Apr 23 2021

Matsuo Basho – Skylark

Published by under Poetry

Skylark
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Skylark
sings all day,
and day not long enough.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto


/ Image by Chad Horwedel /

A haiku for us today, one that brings me a smile every time I read it.

This is one of those poems where any attempt at commentary feels absurd. What it says is simple and direct, yet it resonates in the mind and the heart. Reading it, I find myself questioning the importance of busy daily activities. On those weary days when I am just ready for the day to be over, have I misspent my day? Have I held back my song?

=

After a year of pretty good energies, I seem to be dealing with chronic fatigue patterns coming up again. I am always reminded of the need for balance and a clarity of purpose. The more scattered I get and try to accomplish everything at once, the more my system insists that I pause. Our struggles are often our best and most determined teachers…

=

Today might just be a day to burst forth in song!


Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>


Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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5 responses so far

Apr 23 2021

the journey itself

The destination’s gift
is contained in the journey itself.

No responses yet

Apr 12 2021

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

— from For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, by Roger Housden


/ Image by MindSqueeZe /

A rare Monday poem email. Since it has been nearly a month since I last sent a Poetry Chaikhana email out, I decided not to wait until the end of the week. There are several reasons for the unannounced pause in the emails.

I live outside of Boulder, Colorado and, as many of you are probably aware, there was a terrible shooting in Boulder a few weeks ago at a local grocery store. When my wife and I first moved to the area years ago, we lived within a few blocks of that store and often shopped for groceries there. We now live several miles away and were not in immediate danger during the shooting. But, of course, we still felt the trauma of the community, magnified by our own personal history with the scene of so much bloodshed.

In the aftermath, I didn’t want to immediately send out a poem. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about the event, and it would have felt wrong to ignore it.

Soon after, I had a birthday and Easter came up. And through it all, my day job has been especially busy.

For all of those reasons I felt it was best to wait.

But with spring blossoming in our area, it feels like it is now time to return to poetry and the reawakening of life. So I have a beautiful poem of silences for us today…

=

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are small things with barely any substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but as an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers along with as many other elements of modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

…within
listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)


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
Christian

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4 responses so far

Apr 12 2021

new path

Discover a new path
through this magical, unknown day.

No responses yet

Mar 12 2021

Lalla – Coursing in emptiness

Published by under Poetry

Coursing in emptiness
by Lalla

English version by Coleman Barks

Coursing in emptiness,
I, Lalla,
dropped off body and mind,

and stepped into the Secret Self.

Look: Lalla the sedgeflower
blossomed a lotus.

— from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield


/ Image by Crystalline Radical /

Yesterday was Maha Shivaratri, a celebration in honor of the Hindu god Shiva. So I thought we should have a poem dedicated to Lord Shiva…

I love the opening phrase in this poem’s translation: “Coursing in emptiness…” Reality is recognized as being vast and empty — but a living emptiness! — like a great formless sea. And the point of awareness, though supremely at rest, covers the entire spaciousness like one reclined on a coursing clipper ship carried along by a gentle, steady wind.

And in this pure state of awareness, the agitated ego-mind that constantly chants “I, me, mine!” — that part of the mind that we normally think of as ourselves — it grows thin and ghost-like until it disappears. Even the physical body becomes unreal to us and the awareness of it can completely fade away.

…Yet we remain. The collection of mental processes and agitations that we thought was our identity has ceased. The body has become at most an idea, a form of expression. It is a tool for interacting with an idea world. The body has dropped off, yet we remain. Completely stilled and settled, we are returned to the natural experience of bliss and wholeness. In the deepest way possible, we are at home, at one. We finally know who and what we really are. This is the return to the Secret Self. This is the way to step into the Secret Self.

Lalla’s final pair of lines — “Look: Lalla the sedgeflower / blossomed a lotus” — expresses the utter surprise and delight of this first recognition. A sedgeflower grows low among the grasses, close to the ground, hardly noticed. How can something so humble, something so lost among the weeds and dust of earthly existence come to such vibrant life? How could this little thing I call “me” have stepped into the radiant enlightenment that blossoms like a lotus in the crown? The sedgeflower — the little self — discovers within it the scintillating lotus of the True Self!

=

A personal note about Shiva–

I have always felt a special appreciation for the imagery of Shiva. When I was younger and more of an ascetic myself, I loved the iconography of Shiva as the bone-thin yogi with long matted hair meditating in bliss in the Himalayas. Austere, pure, the embodiment of what is essential and meaningful in existence.

These days I am fascinated by the image of Shiva Nataraj, the Lord of the Dance. Shiva, ecstatically dancing, creating and dissolving the universe with each step, his long hair flying about his shoulders as he spins in his perfect balance. To me this is an image of the way the Eternal expresses both stillness and movement, how the Divine moves masterfully through existence, how all life is an expression of the underlying joyful impulse to move and express.

