Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Jun 14 2024

Tukaram – Smaller than the smallest mote

Published by under Poetry

Smaller than the smallest mote
by Tukaram

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Smaller than the smallest mote,
All embracing as the heavens,
I finally see the world as it is —
All appearance but a dream.
Realizing the true nature of things,
I drop my mask like a snake shedding its skin.
I leave the three-fold nature of things behind me,
as I pass beyond them.
Miraculously, this dull clay has been shaped, formed into a lamp
      and begins to shine!
Filled with that radiance, I Tuka
Live to light the world.


/ Image by Alejandro /

I am rebounding from the oral surgery, but it went well. I already notice the difference of no longer carrying the hidden weight of a dental infection in the body. That endless dance of balance with the body and the light that shines through it…

I like this short abhang by the great Vishnu devotee, Tukaram.

I finally see the world as it is —
All appearance but a dream.

The experience of sudden opening is very much like waking up. We thought we saw clearly within our dream, but then we surprise ourselves by actually opening our eyes.

It is as if we have been drifting through life in a dream state and just not known it. Nothing around us has changed, but we finally, truly see things as they are. The dream-like barrier of mental filters and projections that has stifled our perception for so long falls away like a heavy blanket. We blink, look around, and are surprised to realize we’ve been in a sort of half-seeing trance all our life… and now we are awake.

Realizing the true nature of things,
I drop my mask like a snake shedding its skin.

Not only do we see the world through a filter upon the awareness, we also raise this same veil across our own faces. We mask ourselves — from ourselves, from others, most of all, from the Divine. We hide ourselves and become aliens within our own being.

Real spiritual opening occurs when we become honest and humble with ourselves (“smaller than the smallest mote”), when we drop our games and evasions, when we allow ourselves to be naked. That is when we truly come to know ourselves. The reality is more stunning than we imagined: In that supreme humility, we discover that we are immense, boundaryless beings. We finally see that we are “all embracing as the heavens.”

Miraculously, this dull clay has been shaped, formed into a lamp
      and begins to shine!

Alive to this new, ageless sense of self, one is bathed in light, filled with light. Light pours through you. Somehow, miraculously, this dense body has been refashioned into a vessel through which that light shines.

Filled with that radiance, I Tuka
Live to light the world.


Recommended Books: Tukaram

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West Says Tuka: Selected Poetry of Tukaram Wild Poets of Ecstasy: An Anthology of Ecstatic Verse
More Books >>


Tukaram, Tukaram poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Tukaram

India (1608 – 1649) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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May 31 2024

Yeats – The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

— from The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, by William Butler Yeats


/ Image by hideraldo dwight leitao /

A few days ago I was standing beneath a tree covered in late spring blossoms. Standing there enveloped in the perfumed shade, I slowed down enough to hear the hum of the bees who were contentedly at work among the tree’s flowers. As I listened more deeply, the the beesong surrounded me until it seemed as if I felt it vibrating within my body.

I thought of this poem by Yeats and his bee-loud glade… a portrait of peace.

I love the rhythms of this poem. To really appreciate it, you need to say it aloud and slowly. Let it roll off the tongue.

Yeats paints with his words, running them together like brushstrokes in watercolor.

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

What stands out more is how Yeats awakens our sense of hearing against a background of silence:

…the bee-loud glade.

…where the cricket sings

I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore

And finally–

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

To me, this is a poem about quiet, slowing down, and listening with all our senses.

In the beauty of this rustic scene, we discover something of the eternal in the sounds and rhythms of the world around us.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow


Recommended Books: William Butler Yeats

The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse Holy Fire: Nine Visionary Poets and the Quest for Enlightenment The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats Byzantium The Secret Rose
More Books >>


William Butler Yeats, William Butler Yeats poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Butler Yeats

Ireland (1865 – 1939) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

More poetry by William Butler Yeats

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May 24 2024

AE – The Place of Rest

Published by under Poetry

The Place of Rest
by AE (George William Russell)

The soul is its own witness and its own refuge.

Unto the deep the deep heart goes,
It lays its sadness nigh the breast:
Only the Mighty Mother knows
The wounds that quiver unconfessed.

It seeks a deeper silence still;
It folds itself around with peace,
Where thoughts alike of good or ill
In quietness unfostered cease.

It feels in the unwounding vast
For comfort for its hopes and fears:
The Mighty Mother bows at last;
She listens to her children’s tears.

Where the last anguish deepens — there
The fire of beauty smites through pain:
A glory moves amid despair,
The Mother takes her child again.

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


/ Image by Karsten Winegeart /

Several of those phrases resonate in my mind:

Unto the deep the deep heart goes…

…the unwounding vast…

And what a beautiful evocation of the mystic’s inner quiet:

It seeks a deeper silence still;
It folds itself around with peace,
Where thoughts alike of good or ill
In quietness unfostered cease.

But I think the final verse it what especially draws my interest:

Where the last anguish deepens — there
The fire of beauty smites through pain:
A glory moves amid despair,
The Mother takes her child again.

At a certain point, the courage to face pain becomes central to spiritual awakening. This is not where we grit our teeth and endure, but we must relax into it. We must allow ourselves to truly feel that pain, to yield to it… to accept it. Here’s why: The inner pain we all experience is ultimately recognized as the illusory perception of one’s separation from the Eternal. But that pain itself is the doorway to reunion. It is only by looking straight at the illusion that we begin to see through it. By allowing oneself to become completely vulnerable to our pain, to surrender to it, the mystic finds the pain transformed into the blissful touch of the Beloved.

For this reason, mystics and saints describe the pain as being “sweet” or joyful or beautiful… and the path to escape from pain — “there / The fire of beauty smites through the pain.”

