Jerry Katz
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The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

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Highlights #773

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Sunday, July 15

SHANKAR (from the I Am list)

Introductory Song to 'upadESa undiyAr' by SrI muruganAr

To the 'muruganAr' who said (to SrI ramaNA), "Please grant,
for the world to redeem (itself), the 'secret' of the
'ordered method' for 'seeing' the 'goal', with the delusion
of 'work' having ceased", my Father compiled and granted, '
upadESa undiyAr, a 'Lamp of Wisdom'.

Translation of the introductory song to 'upadESa undiyAr'
composed by SrI muruganAr.

(SrI muruganAr was a great householder disciple of SrI
BagavAn. He never swerved from the Teachings of SrI BagavAn.
He attained samADi chanting the 'aruNAcala akShara maNa
mAlai' composed by SrI BagavAn in adoration of the Holy Hill
of SrI aruNAcalA.

SrI muruganAr was a great Tamil Poet. He composed the
pristine pure 'non-dual' teachings of SrI BagavAn in the form
of '4-line' Tamil Songs. About 1000 of them, have been
published under the title 'The Compendium of the Utterances
of the Master' or 'guru vAcagak kOvai'.

Saint SrI sADu Aum says that this text of SrI muruganAr,
together with 'upadESa undiyAr' and 'ulladu nArpadu' of SrI
BagavAn, constitute the 'sacred trinity' in respect of the
Teachings of SrI BagavAn.

Saint SrI sADu Aum has written a commentary in Tamil on
'guruvAcagak kovai' of SrI muruganAr. This commentary is the
very 'hive of nectar', without the 'stinging bees of verbose



I put together some excerpts from a sufi classic by Attar (a
teacher of Rumi) called 'The Conference of the Birds' for a
friend of mine, and got to thinking that my friends at NDS
might enjoy it as well.

*The finch's excuse*

The timid finch approached. Her feeble frame
Trembled from head to foot, a nervous flame;
She chirped: 'I am less sturdy than a hair
And lack the courage that my betters share;
My feathers are too weak to carry me
The distance to the Simorgh's sanctuary.
How could a sickly creature stand alone
Before the glory of the Simorgh's throne?
The world is full of those who seek His grace,
But I do not deserve to see His face
And cannot join in this delusive race -
Exhaustion would cut short my foolish days,
Or I should turn to ashes in His gaze.
Joseph was hidden in a well and I
Shall seek my loved one in the wells nearby.'

*The hoopoe answers her*

The hoopoe said: 'You teasing little bird,
This humble ostentation is absurd!
If all of us are destined for the fire,
Then you too must ascend the burning pyre.
Get ready for the road, you can't fool me -
Sew up your beak, I loathe hypocrisy!
Though Jacob mourned for Joseph's absent face,
Do you imagine you could take his place?


*A cowardly bird protests*

One of the birds let out a helpless squeak:
'I can't go on this journey, I'm too weak.
Dear guide, I know I can't fly any more;
I've never tried a feat like this before.
This valley's endless; dangers lie ahead;
The first time that we rest I'll drop down dead.
Volcanoes loom before the goal is won -
Admit this journey is not for everyone.
The blood of multitudes has stained the Way;
A hundred thousand creatures, as you say,
Address themselves to this great enterprise -
How many die, a useless sacrifice!
On such a road the best of men are cowed,
Hoods hide the frightened features of the proud -
What chance have timid souls? What chance have I?
If I set out it's certain I shall die!'

*The hoopoe admonishes him*

The hoopoe said: 'Your heart's congealed like ice;
When will you free yourself from cowardice?
Since you have such a short time to live here,
What difference does it make? What should you fear?
The world is filth and sin, and homeless men
Must enter it and homeless leave again.
They die, as worms, in squalid pain; if we
Must perish in this quest, that, certainly,
Is better than a life of filth and grief.
If this great search is vain, if my belief
Is groundless, it is right that I should die.
So many errors throng the world - then why
Should we not risk this quest? To suffer blame
For love is better than a life of shame.
No one has reached this goal, so why appeal
To those whose blindness claims it is unreal?
I'd rather die deceived by dreams than give
My heart to home and trade and never live.
We've been and heard so much - what have we learned?
Not for one moment has the self been spurned;
Fools gather round and hinder our release.
When will their stale, insistent whining cease?
We have no freedom to achieve our goal
Until from Self and fools we free the soul.
To be admitted past the veil you must
Be dead to all the crowd considers just.
Once past the veil you understand the Way
From which the crowd's glib courtiers blindly stray.
If you have any will, leave women's stories,
And even if this search for hidden glories
Proves blasphemy at last, be sure our quest
Is not mere talk but an exacting test.
The fruit of love's great tree is poverty;
Whoever knows this knows humility.
When love has pitched his tent in someone's breast,
That man despairs of life and knows no rest.
Love's pain will murder him and blandly ask
A surgeon's fee for managing the task -
The water that he drinks brings pain, his bread
Is turned to blood immediately shed;
Though he is weak, faint, feebler than an ant,
Love forces him to be her combatant;
He cannot take one mouthful unaware
That he is floundering in a sea of care.


