. S. Thomas – Via Negativa

Published by under Poetry

Via Negativa
by R. S. Thomas

Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow, the footprints he has just
Left. We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
It warm. We look at people
And places as though he had looked
At them, too; but miss the reflection.

— from Through Corridors of Light: Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness, Edited by John Andrew Denny

/ Image by tanakawho /

This is a haunting poem, yet lovely and uplifting at the same time. God is a kind of a ghost in this poem, a tangible absence.

…God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence

And that is really the poet’s point. So often we struggle to imagine what God is, the qualities and awareness associated with that immense… Something. But this poem is a meditation on the Via Negativa, that is, the recognition that the Eternal is not a “thing” at all. Every definition or description or quality we attach to the Divine is necessarily a limitation on the Divine Nature and, therefore, incomplete. To turn God into an object that can be described is to make God a subset of Existence, when the Eternal is the Whole of Existence and beyond. The idea behind the Via Negativa is that God cannot be adequately conceptualized by the limited human intellect with attributes of a limited physical reality, and so God is best discovered through negation. In other words, God is all-encompassing, and therefore perceived as a sort of vibrant Absence, a sort of haunting Presence within the empty spaces of our perception…

…He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow…

That ache we universally feel, that absence can feel to the soul like an existential betrayal inherent within reality. Most of us reflexively turn from that feeling and run from it, endlessly distracting our awareness so we don’t feel it so painfully. But, ultimately, that’s not very effective, and it is never satisfying.

We put our hands in
[the empty space that is the wound in Christ’s] side hoping to find
It warm.”

Mystics encourage us to look deeper, to sit with that ache, to embrace it. Eventually we discover to our surprise that that terrible void is, in truth, filled with immense life and bliss, and that our very being flows from its spacious no-thing-ness. This is the truth of the Via Negativa.


Apologies about the unexpected hiatus in the poem emails. I have been recovering from an injury. Those of you who have been receiving the Poetry Chaikhana emails for a while may remember that several years ago I broke my ribs in a martial arts class. (One reader quipped that I should be “more artsy, less martial.”) Well, a couple of weeks ago I reinjured my ribs. Nothing martial about it this time, however. I was playing with my dog, chasing him among some trees, when I took a bad step and tripped, falling hard on my side. I am fine, and the worst of the discomfort has passed, though I still notice it when I turn or bend at certain angles. The price paid for inhabiting an active body in a bumpy world.

Sending love to everyone! Take care.

Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
More Books >>

R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Mar 04 2015


It’s the sticky self
that gets stuck.
Strip it down — gently —
in stillness.

No responses yet

Feb 18 2015

Paramahansa Yogananda – Samadhi

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

by Paramahansa Yogananda

Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health, disease, life, death,
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
Ready to invade my newly wakened memory divine.
I live without the cosmic shadow,
But it is not, bereft of me;
As the sea exists without the waves,
But they breathe not without the sea.
Dreams, wakings, states of deep turiya sleep,
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
Creation’s molding furnace,
Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
Each particle of universal dust,
Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not a mental chloroform
Or unconscious state without willful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond the limits of the mortal frame
To farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in me.
The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without my sight.
All space like an iceberg floats within my mental sea.
Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi
Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows upon the vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,
Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
Of all-pervading bliss.
From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.
Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Lift aright.
Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

— from Whispers from Eternity, by Paramahansa Yogananda

/ Image by spisharam /

Yesterday was Mahashivaratri for Hindus, “the great night of Shiva,” a time to celebrate the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the balanced union of Male and Female within the universe. This is a time of year considered auspicious to elevate and focus one’s spiritual practice. It is fitting then that, for Christians, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, the time of prayer, penance, and purification in preparation for Easter.

I thought this poem on the rarified state of samadhi by Paramahansa Yogananda might be a good choice for today…

Something of my journey from childhood through adolescence: My early fascination with comic book superheroes was transformed in 1977 into an obsession with all things Star Wars. Jedi, lightsabers, the Force, Yoda. There was a unifying thread in these stories of mystic warriors, heroic figures with supernatural abilities standing up to protect the vulnerable. These heroes, by the very nature of their unique abilities and view of reality, were necessarily outsiders.

