Jul 30 2021

Basava – The eating bowl is not one bronze

Published by under Poetry

The eating bowl is not one bronze
by Basava

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

The eating bowl is not one bronze
and the looking glass another.

      Bowl and mirror are one metal
      Giving back light
      one becomes a mirror.

            Aware, one is the Lord’s;
            unaware, a mere human.

                  Worship the lord without forgetting,
                  the lord of the meeting rivers.

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Image by Gaetan Lee /

I have been rereading about the Virasaivas of southern India. Basava’s words have been whispering behind my thoughts, so I felt today was a good day to share one of his poems…

Bronze is a soft metal, easily shaped. It can be hammered into a bowl or flattened and polished, forming a simple mirror.

Basava is playing with a traditional teaching metaphor in this poem: both the bowl and the mirror are made of bronze. Mentally we label them as being different, but fundamentally they are the same substance, “one metal.”

The bronze can be understood to represent God. All beings, all things are made of the same substance, though we mentally distinguish them by outer form. The only difference between the eating bowl and the mirror is the shape they have taken on. We can say that the mirror has recognized its nature as a bronze object. The nature of bronze, when straight and polished, is to give back light.

We are all constructed of the same God-stuff. When we become aware of our nature and polish ourselves we give back light as we reflect the wider reality.

Aware, one is the Lord’s;
unaware, a mere human.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Basava

Speaking of Siva The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice


Basava, Basava poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Basava

India (1134 – 1196) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Jul 30 2021

limitless

The great burden in life
is the false self.
Drop it and see
how limitless you are.

No responses yet

Jul 23 2021

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Love came

Published by under Poetry

Love came
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady

Love came
      flowed like blood
      beneath skin, through veins
emptied me of my self
      filled me
      with the Beloved
till every limb
      every organ was seized
      and occupied
till only
      my name remains.
      the rest is It.

— from The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady


/ Image by Fabrice Nerfin /

I really like the visceral start to this poem.

Love came
      flowed like blood
      beneath skin, through veins

It’s so physical, even slightly disturbing. Sheikh Abu-Said Abil-Kheir wants to literally get under our skin with those opening lines.

But what is it that has taken over the very blood and organs of our body? Love.

When deep mystics speak of love, they aren’t talking about vague and all-too-fleeting emotional states. When we are truly flooded by that foundational love — let’s capitalize it and call it Love — there is something very tangible that is experienced. It is physical. The whole body at every level, “every limb / every organ”, every cell, in fact, suddenly feels alive in a way previously unknown. There is a powerful sense of alignment, as if each cell is an iron filing exposed to a powerful magnet, all lining up harmoniously along hidden lines of force. Something alchemical is happening in the body.

till only
      my name remains.
      the rest is It.

And the small self, what we might call the ego, seems to fade away. Although we are emptied, that isolated sense of self having vanished, we aren’t left bare. Instead, we are filled up with something immense and all-embracing — a sense of identity too open to be called “me.” People may see the same face, use the same name, but those relate to the small self, when in truth only that vast loving presence remains, contentedly witnessing the world through our eyes.

To my many Muslim friends, Eid Mubarak!


Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
More Books >>


Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Jul 23 2021

sift reality

The mystic’s awareness
does not sift reality,
it bathes in it.

No responses yet

Jul 16 2021

Farid ud-Din Attar – Mysticism

Published by under Poetry

Mysticism
by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Coleman Barks

The sun can only be seen by the light
of the sun. The more a man or woman knows,
the greater the bewilderment, the closer
to the sun the more dazzled, until a point
is reached where one no longer is.

A mystic knows without knowledge, without
intuition or information, without contemplation
or description or revelation. Mystics
are not themselves. They do not exist
in selves. They move as they are moved,
talk as words come, see with sight
that enters their eyes. I met a woman
once and asked her where love had led her.
“Fool, there’s no destination to arrive at.
Loved one and lover and love are infinite.”

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


/ Image by Eyebags /

The sun can only be seen by the light
of the sun.

The sun here is, of course, a reference to God. But then, what does it mean to say that God can only be seen by the light of God?

One doesn’t perceive God as a separate, objectified reality. There is no place ‘outside’ of God to stand in order to observe God as something exterior. In fact, there is no eye in the common sense that can view God.