Shiva Nataraj teaches us how to dance through life!

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Lalla

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Naked Song
More Books >>


Lalla, Lalla poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla

Kashmir (India/Pakistan) (14th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Mar 12 2021

Self-acceptance

Self-acceptance has a strange way
of becoming self-awareness.

One response so far

Mar 05 2021

Fakhruddin Iraqi – Everywhere veiled

Published by under Poetry

Everywhere veiled
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

Everywhere veiled
      by Your own Face
You are hidden from the world
      in Your very manifestation.
Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone;
in all these idols
      I see only You.
Jealous lest You be recognized
      at every instant
You dress Your Beauty
      in a different cloak.

— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein


/ Image by nasrul ekram /

Even amidst terrible suffering and devastation, we have the opportunity to glimpse the face of God. Sometimes it is in a helping hand or a healing voice. A kind gaze that doesn’t turn away is often the most powerful thing of all. A heart that breaks, yet remains engaged, that is what the world is always yearning for. To see, to feel, to care– these require courage and the willingness to face pain rather than run from it. But, when we do that, and breathe through it, we discover our deep humanity… and perhaps something of our shared divinity.

A broken heart, a willing hand, and a clear seeing eye, these are the pathways to God.

==

Iraqi suggests to us that all of life, all of reality is a game of divine hide-and-seek.

Reading this poem raises a question– As we walk daily through the world, do we merely look, or do we see? And when we truly see, how can we not occasionally pause in mute wonder and melt?

Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone


Recommended Books: Fakhruddin Iraqi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition


Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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3 responses so far

Mar 05 2021

A book and a building

A book and a building are not enough.
The human spirit needs cathedrals of trees,
towering mountains, and fields
of spring wildflowers as places of prayer.

No responses yet

Feb 26 2021

Mary Oliver – Spring

Published by under Poetry

Spring
by Mary Oliver

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her —
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

— from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by Marie Hale /

We have snow on the ground here in Colorado, but spring is coming. You can see it in the brilliant morning sunlight, in the first tentative buds on branches. We are, all of us, beginning to shake off the long hibernation of winter to encounter the world once again, like Mary Oliver’s bear.

The poem evokes for us the image of this black bear, this huge being, “like a black and leafy ledge,” waking from its slumbers and rather roughly encountering the world once again. But that renewed interaction between bear and gravel, grass, and tree is a form a sacrament. It is the embodiment of a questions: how to love this world.

The poem circles back to the poet, her human life filled with creativity and cities…

Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities…

But we sense that the list is incomplete. Something fundamental has been left out of the first part of that list. That connection with nature. No… deeper even than that. Something archetypal. The great primal being within as it awakens and encounters the world.

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

Despite its massive presence, it is silent. Without words. Beyond words.

(The phrase “dazzling darkness” is of particular significance within Western esoteric traditions, tracing back to a poem by the important early Christian mystic Dionysius the Areopagite. I suspect Ms. Oliver used it intentionally to suggest the same mysterious, vast, silent presence.)

all day I think of her -–
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

I have always felt a special connection with the animal world. As a child, for a time I planned to become a veterinarian. I remember often meditating as a boy on the wordlessness of animals. What sort of world do they inhabit without words, without names for things or places or people… or even for themselves? I tried to imagine that world, to enter it with my own wordlessness. Like Mary Oliver’s bear. In our wordlessness, when we stop naming things, we find that we encounter everything more immediately, more fully. When we name a thing or person or experience, we have labeled it, categorized it and, as a result, moved it outside of the realm of direct experience and shunted it safely into a mental idea of the moment, rather than the living moment itself. When we name things through incessant thought, we then encounter our thoughts about the experience and not the actual experience. We end up seeing only reflections of the mind and forget how to see the world as it is.

Mary Oliver’s bear reminds us to let that great black bear rise from its sleep and encounter the world in its wordlessness. This is how we can begin to answer the “only one question: how to love this world.” We embody perfect love when we are truly present in our dazzling silence and not elsewhere in our words and thoughts. Love is connection, contact, encountering a person or place as it is, as we are. Love is being right here.

Have a beautiful day, one of wordless spring awakening!


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

New and Selected Poems Why I Wake Early Dream Work House of Light Thirst: Poems
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – 2019) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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4 responses so far

Feb 26 2021

battered heart

somehow the battered heart
blossoms with such beauty,
no hint of past hurts

One response so far

Feb 12 2021

Patrul Rinpoche – Use the time of your life

Published by under Poetry

Use the time of your life
by Patrul Rinpoche

Use the time of your life.
Develop your inner happiness.
Recognize the impermanence
of all outer pleasure.

Live as a Yogi
Do your spiritual practices.
Work as a Bodhisattva
for a happy world.

