Your purchase of Lalla Unveiled supports the efforts to protect girls and young women across the globe. The Lalla Project sends a heartfelt thanks for your generosity and help!

Lalla’s Poetry

The 14th century Kashmiri mystic, saint, poetess, and prophet has been known by many names through the centuries: Grandmother Darling, Lal Ded, Lalleswari, Yogin, Grandmother Womb, Mother of Bhakti, and affectionately, simply as Lalla.  Her ancient tale is not unlike the stories of millions of girls today, of a twelve-year-old child bride forced into marriage and abused by her husband and his family.  Lalla eventually freed herself and spent the rest of her remarkable life wandering and singing her poems in celebration of the Divine Love she found within.

This collection of verses has been translated and reinterpreted from the original works of Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel Barnett (1920) by Jennifer Sundeen.  Known as vakhs, Lalla’s verses are not only a transformative meditation but also a series of instructions that teach us how to live in and love our bodies, our souls, this earth, and the universe. They are the words of freedom, of strength, of escaping that which does not serve love, a shedding of culture and society’s expectations, a merging with all that is light and love and joy within us. She arrives to us 700 years later embracing all genders and cultures, full of courage, as the true embodiment of a woman without shame or objectification…the naked voice of the Feminine.

Lalla’s poetry celebrates the greater ‘something’ that permeates all things seen and unseen ~ the Great Mystery. Some call this Goddess, some call this God, or Shakti, Shiva, Buddha, or Great Spirit.  For some this unnameable energy means nature, consciousness, divine intelligence, earth, light, love.  Her verses offer us the opportunity to find, define and unite with our own inner Truth. According to Lalla, when that merging occurs, joy and freedom are born.

These verses transcend time, culture, and place; yet they reemerge at the most perfect and necessary time. They are songs of awareness, of the knowing that there is no difference between the individual Self and the Universal Self, no difference between us, the Earth, and all Her inhabitants. The purpose of human life is to realize this and to live each day with this awareness.  Some might call this enlightenment.

The listener will be bathed in the sensual: The touch of the moons, waterfalls, a nursing child, and making love in a jasmine garden.  This selection of poems convey the stages of Lalla’s budding awakening:  Initially, the murkiness of isolation and a desperate search for connection, then the first taste of revelation comes, and ultimately we see the sacred merging, the absolute knowing I AM THAT, and her songs become the fullest blossoming of that knowing.

For Lalla, the path toward union is found in the space in between the breath, between the inhalation and the exhalation, where the two sacred rivers meet in the heart space and sing in naked truth.

So Hum. May you dance in freedom always.

The following is a sampling of the 109 verses of Lalla, as once translated in the 1920 edition of Lallavakyani by Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel Barnett. Here they have been re-translated by Jennifer Sundeen, first word for word via Sir Grierson's Kashmiri dictionary compilation as well as from the Dictionary of Kashmiri Language compiled from the left over materials of Ishvar Koul, edited by George Grierson and Mukund Ram Shastri-Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol I, II, III and IV, 1914. The "songs" have then been re-interpreted by Jen, to a minor degree, from the viewpoint of the Feminine while fully honoring the essence of each verse (vakh) as well as her signature rhythm: four meters and four stresses per line (pada).  Lalla's translations, for Jennifer, are a work in progress as Lalla's Truth continues to reveal its luminous wisdom.

 

Searching for you, I discovered the moon's light in my own house
Searching for you, I found that Like are united to Like
What are these constantly changing playful forms?
There is only you, my Mother. There is only you.
~
Lalla 109

 

To know the Self is a boat towed upon the ocean
When will God ferry me across?
The rope is frayed, the clay goblet uncooked, the water ebbs
My soul is yearning to go home
~
Lalla 106

friend1

At the end of this moonless night
I called upon the mad one and eased her pain with love
Lalla, Lalla, I cried, and the Beloved awoke
We became One, and the lake is crystal clear
~ Lalla 105

 

I had no hope in it, I didn't trust it for an instant
Still I Lalla drank the wine of my own words
Intoxicated and full of courage, I seized the darkness from within
Tore it into pieces, and took it down
~ Lalla 104