The only way to see God is by the “light” of God. That is, instead of looking, looking everywhere, we must stop looking and notice the divine radiance already present, right here, right now. We are drawn to that radiant presence, growing closer to it until we are “dazzled” — confounded by the scintillating wholeness that is beyond the mind’s ability to conceptualize.

Entering the radiance more deeply, we are finally swallowed by it “until a point / is reached where one no longer is.”

Mystics
are not themselves. They do not exist
in selves.

The little self that imagines itself as a being separate from others and the world around it no longer exists in the fluid unity of this radiance that fills and connects everything.

At that point there is only the “light of the sun”, only divine radiance, within and without — everywhere! When the light is recognized as being all-pervading, nothing separate or left out, that is when the Divine is truly witnessed in wholeness and unity.

But have we gotten anywhere? No, since the question implies we have left one place or state of awareness and entered another, which is still perceiving reality from a sense of separation. Instead, we have recognized the unlimited nature of Reality. And we are individual (but not separate) points of awareness within that wholeness.

“There’s no destination to arrive at.
Loved one and lover and love are infinite.”


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 Conference 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

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jul 16 2021

space of uncertainty

The space of uncertainty
is where magic happens.

No responses yet

Jul 09 2021

Rainer Maria Rilke – You who let yourselves feel

Published by under Poetry

You who let yourselves feel
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

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


/ Image by Stephen Leonardi /

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.

Even in translation Rilke’s gift for an unusual turn of phrase always makes me pause in a moment of wonder and reassessment of reality.

Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.

This stanza reminds us to breathe, and not in a limited way, but with a full breath that opens us up. To breathe, first we must be willing to feel. We are surrounded and filled by a breath that is much larger than we are, a universal breath. We exist within an openness, an airiness, an expanse that balances against the reflex to contract into something small.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:

Isn’t that a wonderful phrase?

You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

This sounds like the formulation from a Hindu or Buddhist text. Subject and object, observer and observed. We are both and one at the same time.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;

As lovely as the preceding lines are, it is this phrase here that I find the most healing. Physical pain, psychic pain, the wounds we carry through our lives, we spend so much time fearing them, trying not to feel them, trying to get past them. And we exhaust ourselves carrying those unacknowledged burdens. When we stop running and set them down, we discover the deep soils of the earth can draw in an weight and support it for us.

for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

…And the earth bears them with ease.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.

These are interesting lines. What do you suppose the poet is saying here? Something about the aspirations or dreams we first conceived of in our youth? Why would they become too heavy? What did we create or imagine when we were younger that now holds us back? What do we need to let go of in order to be free?

Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

There is a tendency, especially as we grow older, to endlessly refine our definitions as a way to concretize our understanding of how the world works and how we can be effective within it. And that generally works well until we find we have also trapped ourselves in those definitions. Sometimes we just need to step beyond everything we’ve built up and give ourselves into the open, intangible air.

Images of earth and weight and support, air and breath and liberation…


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

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


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

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

4 responses so far

Jul 09 2021

until you find yourself saying

Relax
until you find yourself saying —

this moment is enough.

No responses yet

Jul 02 2021

Muso Soseki – At the Nachi Kan’non Hall

Published by under Poetry

At the Nachi Kan’non Hall
by Muso Soseki

English version by W. S. Merwin

The Milky Way
      pours waterfalls
            over this human world
the cold
      rushing tumbling sounds
            echo through the blue sky
Veneration
      to the Great Compassionate
            Avilokiteshvara
How lucky I am
      to have no trouble
            hearing

— from Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons, Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu


/ Image by Dirk Dallas /

I love that opening phase–

The Milky Way
      pours waterfalls
            over this human world

I imagine stepping outside after a long day, standing beneath the night sky, and letting the waters of the universe wash over me. It’s a cleansing image, purifying, healing to the wearied spirit.

the cold
      rushing tumbling sounds
            echo through the blue sky

Soseki emphasizes sound, the waterfall-like sound of the night. Try it sometime to remind yourself. Late at night, step outside, or just open the window and lean your head out. Close your eyes. Listen. Do you hear it? In the absence of all other noise, with no movement around and with thoughts at rest… a soft sound is heard. At first it might be like the quiet chirping of crickets in the night, the hum of beesong, or the flowing of gentle stream. It is heard as a random, soothing “white noise” that seems to emanate from the base of the skull.