*A bird who burns with aspiration*

'O hoopoe,' cried another of the birds,
'What lofty ardour blazes from your words!'
Although I seem despondent, weak and lame,
I burn with aspiration's noble flame -
And though I'm not obedient I feel
My soul devoured by an insatiate zeal.'

*The hoopoe answers him*

The hoopoe said: 'This strange, magnetic force
That holds God's ancient lovers to their course
Still shows the Truth: if you will but aspire
You will attain to all that you desire.
Before an atom of such need the sun
Seems dim and murky by comparison -
It is life's stregth, the wings by which we fly
Beyond the furthest reaches of the sky.


*A bird who claimed to be satisfied with his spiritual state*

Another bird squawked: 'There can be no doubt
I've made myself unworldly and devout.
To reach this wise perfection which you see
I've lived a life of cruel austerity,
And as I've gained the sum of widom here,
I really couldn't move, I hope that's clear.
What fool would leave his treasury to roam
In deserts and dry mountains far from home?'

*The hoopoe answers him*

The hoopoe said: 'Hell's pride has filled your soul;
Lost in self-love, you dread our distant goal.
Your arrogance deceives you, and you stray
Further and further from the spirit's Way.
Your Self has trapped your soul and made it blind;
The devil's throne is your complacent mind.
The light that guides you is a fantasy,
Your love a self-induced absurdity -
All your austerities are just a cheat,
And all you say is nothing but deceit.
Don't trust the light which shows you where you go;
Your own Self sheds this dim, misleading glow -
It has no sword, but such an enemy
Will threaten any man's security.
If it's your Self's light which the road reveals,
It's like the scorpions sting which parsley heals;
Don't be deceived by this false glow, but run
And be an atom since you're not the sun
(Don't grieve because the Way is dark as night,
Or strive to emulate the sun's pure light);
Whilst you are locked within yourself your cares
Are worthless as your worthless cries and prayers.
If you would soar beyond the circling sky,
First from thoughts of "me" and "I";
If any thought of selfhood stains your mind
An empty void is all the Self will find,
If any taste of selfhood stays with you
Then you are damned whatever you may do.
If selfhood beckons you but for one breath
A rain of arrows will decide your death.
While you exist endure the spirit's pain;
A hundred times bow low, then bow again -
But if you cling to selfhood and its crimes,
Your neck will feel Fate's yoke a thousand times.


*The other birds protest and the hoopoe tells them of
their relationship with the Simorgh*

The other birds in turn received their chance
To show off their loquacious ignorance.
All made excuses - floods of foolish words
Flowed fronm the babbling, rumour-loving birds.
Forgive me reader, if I do not say
All these excuses to avoid the Way;
But in an incoherent rush they came,
And all were inappropriate and lame.
How could they gain the Simorgh? Such a goal
Belongs to those who discipline the soul.
The hoopoe counseled them: 'The world holds few
As worthy of the Simorgh's throne as you,
But you must empty this first glass; the wine
That follows it is love's devoted sign.
If petty problems keep you back - or none -
How will you seek the treasures of the sun?
In drops you lose yourselves, yet you must dive
Through untold fathoms and remain alive.
This is no journey for the indolent -
Our quest is Truth itself, not just its scent!

[The word 'Simorgh' we know from the beginning actually means
'thirty-birds.' And at the end of the quest, through all the deserts and
valleys, out of a flock of a hundred thousand only thirty birds arrive at
the palace of the Simorgh, and are welcomed home.]



I was on a walk to the waterfront and stopped to buy some
Shoyeido incense. There is absolutely no one where I go on
the waterfront. I sit on the black asphalt pier and watch the

I lit a stick of the incense and placed it in the little
round ceramic holder that comes in the box. The ingredients
of the incense are listed: "sandalwood, frankincense,
cinnamon, ginger lily, nardostachys, rhizoma, and spices."

Across the wide harbour and in my line of vision was the
Irving oil refinery. Its chimneys stood tall and skinny like
sticks of incense. Thick white smoke was spewing out of one
of the chimneys. I was sensorily taken by the incense which
the breeze kindly brought to my breathed air. I wrote:

i sit
light a stick of incense

across the harbour
a single tall thin chimney

two clouds of smoke

one wind


On the way home I stopped at the Farmer's Market. At one
stand an elderly Japanese man sells sushi, spring rolls, egg
rolls, noodles, dumplings, soup. I always buy a hand roll and
find a place in the alley outside to eat. Today he had sold
out. So I bought hot tofu dumplings.

I went into the alley and climbed an iron staircase leading
to a door that is never used. I sat on the floor of the
landing. I could see the tops of apartment buildings and
their balconies with no one sitting on them on one of the
nicest mornings of the year.

People were passing through the alley to and from the market.
Vendors were bringing empty boxes to the trash, unloading
vehicles, carrying goods. Shoppers were pausing to smoke. A
father had brought his son outside to scold him. I composed:

ginger, tofu, mushrooms, scallions, garlic
what else goes into this delectable dumpling?

i take small bites

though it's skin is thin
the ingredients are held in place.

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