Unto the deep the deep heart goes…


Recommended Books: AE (George William Russell)

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Wild Poets of Ecstasy: An Anthology of Ecstatic Verse Collected Poems of George William Russell By Still Waters: Lyrical Poems Old and New The Nuts of Knowledge: Lyrical Poems Old and New
More Books >>


AE (George William Russell), AE (George William Russell) poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry AE (George William Russell)

Ireland (1867 – 1935) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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May 17 2024

Tulsi Sahib – Within This Body

Published by 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

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May 12 2024

Ramakrishna – Is there anyone in the universe

Published by under Poetry

Is there anyone in the universe
by Ramakrishna

English version by Lex Hixon

Is there anyone in the universe,
among heavenly or earthly beings,
who can understand what Kali is?
The systems of all traditions
are powerless to describe Her.
Is Mother a feminine being
or greater than Being itself?

Chanting Her transforming Name —
OM KALI OM KALI OM KALI,
empowers Lord Shiva,
Who is transcendent Knowledge,
to drink the negativity of all beings,
turning His Throat dark blue.
Without Her protection
such poison would be deadly,
even to the highest Divinity.

More than Creator and creation,
Mother is sheer Creativity
beyond the notion of duality.
Universe and Father-God
are thrilling glances
from Her seductive Eyes.
Always pregnant with ecstasy,
She gives birth to manifest Being
from Her Womb of primal Awareness,
nursing it tenderly at Her Breast,
then playfully consumes Her Child.
The world dissolves instantly
upon touching Her white Teeth,
attaining the realization
of Her brilliant Voidness.

The various Divine Forms
that manifest throughout history
take refuge at Her Lotus Feet.
The Essence of Divinity,
the Great Ground of Being,
lies in ecstatic absorption
beneath Her red-soled Feet.

Is Mother simply a Goddess?
Does She need a male consort
to protect or complete Her?
The cycle of birth and death
bows reverently before Her.
Is She simply naked
or is She naked Truth?
No veil can conceal Her.
Her naked radiance slays demons
not with weapons but with splendor.

If Mother is a conventional wife,
why is She dancing fiercely
on the breast of Shiva?
Her timeless play destroys
conventions and conceptions.
She is primal purity,
Her ecstatic lovers are purity.
Purity merges into purity,
with no remainder.

I am totally inebriated
by Her wine of timeless bliss.
The wine cup is Her Name —
OM KALI OM KALI OM KALI.
Those drunk on ordinary wine
assume I am one of them.

Not everyone will encounter
the dazzling darkness
called Goddess Kali.
Not everyone can consciously receive
the infinite treasure of Her Nature.
The foolish mind refuses
to perceive and accept
that She alone exists.
Even the noble Lord Shiva,
most enlightened of beings,
can barely catch a glimpse
of Her flashing crimson Feet.

The wealth of world-emperors
and the richness of Paradise
are but abject poverty
to those who meditate on Her.
To swim in a single Glance
from Her three Cosmic Eyes
is to be immersed
in an ocean of ecstasy.

Not even Shiva, prince of yogis,
can focus upon Her dancing Feet
without falling into trance.
Yet the worthless lover
who sings this mad song
aspires to conscious union with Her
during waking, dream, and deep sleep.

— from Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna, by Lex Hixon


/ Image by Chobist /

Happy Mother’s Day. It is worth remembering today that Mother’s Day was originally created as a day of international peace as a reminder to us all that every single person on all sides of every conflict has a mother who loves them. It was hoped that remembering this would make war difficult to justify.

It is also worth remembering today that we are all children of the Divine Mother.

In Hindu tradition and metaphysics, the Goddess represents many aspects of the Divine. The iconography we find in Hinduism gives us a fascinating kaleidoscope of meaning. The Goddess can represent Mother, the Great Source, the Void/Womb from which all are born, Manifestation, Creation, Vibration, Speech, Song, the Arts, Beauty, Darkness, Mystery, all of the World (and all its Illusions). But with birth, also comes death, with manifestation, also comes dissolution; anything with a beginning also has an end. Only the eternal is eternal. So the Goddess, Mother and Manifester, is also sometimes portrayed as Destroyer. She is Life and Death both. She is the Power that brings all into being, animates and enlivens the universe, and also draws it back into non-being. But even in Her fiercest aspect, the Mother Goddess is loving. For Her, death is merely the death of illusion and the return to Self.

This poem — I call it a poem, but it is more of an ecstatic utterance by the great Ramakrishna — plays with a particular descriptive challenge in the representations of Kali. On the one hand, Kali is a Goddess, often paired with the God Shiva. A popular representation of the two is with Shiva lying prone on the ground, while Kali dances upon his breast, slaying demons. It can be a disturbing image to people not familiar with the iconography of Kali. But what is it saying, and how does it fit in with the philosophy of this gentle, greatly revered Hindu saint, Ramakrishna?

Hinduism often expresses the fundamental polarity of Male and Female in images of the divine couple, the God and Goddess paired together. Within this God-Goddess dichotomy, the masculine aspect of the Divine usually represents transcendent spirit, while the feminine expresses manifestation, power, and action. So prone Shiva represents the transcendent, which is inactive, but which holds the divine potential. Kali dances upon his breast, representing that potential coming into manifestation. Through Her sheer power, Kali destroys the demons that represent illusion and disharmony.

But, just as this God-Goddess pairing represents different facets of the Divine, any God or Goddess can simultaneously be understood to embody the whole of the Divine. In this way, Kali can both be an aspect and also the Absolute.

And this is what Ramakrishna is teasing us with here. Is Kali the consort of Shiva? Is She the feminine aspect of God, or God entire?