As we quiet more, the sound grows into a rushing sound, like a waterfall. Sometimes this sound resolves into a clear pitch that can resemble the pure note of a flute or the ringing of a bell.

First it is heard and, finally, felt throughout the body.

This sound is Krishna’s flute calling his devotees to him. It is the ringing of the bells of paradise. It is Soseki’s heavenly waterfall.

This sound signals the beginning of deep meditation. The more we sit with this sound, the more the awareness expands and the heart naturally opens with inherent compassion, as the universal waters pour over us, refreshing us, revitalizing, awakening.

How lucky I am
      to have no trouble
            hearing


Recommended Books: Muso Soseki

Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons East Window: Poems from Asia Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader


Muso Soseki, Muso Soseki poetry, Buddhist poetry Muso Soseki

Japan (1275 – 1351) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Jul 02 2021

struggle and strength

It is the struggle to attain spiritual awakening
that makes us strong enough to actually receive it.

No responses yet

Jun 25 2021

Antonio Machado – Last night, as I was sleeping

Published by under Poetry

Last night, as I was sleeping
by Antonio Machado

English version by Ivan M. Granger

      Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed vision! —
that a fountain flowed
here in my heart.
I said: Why, O water, have you come
along this secret waterway,
spring of new life,
which I have never tasted?

      Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed vision! —
that I had a beehive
here in my heart;
and the golden bees
were making
from all my old sorrows
white wax and sweet honey.

      Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed vision! —
a blazing sun shone
here in my heart.
It was blazing because it gave heat
from a red home,
and it was sun because it gave light
and because it made me weep.

      Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed vision! —
that it was God I had
here in my heart.

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


/ Image by Ecstatic Mark /

This is my favorite poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. Actually, it’s one of my favorite poems, period.

Robert Bly’s English version is probably the best known. Although I generally like the feel and rhythm of Bly’s rendition, I find one important detail frustrating, even misleading: The repeated line, which I’ve translated as “blessed vision,” he renders as “marvelous error.” Machado’s actual line in Spanish is bendita ilusión. A more exact translation might be “blessed vision or dream.” Perhaps the poet can’t quite believe the beauty of his vision, but he hardly regards it as an “error.” Reading the original Spanish, I have the feeling Machado is teasing us by calling the experience a dream, seeing if we are foolish enough to cast it aside.

Let’s take just a moment to explore how this poem parallels the mystic’s ecstatic experience…

Machado discovers continual delights in his heart: a flowing fountain, a honey-filled beehive, a blazing sun, God… all found within the heart. Read enough descriptions of mystical union, and the same descriptions come up again and again — a heart ablaze with light and heat, filled with sweetness, bubbling and overflowing, a heart expanding to embrace all creation.

The fountain flows from the heart, running along a “secret waterway.” It is a “spring of new life.” This is often part of sacred ecstasy. Mystics experience a sensation of drinking some unknown liquid that warms the heart and fills one with a bubbling sense of life previously unknown and unimagined.

This “drink” is perceived as being sweet, eliciting comparisons to honey or wine. Thus, Machado discovers “white wax / and sweet honey” in his heart.

In such overwhelming delight one feels radically restored and whole. All past guilts and sorrows seem somehow resolved, transformed into the very matter from which this joy emerges.

And the awareness is filled with the perception of a radiant light, while the body is permeated with a great warmth — like a “blazing sun.”

Indeed, caught up in this experience, how can we doubt that it is God we have inside our hearts?


Recommended Books: Antonio Machado

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado Border of a Dream: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado
More Books >>


Antonio Machado, Antonio Machado poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Antonio Machado

Spain (1875 – 1939) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Jun 25 2021

Knowing our work

Knowing our work, let’s be impatient to begin
and supremely patient in its accomplishment.
Knowing our work, what cause is there
for anything but joy in turning to it each day?