To a painfully shy young boy, these were powerful archetypes that leapt and fought and strutted through my youthful fantasies.

With the 80s and early adolescence came Dungeons & Dragons. (I know, I was a nerd.) I could imagine in ever more detail that I was a knight or a wizard. I quickly noticed something… as cool as swords were, the role I really wanted to play over and over again was the wizard. I mean, knights were just muscular guys wielding stylized meat cleavers, but wizards, well, wizards had mastered and transcended the very nature of reality itself. Wizards were the real superheroes.

But D&D was ultimately frustrating. Those long afternoons spent with friends rolling dice and casting imaginary spells in made up worlds began to feel as if, on some deep level, I was giving up on reality. I didn’t want to play at being a wizard; I wanted to be a wizard.

That’s when, at age 13, I discovered the writings of Carlos Castaneda. These were wild, mind-blowing stories of sorcery and alternate realities in the Sonoran desert. For the next several years I carried a beat up Castaneda paperback with me everywhere I went, reading and rereading those bizarre adventures. I so wanted to break into that world where I imagined that wizardry might just be real.

Those stories awakened a fierce determination within me to seek living truths behind what most people assumed to be immutable reality. They gave me permission to be odd, that is, wholly myself, and to see the world through my own eyes.

But– I finally came to the conclusion that those shadowy tales of desert sorcery were unbalancing. The philosophy was stark, at times cold-hearted. The universe of this semi-fictional reality was described in predatory terms, in which Indian sorcerers and astral beings preyed on one another while seeking greater power. To the uncritical glance of a 13 year old, that world was magical, dangerous, fascinating; but to a 17 year old stumbling his way into adulthood, it became a dead end.

It was at this time, in my late teens, when I first read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. With it’s adventure, philosophy, descriptions of mystical states, respect for the universality of all religions… and its compassionate outlook, that book reopened my spiritual horizon. It restored my breath to me when so much seemed stripped of purpose. It gave me the courage to hold a gentle heart, and begin to imagine a viable and inclusive path of spirit.

Yogananda’s Autobiography was also my first introduction to the yogic term ‘samadhi’ — the mystic’s total blissful absorption in the Divine.

Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.

‘Samadhi’ is one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s most loved poems describing the ecstatic, elevated spiritual state. There is so much to say here, but I think I’ll step back and let Yogananda’s words ring in the silence.

Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.

A poem is built of rhythm and words upon a foundation of breath. And breath guides the awareness. A poem like this can lead the reader into lands of sacred experience…

Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.

Those moments of pure insight, the recognition of one’s true being as it expands and melts into the vastness of Being, and discovering how that realization can be poured out into the mind of the world, that’s real wizardry. Striving for that truth, discovering it, sharing it with a desperately thirsty world, that’s real heroism.

Recommended Books: Paramahansa Yogananda

Whispers from Eternity Autobiography of a Yogi The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained

Paramahansa Yogananda, Paramahansa Yogananda poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Paramahansa Yogananda

India (1893 – 1952) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

More poetry by Paramahansa Yogananda

2 responses so far

Feb 18 2015


Meditation is not what you do,
it is what you are.

No responses yet

Feb 13 2015

Jayadeva – When he quickens all things (from The Gitagovinda)

Published by under Poetry

When he quickens all things (from The Gitagovinda)
by Jayadeva

English version by Barbara Stoler Miller

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love
And beautiful cowherd girls wildly
Wind him in their bodies.
Friend, in spring young Hari plays
Like erotic mood incarnate.

— from Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller

/ Image by secret79998 /

Saturday is Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers. But, you know, there is more than one way to be a lover.

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love…

This excerpt from Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda strikes a surprisingly erotic note. Is it “spiritual” at all? Is it really just love poetry? The answer is that it is both.

The Gitagovinda is quite passionately erotic, but it is also considered a highly spiritual work, sung daily in many Indian temples dedicated to Krishna.