Is Mother a feminine being
or greater than Being itself?…

Is Mother simply a Goddess?
Does She need a male consort
to protect or complete Her?

Even within Hinduism and its rich, varied depictions of the Feminine aspect of the Divine, there is still a tendency to elevate the Male forms, such as Shiva. Ramakrishna seems to delight in overturning convention. To him, one must simply follow the Mother and, as She reveals more and more of Her nature — her manifestation, her play of illusions and revelations — our vision of Her expands to encompass the All. To Ramakrishna, the Goddess is Mother and Consort, but She is equally the Totality itself. He taunts us to untangle that conundrum through our own direct perception.

Whether we are talking about Kali or Saraswati or Cerridwen, Mother Mary or Shekinah, let us not forget to honor the feminine in the Divine — and in our world, and in ourselves.

=

I should mention that there is some question about the attribution for this poem. I know that Ramakrishna often quoted Ramprasad, but the source I found this in seems to be attributing it directly to Ramakrishna, though the attribution is not specific. In the same book, the author mentions how Ramakrishna would often break into spontaneous song, making up lyrics as insight and inspiration flooded through him, but also sometimes interweaving famous lines from Ramprasad and others, as well. So the truth is, I don’t know for certain who the poet is. This poem could be by Ramprasad (though I haven’t come across another version of this attributed to Ramprasad), or it could include a few lines by Ramprasad, or it could be entirely original to Ramakrishna. I’d love to hear if you know any more about these verses.


Recommended Books: Ramakrishna

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna The Condensed Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
More Books >>


Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Ramakrishna

India (1836 – 1886) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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May 03 2024

Attar – Looking for your own face

Published by under Poetry

Looking for your own face
by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Coleman Barks

Your face is neither infinite nor ephemeral.
You can never see your own face,
only a reflection, not the face itself.

So you sigh in front of mirrors
and cloud the surface.

It’s better to keep your breath cold.
Hold it, like a diver does in the ocean.
One slight movement, the mirror-image goes.

Don’t be dead or asleep or awake.
Don’t be anything.

What you most want,
what you travel around wishing to find,
lose yourself as lovers lose themselves,
and you’ll be that.

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


/ Image by Noah Buscher /

I like this idea of searching for one’s own face — something so central to our identity but which we can never see directly.

You can never see your own face,
only a reflection, not the face itself.

How then can we see our own face?

We seek its reflection constantly, everywhere. All the world becomes a mirror showing ourselves back to us.

But our vision is unclear, distorted, veiled…

So you sigh in front of mirrors
and cloud the surface.

The ego within us covers our self-perception with a thin film, so we think we are seeing ourselves, but we see only a vague shadow of our true nature behind the ego’s haze.

In some traditions, this is represented by the compulsion of the breath, its continuous inflow and outflow perpetually disrupting true, still perception. Some yogic and Sufi techniques seek to profoundly quiet the breath and the rhythms of the body so that the vision of Reality may come through undistorted:

It’s better to keep your breath cold.
Hold it, like a diver does in the ocean.
One slight movement, the mirror-image goes.

Most people try to shape the story they tell about themselves. Seekers try to shape themselves. But if we are wise, we shape neither story nor self; we lose ourselves, instead. We let the disrupting ego-self melt away in the fires of our fierce love for the Beloved.

What you most want,
what you travel around wishing to find,
lose yourself as lovers lose themselves,
and you’ll be that.

In the search for our true face, a reflection will never satisfy. No journey. We won’t ever properly see our faces by looking outside of ourselves. To know our true face, we inhabit ourselves, instead.

Have a beautiful day — and always remain true to your heart’s instinct to open, even in tumultuous times.


Recommended Books: Farid ud-Din Attar

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Conferences of the Birds
More Books >>


Farid ud-Din Attar, Farid ud-Din Attar poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Farid ud-Din Attar

Iran/Persia (1120? – 1220?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Apr 21 2024

Lisel Mueller – Monet Refuses the Operation

Published by under Poetry

Monet Refuses the Operation
by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

— from Second Language: Poems, by Lisel Mueller


/ Image by Nik Shuliahin /

A rare Sunday poem this week. Last week was especially full with work and dental appointments, so I didn’t get to the poem on Friday. I received several thoughtful emails following the previous week’s poem, and I didn’t get many responses out — but I read them all.

Here’s something to remind us of the hidden glory in aging. (A big thank you to Mirabai Starr and her email newsletter for remind me of this poem.)

Permission, I suppose, to be a little less focused and a little more present. I hope you feel the heavenly nearness in those haloed lamps!


Recommended Books: Lisel Mueller

Alive Together: New and Selected Poems Second Language: Poems The Need to Hold Still: Poems Dependencies: Poems


Lisel Mueller, Lisel Mueller poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Lisel Mueller

US & Germany (1924 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Lisel Mueller

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Apr 12 2024

Ivan M. Granger – First dawn

First dawn
by Ivan M. Granger

First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.

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


/ Image by Evgeni Dinev /

I have been enjoying the spring mornings here in Eugene, Oregon. Some mornings there is a light rain falling, the world is sleepy and self-enclosed, then on other days we get morning sunshine, everything glistens and awakens to a sense of celebration. Sometimes before we begin work, my wife and I will go to a local coffee shop. I’ll get a warm cup of tea. We read and chat, listening to the hum of the community, people talking in hushed tones, the life of our small city recognizing itself. Such moments are nourishing to the soul.

I am especially appreciative of all this because of a few milestones in my life. Last week I had my birthday. I turned 55. The number feels foreign to me. It’s as if time stopped when I was 35. I haven’t really aged. My hair has just gotten grayer. Can anyone else relate to that feeling?