No responses yet

Jun 11 2021

Wendell Berry – How to Be a Poet

Published by under Poetry

How to Be a Poet
by Wendell Berry

(To remind myself)

i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

— from Given: Poems, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by Louis Vest /

One doesn’t have to be a poet to inspired by this poem. In fact, it’s not really about writing poetry at all, is it? It’s really about how to be present, how to inhabit the world quietly and notice more than ourselves. That is when the best poetry is born.

The first verse invites is to settle down. Reading those first few lines, I feel my own bones settling awkwardly into a state of rest and stillness. And there is the slow interior work of reading, cultivating inspiration, the private work on the blank page. I love that he lists “growing older” as one of the necessary tasks of the poet. And patience–

for patience joins time
to eternity.

The second verse seems to be more about our relationship to place, both exterior and interior space. In recent years I haven’t done so well with avoiding electric wire and screens, but there was a time some years ago when I did just that, literally. I embraced my Luddite instincts as much as practical. It does shift one’s sense of reality and connection to the world. The transition feels stressful at first, and then, slowly, the world around us starts to take on a new depth and life, becoming a slow-speaking friend in constant, quiet communication.

What are the ways we have been taught to not recognize our ongoing dialog with all around us?

There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

And he concludes with that wonderful meditation on silence. We think a poem is a collection of words, but the best poetry simply gives shape to silence.

Accept what comes from silence…

make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Have a beautiful weekend, remembering to breathe the unconditional breath!


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

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


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

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jun 11 2021

extreme and balanced

In your pursuit of God,
sometimes — you must be extreme;
always — you must be supremely balanced.

No responses yet

Jun 04 2021

John of the Cross – I Entered the Unknown

Published by under Poetry

I Entered the Unknown
by John of the Cross

English version by Ivan M. Granger

I entered the unknown,
and there I remained unknowing,
all knowledge transcended.

Where I entered I knew not,
but seeing myself there,
not knowing where,
great things then made themselves known.
What I sensed I cannot say,
for I remained unknowing,
all knowledge transcended.

In this peace and purity
was perfect knowledge.
In profoundest solitude
I understood with absolute clarity
something so secret
that I was left stammering,
all knowledge transcended.

So deep was I within,
so absorbed, transported,
that all senses fled,
and outer awareness fell away.
My spirit received the gift
of unknowing knowing,
all knowledge transcended.

He who reaches this realm
loses himself,
for all he once knew
now is beneath his notice,
and his mind so expands
that he remains unknowing,
all knowledge transcended.

And the higher he rises
the less he knows:
That is the dark cloud
that shines in the night.
The one who knows this
always remains unknowing,
all knowledge transcended.

This knowing by unknowing
is of such exalted power,
that the disputations of the learned
fail to grasp it,
for their knowledge does not reach
to knowing by unknowing,
all knowledge transcended.

Of such supreme perfection
is this knowledge
that no faculty or method of mind
can comprehend it;
but he who conquers himself
with this unknowing knowing,
will always transcend.

And if you are ready to receive it,
this sum of all knowledge is discovered
in the deepest ecstasy
of the Divine Essence.
Goodness and grace
grant us this unknowing,
all knowledge transcended.

— from This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, Edited by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by oddsock /

St. John of the Cross repeatedly contrasts knowledge with unknowing.

I entered the unknown,
and there I remained unknowing,

all knowledge transcended.

The Spanish word rendered here as “knowledge” is ciencia, which has the more obvious translation of “science.” But the poem’s archaic use of “science” implies not the scientific process, but a more general sense of knowledge acquired through reason and the testimony of the senses.

And John of the Cross emphasizes that his unknowing is superior.

He is not advocating ignorance, however. The Spanish saint is instead speaking about the mystical idea of “unknowing,” the state in which all concepts and mental filters have been set aside. In that state of unknowing, we rise above the elaborate constructions of the logical mind and come to rest in pure awareness (“knowing by unknowing”). He is contrasting true, unfiltered knowing, gnosis, with the mere accumulation and organization of information.

To be unknowing in this sense is to encounter every instant entirely as it is, in pure wonder, without projection, without anticipation or agitation. The intellectual mind—a hugely important tool!—has one very serious weakness: It never encounters the present moment nakedly. It is always processing, analyzing, making everything fit within its comprehension. It never truly witnesses; it only interprets.

