Browsing Category "Poems"
8 Apr
Posted in: Homework, Poems
By    Comments Off on Who’s There?

Who’s There?

As part of this month’s DPP homework, we are asked to read and reflect on this poem by Stephen Batchelor:


Were mind and matter me,
I would come and go like them,
If I were something else,
They would say nothing about me.

What is mine
When there is no self?
Were self-centeredness eased,
I would not think of me and mine–
There would be no on there
To think them.

What is inside is me,
What is outside is mine–
When these thoughts end,
Compulsion stops,
Repetition ceases,
Freedom dawns.

Fixations spawn thoughts
That provoke compulsive acts–
Empiness stops fixations.

Buddhas speak of “self”
And also teach “no self”
And also say “there’s nothing
Which is either self or not.”

When things dissolve,
There’s nothing left to say.
The unborn and unceasing
Are already free.

Buddha said: “it is real,”
And “it is unreal,”
And “it is both real and unreal,”
And “it is neither one nor the other.”

It is all at ease,
Unfixatable by fixations,

You are not the same as or different from
Conditions on
which you depend;
You are neither severed from

Nor forever fused with them–

This is the deathless teaching
Of Buddhas who care for the world.

When buddhas don’t appear
And their followers are gone,
The wisdom of awakening
Burst forth by itself. 

(image: “Seated Nude with Mirror,” by Morris Hirschfield)

5 Apr
Posted in: Poems, Practice
By    Comments Off on The Fragrance of Virtue

The Fragrance of Virtue

The perfume of sandalwood,
Rosebay or jasmine
Cannot travel against the wind.

But the fragrance of virtue
Travels even against the wind,
As far as the ends of the world.

Like garlands woven from a heap of flowers,
Fashion from your life as many good deeds.

–from the Dhammapada,
translated by Thomas Byrom

2 Apr
Posted in: Poems, Practice
By    Comments Off on We Are What We Think

We Are What We Think

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

How can a troubled mind
Understand the way?

Your worst enemy cannot harm you
As much as your own thoughts, unguarded.

But once mastered,
No one can help you as much,
Not even your father or your mother.

— from the Dhammapada, translated by Thomas Byrom
(image: Elvira Resting at a Table, by Amedeo Modigliani)

26 Mar
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Waking Up

Waking Up

I was listening to another great talk by Jack Kornfield last night, this one titled: The Gates of Awakening, in which he quotes from Thomas Merton‘s famous “Fourth and Walnut” epiphany:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all of those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness…..

“It was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.

“If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed….I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

(image: “A Whole World,” by Couprie and Louchard)


22 Mar
Posted in: Poems, Talks
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Grasped by What We Cannot Grasp

I was listening to a recorded talk last night by one of my teachers, Lila Kate Wheeler, given at the one-month retreat that’s going on right now at Spirit Rock. She begins (and ends) with this poem, which strikes me as a beautiful description of our meditation practice. I offer it here for your reflection.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance–

and it changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind on our faces.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly

(image: from “A Whole World,” by Couprie and Louchard)


25 Oct
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on Listen


Last night at the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, I read one of the poems Mirabai read to us at the retreat. (Partly as a way of bringing her energy back home with me, but mostly because I was awe-struck by the beauty of it.)

Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds, by Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

Listen more carefully to what is around you
Right now.

In my world
There are the bells from the clanks
Of the morning milk drums,

And a wagon wheel outside my window
Just hit a bump

Which turned into an ecstatic chorus
Of the Beloved’s Name.

There is the Prayer Call
Rising up like the sun
Out of the mouths of a thousand birds.

There is an astonishing vastness
Of movement and Life

Emanating sound and light
From my folded hands

And my even quieter simple being and heart.

My dear,
Is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering

Running all through the city,
Shouting so madly inside and out

About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?

Hafiz, too,
For many years beat his head in youth

And thought himself at a great distance,
Far from an armistice
With God.

But that is why this scarred old pilgrim
Has now become such a sweet rare vintage
Who weeps and sings for you.

O listen–
Listen more carefully
To what is inside of you right now.

In my world
All that remains is the wondrous call to
Dance and prayer

Rising up like a thousand suns
Out of the mouth of a
Single bird. 

28 Sep
Posted in: Poems, Practice
By    Comments Off on Good Choice

Good Choice

The Noah Levine passage wasn’t exactly right for Wednesday night’s sitting…although, who knows, maybe I should have given it a go. Instead, I closed the sit by reading Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver. (Always a good choice)

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. 

(image from A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

1 Aug
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Listen to This (without the all-CAPS)

Listen to This (without the all-CAPS)

I subscribe to Dharma Seed podcasts, so I listen to a lot of dharma talks. Most of them are very good…a few, I must admit are tedious…but some are so beautiful and inspiring that it’s all I can do not to fire off e-blasts to everyone I know, saying LISTEN TO THIS!!!! (We all know how welcome those emails are.)

So instead, I’ll just post the link here!

Pascal Auclair has a terrific talk, titled: On Unconditional Friendliness, Concentration and Other Things. It was recorded during a Metta retreat at True North Insight in Montreal. In the talk, Pascal reads a wonderful poem by Galway Kinnell, which I offer here (as an incentive to listen to the whole talk here.)

St. Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to teach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

(image from A Whole World by Couprie and Louchard)