The other milestone: I was just honored at my work for 30 years of employment. For someone who has moved around the country and, because of health issues, has not always been able to work full time hours in the week, I am amazed — and grateful — to have found early on an employer who has been stable and adaptable and accepting. Wherever I’ve lived and whatever my work rhythms, they were always there, so I never felt the need to move on.

The renewal of springtime and these experiences invite me to reflect back on the year and a half since my wife and I moved back to Eugene. We have had so many wonderful moments returning to our childhood hometown, but the year following our move was also quite challenging. At the beginning of last year my wife was hospitalized and kept in the ICU for several days following a severe asthma attack. As she recovered, we were able to get her on new medication, and the change has been profound. It was a year of difficult finances, requiring me to put as many hours as possible into my day job. At times I felt badly, as if I have been neglecting you, the Poetry Chaikhana community, as a result. I hope to be able to do more with the Poetry Chaikhana in the future.

We never really control the circumstances of our lives. We make plans, formulate expectations, and try to build the daily structures of our lives that will lead to those outcomes — but then life plays out as it will. That regular, steady, structural process has not been my strongest suit, though I have gotten better at it in those timeless twenty years from 35 to 55. Where I have found strength, however, is in the ability to ride the flow of life, even when the details have gotten messy.

I look outside the window. It’s a cloudy morning. The ground is still damp with last night’s rainfall. But the birds are cautiously emerging and sharing their song. We have the promise of a beautiful day. That’s when our work begins, amidst the requirements of life, to discover for ourselves the beauty waiting for us.


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
More Books >>


Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

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

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Mar 29 2024

Naropa – The Summary of Mahamudra

Published by under Poetry

The Summary of Mahamudra
by Naropa

English version by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Erik Pema Kunsang

Homage to the state of great bliss!
Concerning what is called Mahamudra
All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept;
Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.
This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.
All things, like space, are equal.
When speaking of ‘Mahamudra’
It is not an entity that can be shown.
There the mind’s suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.
It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,
But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,
The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.
Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,
This unimagined Dharmakaya,
Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training.
But to meditate while seeking is deluded mind.
Just as with space and a magical display,
While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!
This is a yogi’s understanding.
All good deeds and harmful actions
Dissolve by simply knowing this nature.
The emotions are the great wisdom.
Like a jungle fire, they are the yogi’s helpers.
How can there be staying or going?
What meditation is there by fleeing to a hermitage?
Without understanding this, all possible means
Never bring more than temporary liberation.
When understanding this nature, what is there to bind you?
While being undistracted from its continuity,
There is neither a composed nor an uncomposed state
To be cultivated or corrected with a remedy.
It is not made out of anything
Experience self-liberated is dharmadhatu.
Thinking self-liberated is great wisdom,
Non-dual equality is dharmakaya.
Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,
This is the eternal awakened state,
The great bliss, leaving no place for samasara.
All things are empty of their own identities.
This concept fixed on emptiness has dissolved in itself.
Free of concept, holding nothing in mind,
Is in itself the path of the Buddhas.
For the most fortunate ones,
I have made these concise words of heartfelt advice.
Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.

— from The Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on songs of Realization, Translated by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche / Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang


/ Image by Best Picko /

Today is Good Friday leading into Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar. We are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. In the Jewish calendar, Purim was just celebrated and Passover is coming up. For Hindus, colorful Holi was just celebrated. Let us take a moment during this time of the new life and new birth to remember the holiness and wholeness of the world we all share.

=

If you have been reading the Poetry Chaikhana emails in recent years, then you know that my wife and I moved back to our childhood home of Eugene, Oregon a little over a year ago. Before that we lived for years in and around Boulder, Colorado.

My wife and I first moved to Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s. We were young and felt like adventurous vagabonds, exploring the world by moving from place to place. Several things drew us to the area, including the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, better work opportunities than in our home state of Oregon, as well as the spirituality, creativity and health-focus of the community.

One other thing drew us: Naropa University, a school in the area well known for its poetry and psychology programs, combined with classes on meditation and Eastern philosophies. Ironically, we never attended classes there, but we have friends who are graduates, and the school has helped to shape Boulder culture in beautiful ways.

Yet I don’t think I have ever featured a poem by the great Buddhist master Naropa, until today.

Concerning what is called Mahamudra

Mahamudra literally translates as “the Great Seal.” This term is rich in meaning, especially within Tibetan Buddhism. We might say that Mahamudra is the clear and enlightened recognition of all levels of reality.

We can think of it as a “seal” in that it has the stamp of confirmation. This is unfettered awareness of how reality really is.

Mahamudra is both the goal and it is also the practice or the pathway to reach that goal.

All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept

This is a difficult one for most of us reared within the Western mindset that has a primarily materialistic understanding of reality. Even if we hold to religious or spiritual ideals, that relationship to the world around us as a physical and sensory experience is often quite ingrained.

So what do we make of statements like “all things are your own mind”? How can external objects not be external?

We can read a lot of Eastern philosophy and begin to build a conceptual framework that allows a statement like that to seem less absurd, but at best it is a fragile idea that comes under heavy assault when we are confronted with life’s next intense, apparently external challenge. The conceptualizing mind can’t fully encompass this notion, no matter how subtle and refined we think it out.

The problem for the intellect is that, as our meditation deepens and the mind clears, this is precisely what we perceive. Everything we imagine to be outside of ourselves is actually within ourselves. And everything we think of as tangible, fixed, and “real,” is actually revealed to be merely a surface appearance that is part of a deeper, highly fluid reality.

Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.

