• Poems of Frithjof Schuon

    Poems of Frithjof Schuon

    Shaykh`Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad al-Shadhili al- Darqawi al-’Alawi al-Maryami (Frithjof Schuon, June 18, 1907 – May 5, 1998) ; Poems

     

    Do not think that what I say here of myself
    Lacks modesty or is exaggerated:
    Everything that one finds in good old books
    Regarding Being, and the question of the universe,
    God has inscribed in the substance of my heart.

    * * *

    My parents wanted me to be a painter
    But I read poets and wished to be like them
    And lived until my twelfth summer
    In romanticism’s somber melody
    Then came India, early enough; the poet
    Still had his say, but never in the foreground;
    Then he kept silent for many years
    In old age -
    The poet awoke again—not in order to dream—
    But to sing new songs sprung from the Spirit.

    * * *

    Late summer has now kissed the land;
    With weary rustling in the woods;
    The little flowers on the hill
    Bow their heads towards autumn.
    The rose glows in the evening light,
    And fades away—spring is long past;
    A man stands there and, quite alone,
    Harkens to the Creator’s song.
    This poem—not the last two lines—
    I wrote as a child almost eighty years ago.
    When I was a child, I wanted to be a poet—
    God can also reveal Himself in little flowers.

    * * *

    There are three spiritual worlds to which I belong:
    The primordial world of the Veda, then Sufism,
    And then, in the West, the world of the Indians;
    Each branch of humanity has something to teach,
    For every cosmos shines in its own way.
    Metaphysics means the words of the Vedas;
    The Name of God is the world of the Sufis;
    And our harmony with surrounding creation
    Is what pleases the heart of the Indian.

    * * *

    Poetry is a message — or else merely art,
    A play of words, before which one bows;
    I would rather be a minstrel in the streets
    Who proclaims a way to the Highest Good.

    * * *

    Truth and Holiness; Beauty and Love;
    Nobility and Greatness — the primordial dream of lofty souls.
    First starting-point, then goal: what we choose in our heart
    Should unfold in the course of our life.
    And then the arts that delight the soul:
    Poetry, music and dance; to austere Truth
    Belong the beautiful and the noble, which rejuvenate —
    Just as the gopîs were Krishna’s joy.
    Architecture, dress, and craftsmanship too,
    Are heavenly gifts — cultivate them
    With a wakeful spirit, understanding what they teach.
    What is useful and beautiful — upon them blessing rests.

    * * *

    Yab-Yum: each holds the other in close embrace,
    Divine Power and divine Spirit; this means:
    Upâya is masculine, the Path;
    Prajnâ is feminine, the spirit of Wisdom.
    But there is another way to interpret it:
    Truth is masculine; striving for illumination
    Is feminine — O cup, let thyself be filled,
    As have all those who have awoken to the Light.

    * * *

    The brain becomes heavy, if it becomes its own goal —
    If it forgets Being, and slips downwards;
    But when the soul has reached its true goal,
    It becomes like the wind — luminous and light.

    Thou canst also observe the converse:
    The weightiness of Truth can strengthen the soul.

    “Only Holy Silence brings me gain” —
    Says Shankara in one of his hymns —
    “This the city of Benares, that I am.”

    * * *

    Shri Shánkara and Shri Abhinávagupta:
    Vedanta and Tantra. Both are paths
    To salvation — one to the right, the other to the left,
    But the two unite on Heaven’s shore,
    Ending in the same grace of God.
    Here, renunciation — there, contemplative experiencing:
    Interiorization of what the world’s images offer.

    * * *

    The Bodhisattva’s graces, it is said,
    Extend much further than the spoken word —
    His body is the open house of his Enlightenment,
    Bestowing upon us its saving radiance.
    To give is more blessèd than to receive.
    Radiate, O Bodhisattva, what the heart desires.
    What thou hast taught with a thousand words,
    Thy golden body all at once bestows.

