Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday Poet: Lalla

I will weep

I will weep and weep for you, O Mind;
(my Soul) The world hath caught you in its spell.
Though you cling to them with the anchor of steel,
Not even the shadow of the things you love
Will go with you when you are dead.
Why then have you forgot your own true Self?

I was Nothing

When my mind was cleansed of impurities,
like a mirror of its dust and dirt,
I recognized the Self in me:
When I saw Him dwelling in me,
I realized that He was the Everything
and I was nothing.

What is worship

What is worship? Who are this man
and this woman bringing flowers?

What kinds of flowers should be brought,
and what streamwater poured over the images?

Real worship is done by the mind
(Let that be a man) and by the desire
(Let that be a woman). And let those two
choose what to sacrifice.

There is a liquid that can be released
from under the mask of the face,
a nectar which when it rushes down
gives discipline and strength.

Let that be your sacred pouring.
Let your worship song be silence.

Think On

Think within thee, till the light of day
Be as the darkness of very night---
Till the self-illuminated Way
Show thee the Darkness to be but Light.

Then shall the bounds of the solid Earth
Mingle with the liquid of the Sky:
Then shalt thou gain freedom from Re-birth,
Merging into Shiv the Self on high.

When the nectar of the waning Moon
Riseth to feed the awaiting Sun,
What is it aught but an empty boon?
Booty that the maw of Rah hath won.

Yet shall Self-illuminated Thought
Show another picture, late or soon:---
Ignorance blind---as a demon caught;
Rah himself as booty of the Moon.

There be that to know and to be known.
There be knowledge, too, to know them by.
By the Light in thee shall both be shown,
Thinking and thinking, if thou but try.

Rah it was came booty for the Moon;
Now shall the Moon be booty of thine.
Think on, and both shall a void soon:
Only shall remain the Thought Divine.

Lalla is a bit of an illusive figure, but here is some biographical information on her:

Lalla lived in Kashmir during the first part of the 1300s. In that period, Kashmir was home to devotees of Shiva and devotees of Vishnu, to Islamic Sufis and to followers of Tantric Buddhism. Lalla's poems reflect all she learned from these, but synthesized to become the expression of her own devotion in colloquial Kashmiri, rather than the Sanskrit of contemporary philosophical writing. The variety of her names reflects the wide appeal of her poems: In Hindi, she is Lal Ded (grandmother Lal); in Sanskrit, Lalleshwari (Lalla the yogini); while to Muslims, she is Lal Arifa.

Lalla was apparently from a family of Brahmins near Pampore; her poetry shows her knowledge of Sanskrit and of the Hindu scriptures. Tradition says that she left her husband after some years of an unhappy marriage to become a student of Hindu and Sufi teachers. Then she became an itinerant preacher throughout the Kashmir Valley, singing her vakhs (songs) of Shiva and of the search for truth, for an inner spirituality rather than dogma and ritual.

I will link to other sources at the end, some of which include essays about her and her work.

I don't have too much to say about Lalla, other than to admire her work and her life. She was an independent woman at at time when to do so was to risk death. But it does speak to the history of Islam that she is regarded as a wise and mystical poet. These days a woman seeking her style of life in an Islamic country would be murdered.

To really appreciate her life, we must read her poetry. So here are a few more poems.

At the end of a crazy-moon night

At the end of a crazy-moon night
the love of God rose.
I said, “It's me, Lalla.”

The Beloved woke. We became That,
and the lake is crystal-clear.

I searched for my Self

I searched for my Self
until I grew weary,

but no one, I know now,
reaches the hidden knowledge
by means of effort.

Then, absorbed in “Thou art This,”
I found the place of Wine.

There all the jars are filled,
but no one is left to drink.

Coursing in emptiness

Coursing in emptiness,
I, Lalla,
dropped off body and mind,

and stepped into the Secret Self.

Look: Lalla the sedgeflower
blossomed a lotus.

Lalla on the web:
Poet Seers: Several poems.
Poetry Chaikhana: Poems and brief biography.
Kashmiri Saints and Sages: Brief essay and poems with interpretations.
Grand Inspiritors: Web links to several sites feature Lalla.
Other Women's Voices: Lots of links to poetry and other resources.

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