Naturally, we must explore what the mind is. We often imagine that we are the mind, that the mind is the self. Thinking that, we have little or no control over the mind. But the mind isn’t really a lasting “thing” in oneself or outside of oneself. What we think of as the mind only exists when the awareness is in motion.

This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.

When we bring the awareness to deep stillness, we discover that the mind doesn’t exist at all. Awareness remains, but mind is nowhere to be found.

It is like the wind: The air is always there, but the wind only exists when the air is disturbed and in motion. Its true nature is wide open, reaching in all directions at once.

There the mind’s suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.

In Buddhist writings, we often come across an odd term that is usually rendered as “suchness” or “thusness.” This is a translation of the word Tathata. Tathata is the way a thing truly is beyond the ability of names or concepts to define it. It is the true nature of reality.

Naropa is affirming that the mind’s true nature, that is, full and open awareness, is nothing less than the full embodiment of reality.

It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,

So often in spiritual practice we try to bring the mind under control. We work so hard to keep the mind focused on “spiritual” things and away from distractions or fixations. And, yes, that can be important.

But Naropa is giving us a deeper teaching. The shifting surface focus we call mind is only problematic when we imagine that is all that mind is and all that we are. As we begin to recognize the full awareness, we see that its expanse already encompasses everything, needing nothing added or subtracted, while the phenomenon of “mind” is simply the shifting of currents that settles of its own accord when we let it.

But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,

Another key Buddhist term is then mentioned: Dharmakaya–

The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.
Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,

Dharmakaya literally means “truth body.” It is one’s true spacious being underlying all appearance or phenomenal experience. It is the foundation ground of self and being experienced by awakened masters.

Naropa is showing how these important concepts are linked, that their elevated states actually flow into each other and reveal themselves to be the same.

No-Mind -> Full Awareness -> Inherent Being -> Truth Body

Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training

This, I think, is Naropa’s core statement for the seeker: Don’t seek. Instead, recognize the true nature of things already present. Don’t look to the horizon. Wherever we are, just stop and see. That’s the tricky part. Before we can see, we must first stop. We don’t need to dominate the mind and force it to stop, but we do need to stop being carried away by every little thing caught in the shifting movements of the mind. That’s when the vision clears and we see all around for the first time.

While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!

We don’t actually need to change anything about ourselves. Rather, we need to settle into ourselves. We need to be as we are. When we do that, then our outer selves naturally become an expression of the true being we actually are — no effort required to coax or curtail our actions and energies.

Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,

Rather than an endless effort of trying to catch and correct every thought and emotion (and the actions that proceed from them), Naropa’s teachings allow us to recognize our destination in this very moment, discovering our true nature in our very selves right now.

Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.


Recommended Books: Naropa

The Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on songs of Realization Illusion’s Game: The Life and Teachings of Naropa


Naropa, Naropa poetry, Buddhist poetry Naropa

India (1016 – 1100) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Mar 22 2024

Stephen Levine – Millennium Blessing

Published by under Poetry

Millennium Blessing
by Stephen Levine

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
      but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
      beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
      none-the-less
through forgotten ghosts
      and unexpected angels,
luminous.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

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


/ Image by DCist /

That opening statement is so true—

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

Most of us spend our entire lives avoiding that inner opening. It is that quiet itch at the back of the awareness that makes us squirm and turn away. And when it really presses on us, it can arouse terror, as if we were facing down death.

That’s the thing: That oh-so-sweet moment of awakening is only sweet on the other side of the threshold. But to approach it is to face death. It is the death of our old worldview, the death of patterned awareness, the death of our limited notion of who we are. All we thought ourselves to be stops—and so it is a sort of death. To feel that grace approaching, to welcome it, requires a wild sort of courage.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

It requires courage and, yes, surrender. We have this idea that spiritual opening is a terrible effort. No. That unfolding wants to occur within us. The only effort is to let go of our endless strategies to halt the process. We all feel it, a gentle prodding to let the heart open, to know ourselves truly, to be present and radiate ourselves into the world.

That opening is insistent, trying to happen within us. Call it grace, if you like. The question is before us: Do we courageously accept the invitation to grace?

It does not come in time,
      but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

For those of us who live in modern urban society, think how hard it is to stop the ticking of the clock. From an early age we internalize the sense of time and progress and deadlines. Yet, in doing so, we forget that these are all just concepts, just one way to understand the unfolding of being and experience. That sense of time is a powerful tool for doing and accomplishment, but it isn’t inherently real. It doesn’t have much to do with who or what we are. There is a flow of days and months, but they are the surface current of a much deeper timelessness.

I remember as a young man trying to figure out what timelessness was. I sought to live in remote places. I got rid of the television (to which, as a child raised on 70s sitcoms, I had a serious addiction). I spent a lot of time in nature. I slowly learned to let go of the endless buzzing of thoughts. This might sound like a brutal endurance sport, but that wasn’t how I experienced it. I wanted to feel what life was without the filters of the 20th century mindset and 20th century time. I wanted to know who I was in the space of timelessness.

It is fascinating how we use the hyperactivity of thought to define the world, to frame our perception of the world, and in some ways to limit our notion of the world. The other thing about thought: It creates time. When thought settles down, we discover timelessness. And as the poet said, the mind comes to rest, not in the head, but in the heart.

Having come to rest, we remember. It is not through intellection but through stillness that we remember. Remember. Re-member. To remember is to finally see how the apparent separation of reality actually fits together in a single wholeness. Discursive thought can only ever examine pieces of the whole. To re-member is to have the full vision of Wholeness, as things actually are. But this vision is found in timelessness and stillness, through the quiet mind unfiltered.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.