    * * *

    The true artist is but an instrument
    To manifest God and nature —
    Mysteries which graciously reveal themselves,
    And which are inscribed in God’s Spirit.
    Or else magic: for signs can call forth
    What they signify on different levels of existence.
    And then, sometimes art is simply this:
    An image of something beautiful in the artist’s substance.
    Art does not have its foundation solely within itself;
    Nor is it what a depraved mind invents.
    He who wants to give us sweetness or greatness
    Must also think on the meaning of life

    * * *

    Artificial gardens should not exist;
    Let the plants live as they wish.
    Consider the wilderness: there is nothing more beautiful
    Before the creative Face of God.
    Zen gardens philosophize instead of blooming,
    And so they lose the real meaning of gardening.
    If you wish to depict the void, go to the seashore
    And bury your mind in the sand!

    * * *

    He was the grandson of Chief Red Cloud
    Of the Ogalalla band. We met —
    The noble old man and I — and had a long talk
    In Pine Ridge, in the shade of a large tree.

    He talked first about old times; then there was silence,
    Until I began to speak, and said:
    The world is but dream-stuff —
    The dream does not knows reality.

    The Chief adopted me into his clan,
    Gave me many good words, and then he died.
    Let the winds blow over the wide land —
    The heart will live forever in the Great Spirit.

    * * *

    It is written: all that is praiseth the Lord.
    And, indeed, our mere existence is prodigious,
    A true miracle; so also are the qualities and powers of things.
    The world is multiform
    Because God is infinite. Ye have the choice
    Between nothingness and God. And to see this
    Is more than thinking; it is luminous Being
    Within your heart — yea, it is resurrection.

    * * *

    I would like to compare this wreath of songs
    With Krishna’s flute, which sings of Âtmâ.
    O may it reach the hardened heart
    That drinks of the cup of earthly folly!
    There is the gopis’ golden dance of love,
    Made pure and vivified by Krishna’s play;
    O may the soul bow to the magic
    That makes it free and lifts it to the Light!

    * * *

    The work, a lifelong struggle — first
    Youthful dreams: the True, the Beautiful,
    the Sacred, and the Great. Then dreams
    Come true, that the Word might be heard.
    All this amid the shadows — will it shine or not?
    Does destiny wish that the Word grow weary
    And weaker throughout life? Fiat Lux —
    God willed that it should flourish and remain.
    In the book of my message you have read
    And ask: from whence resounds the Master’s voice?
    His substance is part Shankara, part Krishna —
    Singing gnosis is his primordial essence.

    * * *

    Visual art: the Renaissance destroyed
    What the wisdom of the Middle Ages had faithfully protected.
    Baroque: it belongs surely to the worst
    That empty-minded artists ever hatched.
    Admire not the cold ostentation of architecture,
    Nor paintings with their sultry pomposity.
    With all of this the West has been obsessed;
    God help us. Let us forget the whole business.

    * * *

    Were I to see thee dance, Leila, my heart
    Would be enchanted and spellbound on its inward path.
    Were I to see thy face, I would forget myself —
    I could remember the world no more.
    Leila: angel of contemplation —
    I know not if thou art form or melody,
    A love-song, a golden fairy-tale dream —
    Or else a glance from drunk Eternity.

    * * *

    Each poem is a world unto itself.
    Some of them may bloom together —
    Yet each one is for thee a single message,
    And wants to flow through thy soul on its own.
    The meaning of each is a unique gift,
    There is neither a “before” nor an “after” —
    Just as a song that nourishes thy love
    Speaks to thy soul in its own way.

    * * *

    Man — how can he envisage the Absolute?
    It is like a point, and, within ourselves, it is certitude.
    As for the Infinite — it is a vast space,
    And, within ourselves, it is peace, beatitude.
    Truth and beauty — as Plato said:
    If the True did not exist, there would be no beauty.
    The Absolute radiates Infinity.

    * * *

    Flowers on the ground and stars in the sky —
    Flowers shine by day and stars by night;
    Flowers fade away, whereas stars are everlasting —
    From a human point of view — and shine from afar.
    Spirit, soul — songs in time;
    Above there is silence — the song of eternity.