Become an Amitabha
a Buddha of love and light.
Turn your world into the paradise Sukhavati,
by unfolding the enlightenment energy within you.

Search you a spiritual master,
who knows the goal of enlightenment.
Change your world into a place of grace,
by understanding all the phenomena as spiritual exercises.

Dedicate your actions to the benefit of all beings.
Send all beings light.
Live for the happiness of all beings.
So you get the energy of light.


/ Image by Hartwig HKD /

Today, February 12, is the beginning of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, a good time to release the old and welcome in the new.

I don’t often feature poetry from the Tibetan tradition, even though I love this rich heritage. The reason is that much of the sacred poetry that comes to us from Tibetan practitioners can seem to the casual reader to be rather technical and philosophically didactic. It is rarely the fluid and ecstatic outpouring of the heart, like Rumi’s poetry, for example. But, once you have explored Tibetan expressions of Buddhism a bit and understand some of the sacred terminology, then Tibetan poetry reveals itself to be a treasure trove of wisdom and beauty.

For today, I thought I’d choose a relatively simple and direct poem by Patrul Rinpoche.

Use the time of your life.
Develop your inner happiness.

This poem is a direct appeal to seize the opportunity of our being. We have the blessing of life and awareness, so let’s joyfully use them for what they were really made for — awakening.

The outer satisfaction of pleasures and acquisitions, while they may have their place in our lives too, are always limited and, because of their exterior nature, never provide us with lasting fulfillment.

Recognize the impermanence
of all outer pleasure.

When we are wise, we cultivate our inner happiness, our wellspring of inherent bliss, which does not fluctuate with outer experiences.

We can find parallels in the Christian tradition when Jesus advises his followers to store one’s treasures in heaven where they are not vulnerable to decay or theft.

Patrul Rinpoche gives us simple, clear guidance for a life of spiritual fruition:

Live as a Yogi
Do your spiritual practices.

He reminds us to remain engaged in the practices and activities that return our focus, again and again, to our higher purposes in life. Yes, we have our daily roles and responsibilities, but we must always return to the deeper meaning of our lives and find ways to infuse even our most mundane tasks with that extra spiritual magnetic charge so that increasingly every activity becomes a spiritual practice filled with inner purpose.

Work as a Bodhisattva
for a happy world.

A Bodhisattva is one who has taken vows to work for the healing and spiritual awakening of all beings. In other words, he advises us to live in service and act with kindness, healing the world as we move through it.

Become an Amitabha
a Buddha of love and light.

An Amitabha is a Buddha of light, a radiant and loving expression of pure awakening. The spiritual path is not one of drudgery or rigid progress. We blossom with love and light.

Turn your world into the paradise Sukhavati,
by unfolding the enlightenment energy within you.
…Change your world into a place of grace.

As we discover our inner bliss, we unleash it into the world, letting it do its transformative work. Allowing that energy to move through us, we naturally strive to build outer manifestations of that inner joy, trying to awaken that awareness of paradise in others and in the social fabric we collectively weave.

The well-lived spiritual life becomes a dance of inner and outer, in which kindness and joy are both natural and logical as we more fully recognize the interrelationship of being we all share.

Dedicate your actions to the benefit of all beings.
Send all beings light.
Live for the happiness of all beings.
So you get the energy of light.

May this be a time of cleansing endings and joyful new beginnings. Happy Losar!



[BOOK LIST REPEATING]

Patrul Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche poetry, Buddhist poetry Patrul Rinpoche

Tibet (1808 – 1887) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Feb 12 2021

gathering silence

Once you have gathered enough silence,
silence gathers you.

One response so far

Feb 05 2021

Rainer Maria Rilke – Want the change

Published by under Poetry

Want the change
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

— from In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy


/ Image by Lulu Lovering /

This poem is a lovely meditation on change and transitoriness — as signs of life. It is only those relationships and experiences which move, and evolve, and eventually disappear that are fully alive.

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.

We so want the opposite to be true. We reflexively want to grasp the world, to hold it fixed, so we can trust reality, know its rules, and feel secure every day. But Rilke invites us to see with the poet’s keen eye the truth of the matter: that which doesn’t change lacks life and loses beauty–

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

We can’t hold our lives fixed, and we can’t hold ourselves fixed within our lives. The only thing to do is to step fully into each mysterious unknown day.

I love the line–

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

This statement so powerfully evokes the courage each day requires and the generosity of self that we can bring to each encounter.