For many in the Krishna bhakti tradition, the Gitagovinda is read with a reverence similar to the Song of Songs in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Through song, it tells of the love play, separation, and union between Krishna (Hari) and the cowherdess Radha.

On an esoteric level, Radha is understood to be the individual soul that feels abandoned by God (Krishna/Hari) who, in turn, loves all souls (and is therefore accused of infidelity by Radha). But Radha finally overcomes her hurt and rejoins her lover in passionate union.

Using the hugely magnetic power of desire, this bhakti classic describes a pathway to return to Oneness with the Divine.

As a result, we can read this work as both an earthy, erotically charged song of love, and just as honestly it speaks deep truths about the journey of the soul through longing and integration to union and enlightenment. And it reminds us of the importance of intense passion, that it is meant to be fuel for awakening.

Whether or not your Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, I hope you find time for a passionate tryst with the Eternal! It can be your secret.

Recommended Books: Jayadeva

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda

Jayadeva, Jayadeva poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Jayadeva

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 13 2015

love alone

Love alone completes the work,
love: personal, immediate, and all-consuming.

No responses yet

Feb 11 2015

Hakim Sanai – Streaming

Published by under Poetry

by Hakim Sanai

English version by Coleman Barks

When the path ignites a soul,
there’s no remaining in place.

The foot touches ground,
but not for long.

The way where love tells its secret
stays always in motion,
and there is no you there, and no reason.

The rider urges his horse to gallop,
and so doing, throws himself
under the flying hooves.

In love-unity there’s no old or new.
Everything is nothing.
God alone is.

For lovers the phenomena-veil is very transparent,
and the delicate tracings on it cannot
be explained with language.

Clouds burn off as the sun rises,
and the love-world floods with light.

But cloud-water can be obscuring,
as well as useful.

There is an affection that covers the glory,
rather than dissolving into it.

It’s a subtle difference,
like the change in Persian
from the word “friendship”
to the word “work.”

That happens with just a dot
above or below the third letter.

There is a seeing of the beauty
of union that doesn’t actively work
for the inner conversation.

Your hand and feet must move,
as a stream streams, working
as its Self, to get to the ocean.
Then there’s no more mention
of the search.

Being famous, or being a disgrace,
who’s ahead or behind, these considerations
are rocks and clogged places
that slow you. Be as naked as a wheat grain
out of its husk and sleek as Adam.

Don’t ask for anything other
than the presence.

Don’t speak of a “you”
apart from That.

A full container cannot be more full.
Be whole, and nothing.

— from The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, with Lectures by Inayat Khan, Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Image by morrbyte /

What a wonderful poem on the spiritual path.

For lovers the phenomena-veil is very transparent,
and the delicate tracings on it cannot
be explained with language.

Clouds burn off as the sun rises,
and the love-world floods with light.

There is so much to contemplate in this poem, but one of my favorite verses is: “The rider urges his horse to gallop, / and so doing, throws himself / under the flying hooves.”

That’s a striking image, but disturbing. What does Sanai mean by this?

The horse we ride might be understood as our love for the Divine. Urging that horse to a gallop is to raise that love to a high passion through spiritual practice. The “self” that we must throw under the “flying hooves” of divine love is the nafs, the ego-self that misperceives reality by slices it up and sorting the pieces into likes and dislikes, proclaiming, “I like this, this is mine. I dislike that, that has nothing to do with me.”

When that petty self is courageously thrown beneath the driving of divine love, we are surprised to find that our true Self lives. That self is actually the one riding the horse, it is the horse, it is the path the horse streams along. That greater self is not separate from anything; it is a part of the Divine Beloved. This is what Sanai refers to when, at the end he tells us, “Don’t speak of a ‘you’ / apart from That.”

Your hand and feet must move,
as a stream streams, working
as its Self, to get to the ocean.
Then there’s no more mention
of the search.

Recommended Books: Hakim Sanai

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
More Books >>

Hakim Sanai

Afghanistan (1044? – 1150?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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