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Poetry Chaikhana
Sacred Poetry from Around the World
Sacred Poetry from Around the World


Something for the light of Hannukah...

Now an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire -

a fire that devours fire;
a fire that burns in things dry and moist;
a fire that glows amid snow and ice;
a fire that is like a crouching lion;
a fire that reveals itself in many forms;
a fire that is, and never expires;
a fire that shines and roars;
a fire that blazes and sparkles;
a fire that flies in a storm wind;
a fire that burns without wood;
a fire that renews itself every day;
a fire that is not fanned by fire;
a fire that billows like palm branches;
a fire whose sparks are flashes of lightning;
a fire black as a raven;
a fire, curled, like the colours of the rainbow!

~ Yannai (Israel/Palestine, 6th century)
tr. T. Carmi

image by superde1uxe
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A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map leads him there.
Or perhaps memory. Once long ago in the sun,
When snow first fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason,
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast in motion.
He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

~Czeslaw Milosz

(image by sportsilliterate)
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The pilgrim sees no form but His and knows
That He subsists beneath all passing shows --
The pilgrim comes from Him whom he can see,
Lives in Him, with Him, and beyond all three.
Be lost in Unity's inclusive span,
Or you are human but not yet a man.
Whoever lives, the wicked and the blessed,
Contains a hidden sun within his breast --
Its light must dawn though dogged by long delay;
The clouds that veil it must be torn away --
Whoever reaches to his hidden sun
Surpasses good and bad and knows the One.
The good and bad are here while you are here;
Surpass yourself and they will disappear.

~ Attar (Persia, 12th century)
tr. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

(image by AlicePopkorn)
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How things are weaving one in one;
each lives and works within the other.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Germany, 18th Century)
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Flowers in the sky.
Flowers on Earth.
Lotuses bloom as Buddha's eyelids.
Lotuses bloom in man's heart.
Holding gracefully a lotus in his hand,
the bodhisattva brings forth a universe of art.
In the meadows of the sky, stars have sprung up.
The smiling, fresh moon is already up.
The jade-colored trunk of a coconut tree
reaches across the late-night sky.

My mind, traveling in utmost emptiness,
catches suchness on its way home.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

photo by: higetiger / Flickr Creative Commons
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The roar of the sea is here.
The morning of happiness has dawned.
No, it is the light of God.

Whose face is pictured here?
Who is this shah or prince?
Who is this ancient intelligence?
They are all masks . . .
and the only remedy is
this boiling ecstasy of the soul.

~ Rumi
tr. Kabir Helminski
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I and this mystery here we stand.

-Walt Whitman
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When I didn't know myself
where were you?

Like the colour in the gold,
you were in me.

I saw in you,
lord white as jasmine,
the paradox of your being
in me
without showing a limb.

~ Akka Mahadevi (India, 12th century)
tr. A. K. Ramanujan
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It speaks to me in the silence of this one
then through the words of that one speaking;

it whispers to me through an eyebrow raised
and the message of an eye winking.

And do you know what words it breathes into my ear? It says,

“I am Love: in heaven and earth I have no place;
I am the Wondrous Phoenix whose spoor cannot be traced.

With eyebrow-bow and arrow-winks I hunt
both worlds — and yet my weapons cannot be found.

Like the sun I brighten each atom’s cheek;
I cannot be pinpointed: I am too manifest.

I speak with every tongue, listen with all ears,
but marvel at this: My ears and tongue are erased.

Since in all the world only I exist
above and below, no likeness of me can be found.”

~ Fakhruddin Iraqi
tr. William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

You know what I like about this poem? It suggests to me that the facade of daily experiences and physical reality is really a game of hide-and-seek with the Eternal Beloved. Anything, everything, when we really pay attention, reveals a hint of the Beauty playfully hiding beneath the surface. - See more at:
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Make the holy pilgrimage if need be
A hundred times - but if you ask me,
A visit to the heart is best of all.
-Yunus Emre, Turkey, 13th cent
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