Poetry

There Is No River

There Is No River I said to the wanting-creature inside me: What is this river you want to cross? There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road. Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting? There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman. There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it. There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford! And there is no body, and no mind! Do you believe there is some place that will make the soul less thirsty? In that great absence you will find nothing. Be strong then, and enter into your own body; there you have a solid…

Wingbeats: The Poetry of Rumi

The rubat, the four-line poem, is indigenous to the Persian language, and Rumi is one of the great innovators with the form. There’s a legend about how the quatrain originated. It’s fair day. A poet and his friends are strolling along in the crowd. They stop to watch some children playing a game. A young boy throws a walnut so that it starts along a groove of the pavement, jumps out, then rolls back in to hit the aimed-at spot. He has put english on the nut, and he celebrates the move with a little chant. “Rolling, rolling, off and back, then home to the bottom of the ditch.” The poet (one version says it was Rudaki in the 10th…

The Wisdom of Solomon

The empty-hearted are quick to criticize; a heart filled with understanding values silence. (11:12) Truth is forever; falsehood lasts but a moment. (12:19) Pretending to knowledge reveals your lack of it; admitting ignorance is the beginning of wisdom. (13:7) A closed mind causes strife; an open mind cultivates wisdom. (13:10) True wisdom is self-understanding; fools deceive only themselves. (14:8) A serious mind seeks understanding, but a fool is satisfied with folly. (15:14) The way to wisdom is through wonder; the way to honor is through humility. (15:33) Intuition is a source of knowledge, but do not forsake reason in your quest for truth. (18:15) Attending to reality returns your feet to the path and your mind to the present moment….

The Poetry of Thomas Merton

Merton came to embrace the profound relationship that developed between his vocation to the silence of his monastic life and its rich and sacralizing effects on his poetics. Against all expectation and in spite of the persistent efforts of the Catholic Church to silence him in the ’60s, Merton emerged as one of the most prominent and effective social critics in twentieth-century America. This irony is not lost on the profound conflict Merton experienced between a vocation to monastic solitude and the expression of his relentless social conscience. Words were his enemies as much as they were his allies, circumscribing him with guilt as often as they articulated his longing for freedom for humanity. At the deepest level, Merton experienced…

The Poet-Saint Kabir

Truth cannot be revealed by words. The mute person eating sweets only smiles, the sweetness he cannot express. Kabir, who lived between 1398 and 1448, was one of the great poet-saints of India whose works continue to be sung and quoted by millions of people. Although parts of Kabir’s life are surrounded by legend, it is fairly well-established that he was born in Beneras (Varanasi) and was adopted and raised by a Muslim weaver. Kabir wrote poems that expose the pretensions and hypocrisy of conventional religious views. His passion was the direct experience of Truth. To this end, he spent his life exposing the fabricated barriers between Hinduism and Islam; by relentlessly pointing out that the heart of both traditions…

The Life and Poetry of Rama Tirth

Rama Tirth, the well-known poet-saint from India, was born on October 22, 1873, in the village of Muraliwala, about 60 miles north of Lahore, in what is now Pakistan. At the age of six, his extraordinary brilliance revealed itself. According to the customs of the day, he married at the age of ten and soon was sent to high school in a nearby city. Rama was put under the care of his father’s friend, Bhakta Dhanna Rama. Dhanna Rama was a spiritual aspirant and, through his influence, Rama Tirth thrived as he had a natural affinity with spiritual ideals. At fifteen he graduated high school with honors in mathematics and enrolled in college. After graduatiing college, he secured a job…

The Life and Poetry of Muruganar

 “Vast, whole, immutable, the Self Reflected in the mind’s distorting Mirror may appear to move. Know that it is the image moving. The true Self never moves or changes.” Though the poetry of Muruganar is not widely known, those associated with the life of Ramana Maharshi are familiar with his extraordinary verses, which have been published by Ramanasramam and a few other centers in India. He was often referred to as, “the shadow of Bhagavan;” his full being was completely absorbed in living the teachings of Ramana, exclusive of any other interest or involvement. Muruganar was thirty-three years old when he first met Ramana Maharshi. The occasion was marked by a poetic outpouring—a result of the bliss of simply arriving…

Symphony of the Spirit

“So solitary and secret, so remote and far distant from sense, that naught pertaining to it, nor any touch of created things, succeeds in approaching the soul in such a way as to disturb it and detain it on the road of the union of love.” —St. John of the Cross St. John of the Cross is widely regarded one of the great Christian mystics and poets. He was born in 1542 as John de Yepes at Fontiveros, near Avila, Spain. In September of 1567, he met St. Teresa of Avila and a year later took vows of the Reform, at Duruela, and became St. John of the Cross. His life was filled with challenges: Born into poverty, often at…

Reflections on Leaves of Grass

“A new order shall arise and they shall be the priests of man and every man shall be his own priest. The churches built under their umbrage shall be the churches of men and women. Through the divinity of themselves shall the kosmos and the new breed of poets be interpreters of men and women of all events and things. They shall find their inspiration in real objects today, symptoms of the past and future . . . They shall not deign to defend immortality or God or the perfection of things or liberty or the exquisite beauty and reality of the soul. They shall arise in America and be responded to from the remainder of the earth.” —From the…

Desert Wisdom

The Past Flies Away “The past flies away, coming months and years do not exist: Only the pinprick of this moment belongs to us. We decorate this speck of a moment—time— by calling it a flowing river or a stream. But often I find myself alone in a desert wilderness, straining to catch the faint echo of unfamiliar sounds.” —The Secret Rose Garden by Sufi poet Mahmud Shabistari, thirteenth century Every part of the earth has evolved crucial insights and wisdom that can offer solutions to the unfolding story of the human species. This wisdom comes through the mystics, prophets, poets, and artists who, by their own willingness to experience a sense of deep com­munion with the universe, give voice…

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