DSC_2891c1-333x500

I Lalla set forth blooming as a cotton flower
Then the carder and the cleaner kicked me again and again
Next a woman spun me and lifted me from her wheel as gossamer
And in the weaver's room they hung me as warp on the loom
~ Lalla 102

 

Then the washermen beat and dashed me on the stone
And rubbed me with clay and soap to whiten me
Then the tailor cut me piece by piece
Now, as finished cloth, I have found my way at last to Freedom
~ Lalla 
103

 

The sun will disappear in moonlight
The moon will dissolve in the heart
The thinking mind will be burned away
And there will no longer be any sense of separateness
Then a great knowing will be born
and a love that embraces all of it
~ Lalla

DSC_1831c1-333x500

Give your breath to the bellows
As the blacksmith gives wind to the fire
Then your iron will turn to gold
It is dawn now, time to seek the Friend
~ Lalla 
100

 

Sleeping one! Wake up! Lift your foot and start walking!
It is dawn now, time to seek the Friend
Take your wings and fly
It is dawn now, time to seek the Friend
~ Lalla 
99

 

I came by one road but left by another
The bridge between night and day has gone
I searched my coin purse but came up empty
What shall I give to ferry me across?
~ Lalla 98

DSC_1783c2-333x500

 

The soul is new, the moon is new
The creative waters are continually new
Since I scoured my mind and my body
I Lalla am eternally new
~ Lalla 
93

 

In future days men and women of every nature will come forth
The pears and the apples will ripen with the apricots
Mothers and daughters will leave home hand in hand
And spend their days laying with strangers
~ Lalla 92

DSC_1786c2-750x500

Oh wise ones! Oh Saints! Listen carefully to my words
Do you remember the days gone by?
Children, how will you spend your days and nights?
The times grow hard. What will you do?
~ Lalla 91

 

You alone are Heaven and you alone the Earth
You are the day, the wind, the night sky
You are the sacred grain, the sandal-paste, the flowers, the holy water
You Goddess exist in all things as all things
What is it I could possible offer you?
~Lalla

 

Helpless and wretched I cried out
Will you buy these lotus stalks?
I returned to the marketplace again and cried
Will you buy my delicious garlic and onions?

 

Helpless and wretched I cried out
Why won’t you take this worthless body?
I returned to my senses and cried out again
Will you attend to this divine body and soul?
~ Lalla 89

DSC_3620c-333x500

I arrived in this universe of birth and re-birth
And through devotion the light of my true self was shown
Now another’s death is nothing, my death is nothing
It is good to die and it is good to live long
~Lalla

 

The mind is like a donkey: If you set it free
It will eat your neighbor's saffron garden
Who then, Sir, will offer their back and carry you
When the sword of death falls on your naked body?
~ Lalla 88

 

You were once a swan singing but now you are silent
Someone has taken something of yours
The corn mill has stopped and the grain chute is clogged
And the miller has run away with the grain
~ Lalla 86

 

What is this that's happened? Who have I become?
Disoriented, I am not sure which sandbank I've anchored myself
The carpenters work was clumsy and the ceiling has fallen
It turned out well for I have come to know myself at last
~ Lalla 
85

DSC_5634-2-332x500

What is this that's happened? Who have I become?
My talon's painful grip has been cut
Of all the verses there is just one tale to tell
Where in Lalla's lake have I anchored?
~ Lalla 
84

 

Through meditation I mastered the sacred sound OM, that which contains everything
And my body was suffused with a great holy fire
I brought it up through the six chakras that steer our life’s course
And when it merged with my lotus crown, Lalla was showered in light
~ Lalla 82

 

Whether I drank the wine of intoxication or the Sindhe's sacred water
However many players I have been on stage
However many times I have experienced these small human clothes
What good has it done me? I Lalla will always remain
~ Lalla 
81

 

If I could control the pathways of my breath…
If I surgically cut, pounded and crushed my pain…
Then slowly I could concoct the necessary elixir…
Shiva is hard to find. Meditate on this teaching.
~ Lalla 80