We give of ourselves not to secure our lives but to live our lives in fullness. And, in doing so, we discover more life in our lives.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

If you’re not a mythology nerd, you may not have picked up on Rilke’s reference to Daphne and the laurel…

And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

In Greek mythology, Daphne was a stunningly beautiful nymph who lived and hunted in the woods. Because of her beauty men constantly sought her favors, but she refused everyone. Then the god Apollo fell in love with her, but she refused him as well. Daphne fled from Apollo, who continued to pursue her. When Apollo was about to grasp Daphne, she called upon her father’s magical power, and she was instantly transformed into a laurel tree. The god Apollo, still in love with Daphne, but unable to embrace her, plucked a branch of the laurel and wore it as a wreath upon his head.

By evoking Daphne, Rilke is calling up this rich myth of beauty, and the inability to posses it. Yet that beauty, in transforming itself into something that can no longer be truly held or lusted after, takes on a new life all its own, a life that yet dances in the wind.

Rilke seems to be inviting us to encounter life with full presence and, with the courage of a witness rather than one who grasps, to appreciate beauty both in the coming and goings of life.


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

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4 responses so far

Feb 05 2021

non-believer

The goal is to become a non-believer,
to abandon belief — and dogma and hearsay —
in favor of direct knowing.

One response so far

Jan 29 2021

Edith Kanaka’ole – E ho mai

Published by under Poetry

E ho mai
by Edith Kanaka’ole


E ho mai
Ka ike mai luna mai e

O na mea huna no eau
O na mele e

E ho mai
E ho mai
E ho mai

Grant us
knowledge from above,

All the wisdom
of the songs.

Grant,
Bestow,
Grant us these things.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by Angela Sevin /

Years ago, when I lived in Hawai’i, I took a class in ho’oponopono. (If you sound it out slowly, it’s not the tounge-twister it first looks like.) Ho’oponopono means literally “to make things right, to return things to harmony.” It is a traditional healing method, but its emphasis is not on healing the body as it is on healing relationships, families, communities. If you think about it, what is the purpose of a healthy body except as an instrument to work for a healthier society? The small body serves the larger body.

As part of my training in ho’oponopono, I learned this chant. Hawaiian chant can be compared to Hindu mantra in that to truly say it properly can take a great deal of training. The inflections are important. The breath is important. Most of all, the sense of personal presence is important.

This Hawaiian chant must be said with force and with heart. It is a prayer, but it is not passive. It is a calling forth, a reaching out and a drawing in — of wisdom, of knowledge, of truth. It evokes in us pono, rightness.

Try sounding out the Hawaiian. Slowly at first, until the sounds become familiar. Then louder, with confidence. Say it over and over again. Imagine repeating this chant in a group. Let it ring through your body and your day!

To hear it chanted, click here
Aloha!


Recommended Books: Edith Kanaka’ole

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)


Edith Kanaka'ole, Edith Kanaka'ole poetry, Primal/Tribal/Shamanic poetry Edith Kanaka’ole

US, Hawaii (1913 – 1979) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Hawaiian

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One response so far

Jan 29 2021

supremely pragmatic

A mystic must be supremely pragmatic:
Use what works,
whatever opens the heart
and fires the spirit.

One response so far

Jan 22 2021

Civivakkiyar – In bricks and in granite

Published by under Poetry

In bricks and in granite
by Civivakkiyar

English version by Kamil V. Zvelebil

In bricks and in granite,
in the red-rubbed lingam,
in copper and brass
is Siva’s abode —
      that’s what you tell us,
      and you’re wrong.
Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God,
      full of His dance and spell
            and song.

— from The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal, Translated by Kamil V. Zvelebil


/ Image by Natesh Ramasamy /

I have always loved the poetry of Civivakkiyar since I first discovered it years ago. There is a directness that is at times blunt, along with a teasing quality, and underlying it all a radiant realization that rises up through the words. Even his name, Civivakkiyar, feels like poetry on the tongue.

This poem exhibits the Tamil Siddha opposition to orthodoxy and mindless ritualism — which tend to externalize God, separating the individual from the presence of the Divine. Civivakkiyar is proclaiming that God (Siva) is not only found in temples and objects of worship, places and things that have been separated out and defined as sacred. Not “in bricks and in granite,” not in the “lingam” (a common representation of Siva), not in the ritual objects of “copper and brass.”

To say that God is in the temple or the altar or the icon and not elsewhere impoverishes us spiritually. That perspective makes us strangers to the presence of the sacred, which is everywhere, always.

The truth is that God is not ‘out there’ (wherever we imagine ‘there’ to be). The Divine is right here, right now, within us:

Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God…

It is only within ourselves that we find the proper ground to worship and ultimately encounter God, whether we stand in the temple precinct, or the marketplace, the forest grove, or the office space.

When we stop running from sacred place to sacred place and, instead, finally recognize the living sacred presence everywhere — and most especially within ourselves — then we experience such an uninhibited flow of life and delight that we become filled with the eternal “dance and spell / and song.”


Recommended Books: Civivakkiyar

The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal


Civivakkiyar

India (9th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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