May 17 2024

Tulsi Sahib – Within This Body

Published by at 8:03 am under Poetry

Within This Body
by Tulsi Sahib

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Within this body
breathes the secret essence.
Within this body
beats the heart of the Vedas.

Within this body
shines the entire Universe,
      so the saints say.

Hermits, ascetics, celibates —
all are lost
seeking Him
      in endless guises.

Seers and sages perfectly parrot
the scriptures and holy books,
      blinded by knowledge.

      Their pilgrimage,
      and fasting,
      and striving
            but delude.
Despite their perfect practice,
they discover no destination.

Only the saints
who know the body’s heart
have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.

Realize this, and you’ve found your freedom
      (while teachers trapped in tradition
      know only the mirage
            in the mirror).

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by vaticanus /

This poem really cuts right through the delusion of fundamentalism on the one hand—

Seers and sages perfectly parrot
the scriptures and holy books,
      blinded by knowledge.

–and being overly enamored with spiritual practices and rituals, on the other–

Their pilgrimage,
      and fasting,
      and striving
            but delude.

This is not to say that one should not study sacred texts or that we should ignore the value of spiritual practices. The problem is that it’s easy to forget what their true purpose is. Sacred writing, sacred striving, they are signposts that remind us to turn inward and discover the true heart that shines with the light of the universe.

Within this body
breathes the secret essence.
Within this body
beats the heart of the Vedas.

Within this body
shines the entire Universe,
      so the saints say.

If we just memorize words or pray in the mountains, even if we do it perfectly, we are idolizing the trappings of spirituality, without understanding, without making the real journey. This is one of the reasons why there is so much anger among fundamentalists in all the world’s traditions — they push to fit into an externalized idea of what it means to be perfect, yet they are not transformed, and they secretly know it.

Despite their perfect practice,
they discover no destination.

Unable to face the pain of that failure, they externalize it, and blame the imperfections of the world around them for holding them back. That pain becomes anger at the outer world, and that anger is reflexively attributed to God. Then that angry God is imagined to punish by withholding heaven from the individual until the whole world rigidly falls into order. The more desperate these individuals become for release from spiritual pain, the more violently they try to enforce their vision upon society in the hopes that they will finally appease God and find freedom.

So sad, when all that is necessary is to slip through that pain, let go of the ego’s self-importance, and discover the immense joy quietly glowing deep within. No one and nothing else holds us back.

Only the saints
who know the body’s heart
have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.

So Tulsidas is reminding us: Study, yes, and strive. But always more important is to yield and open and finally settle into the secret shining heart that awaits discovery. Those are the true fundamentals.

Realize this, and you’ve found your freedom

…Okay, Ivan will now step down from his soapbox. Have a wonderful weekend, and remember to take some sweet quiet time to settle within.


Recommended Books: Tulsi Sahib

Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Songs of the Saints of India Tulsi Sahib: Saint of Hathras


Tulsi Sahib, Tulsi Sahib poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Tulsi Sahib

India (1763 – 1843) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)
Sikh

Although Tulsi Sahib lived relatively recently, few details about his life can be stated with certainty. He may have been part of the royal family of Pune.

One biographical account suggests he was engaged to be married against his will. On the day before the wedding, he ran away and took up the life of a sadhu, a spiritual mendicant wandering through forests, going from town to town, engaged in meditation. In the early 1800s, he settled in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, where he spent the rest of his life.

Tulsi Sahib practiced Surat Shabd Yoga or the Yoga of Sound. He is particularly revered within the Sant Mat Sikh tradition.

More poetry by Tulsi Sahib

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Tulsi Sahib – Within This Body”

  1. Odo Mayeron 17 May 2024 at 10:42 am

    WOW! He says it. He sees it, unmistakably. — thanks for this jewel, Ivan.
    Spiritual Maya is as much an impediment to wake up in the Highest as are
    material riches, no matter if they are golden temples or villas.

    Verse 15 of the Isha Upanishad talks about “the golden lid”

    15. The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove, O Fosterer,1 for the law of the Truth, for sight.

    http://www.collectedworksofsriaurobindo.com/index.php/readbook/04-Isha-Upanishada-Vol-eight-upanishadas

    (A parallel : The more a nightly dreamer is busy trying to find a way out of his nightmare (instead of confidently relaxing) the less he will have a chance to wake up and realize that he is himself, far beyond the dream.)

  2. Mystic Meanderingon 17 May 2024 at 11:00 am

    Beautiful! Yes! Direct Experience. 🙂 Thank you for posting this, as it speaks to where I am at the moment…

  3. Danon 17 May 2024 at 6:20 pm

    A beautiful poem that goes straight to the hear!

  4. Carolon 20 May 2024 at 10:35 am

    Thank You Ivan, another beautiful poem, and it reminds me of Attar’s Looking for
    your own face – the freedom of knowing the body’s heart instead of the mirage in
    the mirror.

  5. Kris Hineson 27 May 2024 at 6:52 pm

    Hi Ivan,
    I like the clarity of this and have also always loved the cutting-through statement by Krishnamurti: “The word is not the thing.”

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