 

Who is wrapped in sleep, and who is wide awake?
What is it that continually depletes the waters?
What is the true reason behind your worship?
What is it that you are ultimately seeking?
~ Lalla 78

 

The thinking mind is sleeping, but the mind that recognizes itself is awake
The grasping of our senses is that which depletes the lake
The aim of worship is to discover the light within
The Beloved's union is that which we ultimately seek
~ Lalla 
79

 

Dress your body in the clothes of knowledge
Sear Lalla's words upon your navel throat and heart
Through the sacred syllable OM, I Lalla became absorbed in myself
In this union of soul light no fear of death remains
~ Lalla 
76

 

There is good, there is evil, and there are three illusions
Day and night greet them with the breath of retention
Then pierce the crowned sun with the breath of ascension
And the fear of death will at last dissolve
~ Lalla 
75

 

Why did you drown in the ocean of illusion?
You slipped from the embankment and plunged into the river
Now departing will feel like being dragged upon stones
How will you remove the fear of death?
~ Lalla 
74

 

A royal fly-whisk, a sunshade, a chariot, a throne
A festive gathering, the theater, a bed of soft cotton
Which of these do you think is permanent?
And how will they remove your fear of death?
~ Lalla 
73

 

There are some who think too much and some who abandon their teachings
Those ones will find only frustration and despair
If that happens, Stop! Become fearless, steady your thoughts
As a restless child is held tight on his mother's breast
~ Lalla 
70


I Lalla opened the door to the jasmine garden
And there, oh Joy! I saw the love union of Shiva and Shakti
In that very place I drowned in their lake of bliss
Now although I am alive I die continually in that lake
~ Lalla 68

 

She who mantras Shiva! Shiva! and rides the breath of the swan
She who stays devoted night and day
She who works for no reward and knows no separation
Her efforts will be blessed by the Beloved within
~Lalla 65

 

The journey towards Union is a small garden patch
Enclose it with a hedge of meditation, self-restraint, and compassion for all beings
Then the fruits of your past will be offered as a sacrifice to the Divine Mother
And as the goats eat the holy shrub, the garden becomes bare and empty
~Lalla 63

 

Whatever my work, the result is mine
No matter that others work for money and gain
If in the end my work is my offering
Then wherever I go, the way is blessed
~ Lalla 61

 

I searched for myself in vain and grew weary
No one finds the hidden knowledge simply from looking
Then absorbed in Her I discovered the moon's sweet wine
where jars overflow but no one drinks
~ Lalla 
60

 

Whatever work I did, it was worship
Whatever words I uttered, it was mantra
When I understood this, I became one with my body
This alone is the essence of Shiva’s teachings
~ Lalla 58

 

The same mother that gives milk to her baby
Is the same wife whose countenance is cherished
She can also be the deceiving one who could take a life
Shiva is hard to find. Meditate on this teaching.
~ Lalla 54

Does the sun not shine beautifully in every place?
Does it not shine splendidly on every land?
Is water not flowing into every house?
Shiva is hard to find. Meditate on this teaching.
~Lalla 53

 

A stone can serve as a pedestal or as pavement
A stone can remain as part of the earth itself
A stone can be a beautiful millstone in a corn mill
Shiva is hard to find. Meditate on this teaching.
~ Lalla 52

 

Beautiful and full of juice they are birthed from the Mother
Causing her womb many pangs
Again and again they wait at her door to return
Shiva is hard to find. Meditate on this teaching.
~ Lalla 51

 

I, Lalla, wearied myself searching for Her
I searched with efforts beyond my strength
I looked and saw Her door was bolted
And then in the place I stood, I saw I was gazing from within the Mother
~ Lalla 48

 

The Universe is a lake so tiny that a mustard seed can't fit inside
Yet from that lake everyone drinks
Deer, jackals, rhinoceroses and sea elephants keep falling in,
Falling back in almost before they have time to be born
~ Lalla 47

 