    * * *

    Chaos in the growth of highly diverse ancestors:
    Calculating Romans, dreaming Germans;
    The mystical-worldly face of the Church;
    Capricious spirit of fashion, lurching forward
    Through the centuries — lack of balance:
    This is why Europe’s West is ailing.
    Despite everything, there have been pious people
    And saints — as yesterday, so too today.
    Otherwise, twilight everywhere. — “Let there be Light!”

    * * *

    Truth and Devotion. Truth is the light
    That descends from God to Earth;
    And Devotion is the incense, that rises
    From us to the Highest Good.

    Devotion— a melody, a wonderful word,
    Having the fragrance of love and holy silence;
    A magic word, whose beauty suffices
    To convince us of the power of Truth.

    The Most High knows what thy soul needs
    Here below, where thou hast to cope with the world —
    So be thou the incense that ascends towards God.

    * * *

    All creatures exist in order to say “God”;
    So must thou too accept the world’s vocation,
    O man, who art king of the earth —
    Woe unto him who forgets the kernel of his existence;
    No animal, no plant nor stone does this;
    But only man, with his free will,
    In his madness.
    Say “God” throughout thy life;
    It will be a grace for others too.
    For an aura radiates from the Supreme Name —
    Prayer is blessing; it is the seed of the Divine.

    * * *

    There are two ways to draw you to the path
    Of salvation, and to flee the Fall.
    Two sacred remedies: let me first name
    Plato and Shankara with their stern speech;
    Their teachings burn through foolish illusions —
    Then the sweet and magic flute of David and Krishna:
    To captivate and to enlighten you —
    Words and music: you should pay heed to both!

    * * *

    Water and solitude and austere silence;
    Then the opposite to these, earth’s noble plenitude:
    Wine, woman, song. Firstly renunciation and stillness,
    And then the enraptured round of love’s delight.

    Wine, woman, song: what was once worldly
    Must be interiorized; it seeks to resound within ourselves.
    The True glimmers through earthly appearance
    And blesses our heart; so let us sing!

    O depth of soul, in thy kingdom,
    What once was separated becomes one:
    The purity of water and the ecstasy of wine —

    O bliss, of which the world knows not!

    * * *

    The meaning of love is not always possession;
    Thou canst carry the belovèd also in thy heart,
    As Dante did Beatrice, a whole life long;The pulse of love can beat in solitude.
    Truly the soul must struggle with itself on earth —
    Earthly things must bring us nearer Heaven.
    The depth of the heart is the elixir —
    “If there is a Paradise on earth, it is here.”

    * * *

    The opening of a fan tells how the world
    Unfolds to show the marvels of creation;
    Or how the goddess manifests herself,
    Amaterasu, rising from the sea —
    Just as in us the Spirit, self-unfolding,
    Shapes its light anew in golden pictures.
    The fan closes upon itself, like a song fading away,
    Like the sun sinking late into the sea.
    So may the Spirit, after its unfolding,
    Blissfully return to the Great One.

    * * *

    Râdhâ in the sacred grove. And Krishna came;
    His face was shining like the blush of dawn.
    He played a song upon his magic flute —
    A longing song, that robbed her of her senses.
    They became one in their sacred play of love —
    The world was extinguished. Only Ânanda remained.

    * * *

    First without gender, then perceived as woman,
    Thus Avalokitèshwara is venerated
    In the Mahâyâna — a manifestation
    Of Goodness that averts from us the bad.
    Kwan-Yin: seated on a heavenly lotus,
    Sunk deep in her own center;
    Her merciful breasts and her golden body
    Shine, a protection for the saints.
    Like her is Târâ — another lotus blossom
    Of the East, a radiant garland of the luminous Good;
    Mercy, in changing forms —
    Yet present everywhere.
    Let Thy Grace prevail.

    * * *

    This you must understand: I wish to feel Ânanda
    In all refreshing earthly things:
    A tree in bloom, a noble maiden,
    A love-song that delights the soul.
    And on the other hand: I wish to find refuge
    From all distractions of the mind;
    O blissful cessation of fleeting thoughts —
    “O sacred city of Benares that I am!”