We certainly want to cultivate a critical intellect, but we must always remember that it is not the whole of consciousness. The awareness can step beyond the intellect. To fully apprehend reality, it must.

So deep was I within,
so absorbed, transported,
that all senses fled,
and outer awareness fell away.

This state of supreme unknowing is not perception in the sense of drawing in and interpreting exterior input through the senses. In normal perception, the intellect sifts and sorts that sensory data and formulates it into a working hypothesis of what reality is. That hypothesis, however, is always an incomplete shorthand that only approximates reality.

By contrast, the mystic’s unknowing is the centered awareness of unfiltered reality. This awareness does not tilt off its seat in order to reach out through the senses. It is at rest, poised. It witnesses without an egoic agenda. The full awareness in this state of unknowing does not sift reality, it bathes in it.

Rather than an interpretation, one sees clearly, free from artificial mental constructions–knowing by unknowing.

And if you are ready to hear it,
this sum of all knowledge is discovered
in the deepest ecstasy
of the Divine Essence.
Goodness and grace
grant us this unknowing,

…all knowledge transcended.


Recommended Books: John of the Cross

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


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

Spain (1542 – 1591) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Jun 04 2021

settles into the heart

Awareness settles into the heart,
touching everything
without reaching out to do so.

No responses yet

May 28 2021

Niffari – Stand at the Throne

Published by under Poetry

Stand at the throne (from The Standing Of the Presence Chamber and the Letter)
by Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

English version by Michael A. Sells

He said to me:
      Stand at the throne.
      I saw the sanctuary.
      No gaze attained it.
      No cares entered it.
      In it I saw the doors of every reality.
      I saw the doors on fire.
      In the fire was a sanctuary.
      Nothing could enter it but the sincere act.
      When it entered, it came to the door.
      When it came to the door, it stood for the reckoning
      I saw the reckoning
            single out what was for the face of God
            from what was for the other-than-him.
      I saw the reward was other-than-him.
      I saw that the act, sincere in him and for him alone,
            raised from the door to the highest plane of vision.
      When it was raised, there was written upon the door:
      “It has passed the reckoning.”

Eat from my hand,
Drink from my hand
      Or you will not be equal to my obedience.

If you do not obey me on my account,
      You will not be equal to my worship.

If you cast off your fault
      you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
      you will forget your lord.

In the garden
      is everything thought can bear
      and behind it more.

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


/ Image by red twolips /

There is so much to explore in this “standing” that I leave it with you to contemplate. Just a few of my own thoughts…

Nothing could enter it but the sincere act.

I love that.

I saw the reckoning
single out what was for the face of God
from what was for the other-than-him.

The day of reckoning, Judgment Day, is when we are sifted to discover what in us is a pure reflection of the face of God from that which is “other-than-him.” But Niffari sees that even the “reward” is “other-than-him.” He seems to be reminding us that to truly pass the “reckoning,” we must seek the Eternal not for the sake of a promised heavenly reward, but for the Eternal alone.

I saw that the act, sincere in him and for him alone,
raised from the door to the highest plane of vision.
When it was raised, there was written upon the door:
“It has passed the reckoning.”

A sacred puzzle: The reward is not the reward; God is the reward.

Eat from my hand,
Drink from my hand
      Or you will not be equal to my obedience.

This is a statement of inner mystical initiation. Depth here to explore…

If you cast off your fault
      you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
      you will forget your lord.

I love these lines too. A reminder to us that obsessing on faults, imperfections, or sins keeps us cut off from the Divine. The proper approach is not to linger on one’s personal or spiritual failures; that simply strengthens the illusory walls between the individual awareness and the Eternal. No, one must see those “faults” clearly, and seeing them clearly no longer cling to them, allowing them to simply fall away without self-condemnation.

We define ourselves by our faults, and create spiritual separation through self-condemnation. When we let them simply fall, the walls we imagined separating ourselves from the Eternal show themselves to have never been. “Ignorance” finally disappears and we we have all along been standing in the presence of the Divine.

In the garden
      is everything thought can bear
      and behind it more.


Recommended Books: Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) The Mawaqif and Mukhatabat of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdi ‘L-Jabbar Al-Niffari With Other Fragments


Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

Iraq (? – 965) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

« Prev - Next »