Selections from the Mystic Poetry of Lalla of Kashmir
Restless mind, don’t infect the heart with fear.
That virus is not for you.
The Infinite knows what you hunger for.
Ask Him to carry you across.
Some, who have closed their eyes, are wide awake.
Some, who look out at the world, are fast asleep.
Some who bathe in sacred pools remain dirty.
Some are at home in the world but keep their hands clean.
Good or bad, I’m happy to welcome both.
I don’t hear with my ears, I don’t see with my eyes.
A voice speaks inside my heart,
my jewel-lamp burns bright even in a rampaging wind.
Lord! I’ve never known who I really am, or You.
I threw my love away on this lousy carcass
and never figured it out: You’re me, I’m You.
All I ever did was doubt: Who am I? Who are You?
Wrapped up in Yourself, You hid from me.
All day I looked for You
and when I found You hiding inside me,
I ran wild, playing now me, now You.
Don’t flail about like a man wearing a blindfold.
Believe me, He’s in here.
Come in and see for yourself.
You’ll stop hunting for Him all over.
A thousand times at least I asked my Guru
to give Nothingness a name.
Then I gave up. What name can you give
to the source from which all names have sprung?
Who trusts his Master’s word
and controls the mind-horse
with the reins of wisdom,
he shall not die, he shall not be killed.
Those who glow with the light of the Self
are freed from life even while they live.
But fools add knots by the hundred
to the tangled net of the world.
When the dirt was wiped away from my mind’s mirror,
people knew me for a lover of God.
When I saw Him there, so close to me,
He was All, I was nothing.
I trapped my breath in the bellows of my throat:
a lamp blazed up inside, showed me who I really was.
I crossed the darkness holding fast to that lamp,
scattering its light-seeds around me as I went.
Alone, I crossed the Field of Emptiness,
dropping my reason and my senses.
I stumbled on my own secret there
and flowered, a lotus rising from a marsh.
My mind boomed with the sound of Om,
my body was a burning coal.
Six roads brought me to a seventh,
that’s how Lalla reached the Field of Light.
You rule the earth, breathe life
into the five elements.
All creation throbs with the Unstruck Sound.
Immeasurable, who can take Your measure?
He who strikes the Unstruck Sound,
calls space his body and emptiness his home,
who has neither name nor colour nor family nor form,
who, meditating on Himself, is both Source and Sound,
is the god who shall mount and ride this horse.
He knows the crown is the temple of Self.
His breath is deepened by the Unstruck Sound.
He has freed himself from the prison of delusion.
He knows he is God, who shall He worship?
Master, leave these palm leaves and birch barks
to parrots who recite the name of God in a cage.
Good luck, I say, to those who think they’ve read the scriptures.
The greatest scripture is the one that’s playing in my head.
What the books taught me, I’ve practiced.
What they didn’t teach me, I’ve taught myself.
I’ve gone into the forest and wrestled with the lion.
I didn’t get this far by teaching one thing and
I gave myself to Him, body and soul,
became a bell that the clear note of Him rang through.
Thoughts fixed on Him, I flew through the sky
and unlocked the mysteries of heaven and hell.
Wear the robe of wisdom,
brand Lalla’s words on your heart,
lose yourself in the soul’s light,
you too shall be free.
— I, LALLA
The Poems of Lal Ded
Translated from the Kashmiri
by Ranjit Hoskote