    * * *

    The book comes to an end, but not the singing;
    It lies in space and time and in all things,

    And yet is spaceless, timeless, beyond form —

    It is the content and radiance of our existence.
    The signs of God have their own speech;
    Thou hear’st it or thou hear’st it not.

    This speech is written deeply in thy heart —
    A song of Love, a song of Light.

    —-*Shaykh`Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad al-Shadhili al- Darqawi al-`Alawi al-Maryami
    Wambali Ohitika—Brave Eagle
    Wicahpi Wiyakpa—Bright Star
    (Frithjof Schuon, June 18, 1907– May 5, 1998: Murshid , Philosopher, Poet and Artist )

     

    There are many men who wish to be a father,
    And many women who wish to be a mother.
    But others have a different vocation in mind —
    They want to live with the Lord alone.
    There must be both kinds of men,
    And thou see’st both kinds throughout the world.
    Everyone should follow his essential nature —
    And, in his own way, do what pleases the Lord.

    When thou seest the True in Mâyâ’s play:
    In a woman or in the things of virgin Nature,
    Then — says Abhinavagupta — it is God Who shows Himself
    In these forms; the form is none other than Atmâ.
    This is not idolatry; nay, it is deep insight;
    But those clinging to the letter cannot understand.

    India is Shankara together with Vedanta —
    Also Ramanuja, Abhinavagupta,
    And Lallâ Yôgishvarî; and finally
    Tiruválluvar, the holy pariah.
    Thus India is an entire world;
    Characteristic of this world is the Veda’s light —
    And also the fact that it contains every spiritual perspective.

    First, Shri Shankara — he is the greatest;
    Then Ramanuja, who taught about the Creator.
    Then Lallâ, who exteriorized the Self,
    And who, dancing for the Godhead, made herself naked;
    Also Abhinavagupta, who converted
    Earthly pleasure into spirituality.
    This completes the circle, created by the Sanâtana Dharma—
    A circle that delivers men from the world.

    Is it not a consolation that — whatever we do —
    We go towards God? Life is movement —
    But whither? On this, thou must ponder, day by day;
    Only in the Great One is there Peace.
    From the Creator thou comest, and to Him thou goest;
    May He give thee, hour by hour, the grace to do
    What thou must do in order to be fully man,
    And more than just a man. Allâh karîm.

    *Shrî Shankara describes the beauty of the Goddess,
    So that her heavenly form may crown all women.
    Be not astonished that this wise man
    Was not afraid to praise her buttocks too;
    For woman’s body is a landscape: breasts
    And thighs, the splendor of her hair.
    Think of this sacred land with reverence —
    Shrî Laksmhî will smilingly give us blessing.

    Tiruválluvar

    Shrî Tiruválluvar — a man without caste —
    Was not allowed into the temple of the gods;
    So he gazed at the temple’s tower from afar,
    And stood in ecstasy in hour-long prayer.
    And became a Jîvan-Mukta5, highly venerated
    By posterity. See what this means:
    That sanctity breaks through the outer form —
    It is with God, before the temple bell rings.

    *Early in my life there came the Psalms, the Bhagavad Gita,
    The Upanishads, and Shankara’s Vedanta;
    Sacred books, my first nourishment —
    Then came the free revelation of the Spirit.
    A holy shaikh spoke to me about the prayer of the heart —
    The profound meaning was the same as Vedanta.
    Later life taught me many things —
    But everything was given me by the One God.
    The spirit that struggles for the True is severe;
    But holy wrath is accompanied by music.
    Be grateful, pay the Most High thy due —
    With devotion, humility, generosity and patience.

    *The German ambience — this was my earliest world;
    Very soon France was added to it.
    I also became an Arab and a Red Indian —
    True to myself, and according to the way of wise men.
    In the present age I felt homeless —
    Driven around as on a raft.
    The Eternal-Feminine saw me from afar;
    The Holy Virgin became my morning star


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