Recommended Books: Stephen Levine

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying Healing into Life and Death
More Books >>


Stephen Levine, Stephen Levine poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Stephen Levine

US (1937 – 2016) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 08 2024

Akka Mahadevi – It was like a stream

Published by under Poetry

It was like a stream
by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

It was like a stream
      running into the dry bed
      of a lake,
                  like rain
      pouring on plants
      parched to sticks.

It was like this world’s pleasure
      and the way to the other,
                              both
      walking towards me.

Seeing the feet of the master
O lord white as jasmine,
      I was made
      worthwhile.

— from Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1, Edited by Susie Tharu / Edited by K. Lalita


/ Image by Omar Ob /

It is Mahashivaratri, a celebration in honor of the Hindu god Shiva, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to feature a poem by the great Shiva mystic, Mahadevi.

You know, there is always a question people are hesitant to ask, or just don’t think to ask… So let’s ask it now:

What in the world are these poets and mystics really talking about? Is there anything real behind all of these esoteric poems and sacred scriptures?

Once we step away from heavily laden words like God or heaven or enlightenment, we have to ask if these are just lovely word games and endless philosophical speculation.

I guess all of that is a roundabout way of asking the blunt question, What is the real point to a lifetime of spiritual striving?

Here’s a little secret not often mentioned in church or mosque or synagogue: In deepest communion, when the mind is still and the heart open, we are flooded by such an immense, ecstatic joy that nothing else can compare to it.

Let me say that again, because it is not some pretty philosophical notion. It is real, and directly perceived: When the mind is still and the heart open, we are flooded with an immense, ecstatic joy beyond describing.

That flood brings with it a profound sense of life. It is a sense of being alive that is utterly new, unknown until that moment. It is as if we experience what it means to be alive for the first time. Christians speak of this as the rebirth. Eastern traditions speak of it as awakening. That flood — it feels like a rushing stream — finally slakes a deep thirst we didn’t know we had.

It was like a stream
      running into the dry bed
      of a lake,
                  like rain
      pouring on plants
      parched to sticks.

In other words, yes, these poets are actually describing something real. It is something felt and tangible. The spiritual journey is not about withering discipline or theological correctness, clinging to a dusty ideal unto the grave. It is about life! And a very real deep, mysterious delight!

The theologian reformulates other people’s descriptions of sugar, and tells himself he is content. But the mystic is only satisfied with tasting it.

The spiritual journey is about discovering the very real sweetness that you are.

O lord white as jasmine,
      I was made
      worthwhile.

=

And to all of my beloved Muslim friends, Ramadan Mubarak. Have a blessed Ramadan this coming week, bringing a renewed sense of self, healing, and hopeful new possibilities into the world.


Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Voices Through the Ages


Akka Mahadevi, Akka Mahadevi poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Akka Mahadevi

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Mar 01 2024

Hadewijch – You who want

Published by under Poetry

You who want
by Hadewijch

English version by Jane Hirshfield

You who want
knowledge,
seek the Oneness
within

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting

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


/ Image by Lea Chvrl /

“You who want
knowledge…”

I suppose that is all of us. We all want knowledge.

Society tells us that “knowledge is power,” but we don’t really have a clear sense of what knowledge is. In the modern era, we tend to think of knowledge as information, data. We think of knowledge as the feeding and exercise of the intellect. All of that is certainly important, but real knowledge is something else.

We can’t think our way into heaven.

When mystics speak of “knowledge” they speak of gnosis. This is not information, but a profound Knowing. The knowledge we are talking about has more to do with full awareness. It is as if one floats in the vast ocean of knowingness itself. This “knowledge” is an all-encompassing recognition of meaning and interrelationship. It is direct and permeates one’s whole being. It is the full bodied perception that living meaning somehow flows through all of existence, unifying everything within a living self-awareness.

Information is observational, external, and always limited. This is not to say that gnostic knowledge has nothing to do with informational knowledge, however. In spiritually open states, one’s intuition may be refined and heightened. Clear insight about a certain person or situation may just pop into your mind as a fully formed understanding, as if you suddenly see the whole pattern without having to work so hard to connect all of the individual bits of information. But this is more of a byproduct, an ornamentation on the face of knowledge, not the knowledge itself.

Real knowing, gnosis, is alive, all-permeating, all-unifying. It reconnects us within the living whole… and leads us into ecstasy.

…seek the Oneness
within

This is why real knowing is about seeking oneness, turning within, learning to see ourselves honestly, truly, clearly.

Surprisingly, none of this knowledge is ever acquired. It isn’t a new possession or experience or even a new thought. It is already here, at rest in the center of things. When it is found, it is as familiar as our bones. It is our very nature. It is already waiting.

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Hadewijch

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete
More Books >>


Hadewijch, Hadewijch poetry, Christian poetry Hadewijch

Belgium (13th Century) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Feb 16 2024

Ayaz – The Making of Sand

Published by under Poetry

The Making of Sand
by Ayaz

Empty pages
Flap in the wind
In the sovereign silence
There is no history
There is only the cracking
And polishing of stones
by the sun
You see the making of sand
Is a long business
Shaped and re shaped
By surrender

— from The Holy Algorithm, by Ayaz Angus Landman


/ Image by Kunj Parekh /

I should feature the poetry of Ayaz Landman more often. I should just read his poetry more often — note to self. Every time I read his poetry I am surprised anew by how his words ring in the still moments of the day.

This poem, for example, it feels to me like a meditative journey…

Empty pages
Flap in the wind

We start with an image of a book open, its pages empty and flapping in the wind. A bare sketch, dreamlike. Where are the words that should fill the pages? Why would a book’s pages be empty? Perhaps the book is a blank canvas, a space for creativity, a place of possibilities.

Where is the writer? Or the reader? Why is the book out in the wind?

An empty book, an empty space, but with movement, life.

In the sovereign silence
There is no history

These are the words that first grab my attention. That phrase, “the sovereign silence…” That is one to sit with and savor.

Within that silence there is no history. No past. No inner dialog. No self-story. There is just presence.

The empty pages of the book, that must be us. We have become wordless, a part of the silence.

There is only the cracking
And polishing of stones
by the sun

This section is almost alchemical. There is no one there, no history, a place beyond time, but there is a refining process happening. Stones are being polished, refined, by the light of the sun.

What an interesting, almost startling detail in, that sound of cracking in the midst of the silence. A bit of projection on my part, perhaps, but that line suggests to me the inner sound heard in silent meditation and prayer. It can be a soft sound, like the hum of bees or a distant waterfall… or sand carried by the wind, or it can be clear and crisp, like a bell or flute… or perhaps the cracking sound of stones.

The inner sound is the sound of the self’s refinement. And that process is patient work.

You see the making of sand
Is a long business

It is not even that we are doing it. The action is done by the wind, the sun, by the subtle, eternal forces that act upon all things.

Our job is simply to let that process happen…

Shaped and re shaped
By surrender

…to allow ourselves to be remade by our own surrender.


Recommended Books: Ayaz

For You: A Collection of Prayer Poems The Holy Algorithm For You Too


Ayaz

England (Contemporary)
Muslim / Sufi

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Feb 02 2024

Yunus Emre – A single word

Published by under Poetry

A single word can brighten the face
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Image by Ahmad Bader /

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.

This is one of my favorite poems by Yunus Emre, but I have never really written up a good commentary to accompany it. Perhaps it is because it is a poem about words, the singular power of words, or the power of a singular word — and I don’t want my meditative ramblings to take away from the poem itself. It says it all so beautifully.

Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

I love that line. I have been busy with my day job of late, and I haven’t been resting in deep meditation as much as I would like. The outer world has required a lot of energy from me lately. Yet I have still managed to catch moments of silence gently flowing beneath the activity. That’s where the ripening happens.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

I think this verse is the heart of the poem for me. I read it over and over again.

In my Hawaii days, at the same time I was doing all that fasting and meditating in a cave, I was also running an email chain called the Peace Pages. No website, just by word of mouth, but it grew quickly to a significant circulation in the couple of years that it existed. It usually consisted of summaries of overlooked international news stories, often with a few comments for context, as a more holistic counterbalance to the fixed perspectives we were receiving in US news reports at the time. A major focus of the Peace Pages was the terrible situation in Israel/Palestine and my instinct that the suffering of the Palestinian people could become a flashpoint for a widening conflict on the world stage. This was about 25 years ago.

In the morning I would awaken, often lightheaded from fasting the day before, then go for a walk barefoot into the nearby forest where I had found a small cave. I would sit in meditation in the cave for several hours. When I returned, I might eat something light – at that time I was eating mainly island fruit and sprouted foods – then I would turn on my computer, scour the early Internet for news stories, and put together the Peace Pages email to send out.

In some ways, that work was an early template for what would become the Poetry Chaikhana.

Those emails helped me to gain a clearer, more expanded perspective on what was really happening in the world as I began to formulate my own response as a person aspiring to genuine compassion. It always meant empathy with those who are struggling and suffering, never seeing anyone as less than human or a less valuable human than myself. It also, challengingly, meant I had to recognize the suffering of even those who impose suffering on others. The black-and-white world of newsprint became, instead, a complex tapestry of shades and tones.

It also taught me that every conflict comes down to a breakdown in communication. Slow, simmering suffering, accented by explosive, often cruel action, is always about thwarted communication. Groups of people refusing to listen to the needs and concerns of other groups of people.

We tell ourselves that war and fighting are either about control of limited resources or sometimes we just want to say that the other side is “crazy” or, at least, unreasonable. But, when we really look, the clash usually has to do with the stories we tell and how we have tried to fix those stories in concrete. Conflict is often the result of having an overly rigid story about who we are and what our future should be, while trying to eliminate with a vengeance anyone with a different story.

The word that heals, the word that stops war is lost amidst our shouts of accusation.

We can never let allegiance to our personal or national stories be greater than our commitment to compassion and humanity. Let history become messy. Let our stories adapt and evolve to make room for other stories. We don’t need the triumphant fulfillment of our personal stories, what we need, and secretly crave, is the fulfillment of our humanity… even when our stories become something new and our future becomes unknown.

When we drop the terrible purpose of our stories and restore our hearts, that is when we recall the word that heals.

I think will say no more today, and let Yunus have the final word–

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

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 The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jan 26 2024

Sa’di – In Love

Published by under Poetry

In Love
by Sa’di

English version by Mahmood Jamal

In Love there are no days or nights,
For lovers it is all the same.
The musicians have gone, yet the Sufis listen;
In Love there is a beginning but no end.
Each has a name for his Beloved,
But for me my Beloved is nameless.
Sa’di, if you destroy an idol,
Then destroy the idol of the self.

— from Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi, Translated by Mahmood Jamal


/ Image by Greg Rakozy /

The Poetry Chaikhana is back. So too am I, mostly. The winter holidays have been celebrated and survived. The world continues to shift about and demand our hearts.

Each has a name for his Beloved,
But for me my Beloved is nameless.

Here I stand beneath the full moon, quiet, not entirely sure who it is awash in that light.

Sa’di, if you destroy an idol,
Then destroy the idol of the self.

Sending love!


Recommended Books: Sa’di

Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Gulistan of Sadi: The Rose Garden The Mystics of Islam Winds of Grace: Poetry, Stories and Teachings of Sufi Mystics and Saints


Sa'di, Sa'di poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Sa’di

Iran/Persia (1207? – 1291) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Dec 22 2023

Teresa of Avila (attributed) – You are Christ’s Hands

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

You are Christ’s Hands
by Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
      no hands but yours,
      no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
      Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
      doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

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


/ Image by Jackson David /

It is the Solstice and Christmas is just a few days away. It will be a modest one for myself and my wife this year, but one with a lot of gratitude. We recently moved, still within our hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Because previously we had been renting a furnished place and our new home is not pre-furnished, we had to scramble to buy the basics so we weren’t living in an empty house. Also, amidst the grief over the loss of our beloved family dog of many years, Apollo, we adopted a new dog, Bowie, through a local rescue organization. So, rather than exchange a lot of gifts this year, my wife and I decided to make a list of all the gifts we have received or given to ourselves and our household over the past couple of months — everything from dishes and silverware to a bed. Even without wrapped packages, it feels like an abundant Christmas.

As some of you may recall, soon after we moved back to Eugene a little over a year ago, I was taken aback by the homeless population here. Frankly, homelessness had not seemed like such a prominent issue where we previously lived in Colorado. But not only here in Eugene, we are discovering that America’s homeless population is rapidly growing in many cities.

My wife and I have been trying to find ways to help or, at a minimum, not turn our hearts away. Of course we offer a few dollars during street encounters, when we have the cash, and when the situation feels safe. And we contribute to some local groups that work with the homeless and the hungry in the area. I know I can do more, though remaining in balance, both with health and other life commitments, is always a challenge.

I feel a tug-of-war that plays out in me. There is the Aries part of my personality that is a natural activist, that part of me that wants to go out and fix things, that wants to make the world a better place, to help the world recognize what a beautiful place it can be and should be. It’s that part of me that wants to do (and sometimes wants to force). And then there is an inner part of me that whispers, “Don’t do. Flow. In that way the small actions born naturally from your heart, actions that hardly feel like actions, will resonate in the world.”

Is there such a thing as being an actionless activist?

I am still figuring that one out.

=

While this poem is popularly attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, it is not among her officially recognized works. Scholars tell us that it was probably actually written in the late 19th century by Guy Pearse, a Methodist minister, and Sarah Eliza Rowntree, an English Quaker.

Regardless of the actual composer, this is one of my favorite prayer-poems. It is a prayer of supreme spiritual maturity. It is not someone imploring Christ to come and fix everything in the external way imagined by so many fundamentalist sects; rather, it recognizes the presence of the Divine within each of us and our sacred responsibility to embody that compassion and service within the world. Each one of us is the vehicle through which Christ (or Ishwara or the Buddha) enacts blessings in the world. Our job is to let that sacred current flow through us unhindered.

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now…

May we each find ways to uncoil ourselves and allow the divine flow of compassion to run unhindered through our hearts and our hands.


Recommended Books: Teresa of Avila

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 For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time
More Books >>


Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila poetry, Christian poetry Teresa of Avila

Spain (1515 – 1582) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Dec 15 2023

Mirabai – The Heat of Midnight Tears

Published by under Poetry

The Heat of Midnight Tears
by Mirabai

English version by Robert Bly

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.

If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water,
I would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
If we could reach Him through eating nothing but berries and wild nuts,
Then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came from the womb!
If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves,
Then the goats would surely go to the Holy One before us!

If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.

Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God.

— from The Winged Energy of Delight, Translated by Robert Bly


/ Image by Megyarsh /

Mirabai says that if we could reach God through bathing in sacred waters, fish would be the holiest creatures; if by subsisting only on nuts and berries, then monkeys would be better than saints. In other words, God is not limited to one thing or one place or one form of worship. God is not outside ourselves to be found elsewhere. And simple, mindless fixation on something we define as holy will not make us holy.

But what really caught my attention is how similar these lines are to the Gnostic Christian teachings in the Gospel of Thomas, which was only rediscovered in the early 1900s:

If those who lead you say, “Look, the kingdom is in the heavens,” then the birds of heaven will get there before you. If they say, “It is in the sea,” then the fish will be there first. Rather, the kingdom is within you and all around you. When you know yourself, you will be known, and you will know you are children of the living father…

– Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas

Now, reread Mirabai’s words. Pretty striking similarity, isn’t it? It’s so nearly identical that one suspects the Gospel of Thomas was circulating through India in Mirabai’s time.

Both the Gospel of Thomas and Mirabai’s song are telling us that the Eternal One is not found some-where, nor in one specific form of worship. No place or object or action embodies God to the exclusion of others. That Presence is, in truth, everywhere, but is always discovered within.

Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God.

Midnight is the time of lovers and longing.

The ego acts as the prim nurse standing guard to make certain the secret tryst cannot occur. But lovers always find a way. The magnetic power of intense longing cannot be denied. Such midnight tears finally shame even the ego (“resistance broken”), who disappears into the shadows that the Beloved may emerge.

The pathway is open, and that pathway is the heart.

This is what Mirabai is telling us: God is already there, waiting, hidden, but we must clear the pathway of the heart. Only then can we finally recognize the smiling features of the Beloved that have always been there.

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening…

=

I have been dealing with chronic fatigue issues for the first time in quite a while. Maintaining work hours has been challenging. I haven’t been keeping up with all of my Poetry Chaikhana correspondence — apologies if you have been waiting on a response from me. Even when I may seem unreachable, you are all still very much in my heart.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Mirabai

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light The Winged Energy of Delight Songs of the Saints of India
More Books >>


Mirabai, Mirabai poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Mirabai

India (1498 – 1565?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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