It is Goddess laughing, sneezing, coughing, yawning
It is Goddess who bathes in the holy pools
It is Goddess wandering naked from one year to the next
Recognize how close Goddess is to you
~ Lalla 46

 

Kusa grass, flowers, sesame seeds, a lamp and water
None are necessary to live with pure devotion
Full of loving longing, meditate on the Goddess within
Thus know freedom and not be born again
~ Lalla 45

 

Absorbed in myself you hid from me
I searched for you from dusk to dawn
When at last I saw you inside of me
Together we merged in unrestrained rapture

 

Covered with mud I spent night and day looking for mud
Yet it remained concealed from me
At last I saw mud was all over me
Now the earth and my body delight in this union
~ Lalla 44

 

You alone are Heaven, And you alone the Earth
You are the day, the wind, the night sky
You are the sacred grain, the sandal paste, the flowers, the holy water
You, Goddess, exist in all things as all things. What could I possibly offer you?
~ Lalla 42

Who will be the one to weave the garlands?
What flowers will you offer to your Beloved?
What stream of water will you sprinkle over Her image?
What mystical word will make the Divine One appear?
~ Lalla 39

 

The mind is the man and desire the woman weaving the garlands
Devotion is the flower offered in worship
The moon's nectar is that which is poured on the idol
Silence is the mantra that will sing forth the Friend
~ Lalla 40

A pilgrim wanders from one holy place to the next
Searching for what can only be found inside
Oh heart-mind! Study the Goddess within and trust Her
When you look away see how green the dub-grass appears
~ Lalla 36

I arrived in this universe of birth and rebirth
And through devotion the light of my true self was shown
Now another's death is nothing, my death is nothing
It is good to die, and it is good to live long
~Lalla 35

 

Some, though sleeping, are wide awake
Some, though awake, are deeply slumbering
Some bathe in water but remain unclean
Some work tirelessly but shall always be free
~ Lalla 32

 

Temperance and silence are not simply the answer
Freedom does not come from desire alone
Even as salt dissolves into water
Finding your true Self is the rarest of gifts
~ Lalla 29

 

Wear just enough clothes to keep out the cold
Eat just enough food to keep hunger away
Oh mind! Be devoted to knowing your Self
And recognize the body is just food for the crows
~ Lalla 28

 

They came, grew weary, and soon departed
Night and day they come and night and day they go
From whence they arrive to there they return
What is anything anyway? It is nothing at all. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
~ Lalla 19

 

Let them throw their infinite curses
If I am completely devoted to Love
My heart won't house any anguish or pain
Is a mirror dirtied if a few ashes fall upon it?
~ Lalla 18

 

When cold air masters the water it becomes ice or even snow
But on reflection they are three states of one matter
When the Sun of Consciousness shines the three become one
Thus! Recognize the whole universe as made up of Shiva!
~ Lalla 16

 

The sacred cry of the Beloved who is housed in the nothing
Who has no name, no color, no race, no form
Whose essence is found in the Sound and the Dot
That is the One who will mount to ride
~ Lalla 15

Shiva is the horse. Vishnu is the saddle.
Brahma is the stirrup that holds the feet.
The Yogi will recognize through dedicated practice
The one who is mounted, and the rider who mounts to ride
~ Lalla 14

 

Blue throated one, you have six worlds, thus I too have six
But thinking myself separate I fell into despair
I did not see I am you and you are me
You mastered the six while I led my six astray
~ Lalla 13

 

Silence the tongue, still the mind, close the holy books
Let there be not even a Hum
Then all that is seen, and the seer Herself, shall merge and dissolve
Only the moon's sweet nectar will be that which ultimately remains
~ Lalla 11

 

The sun shall disappear in moonlight, the moon shall dissolve in the heart
The thinking mind will be burned away
And there will no longer be any sense of separateness
Only then will the great Knowing be born and a love that embraces all of it
~ Lalla 9

Goddess, I have not known myself nor you
I have caused my body continual pain
I did not know that you are me and I you
Even to ask Who are you? Who am I? Is the doubt that separates us
~ Lalla 7

 

There is no transcendence or non-transcendence
No meditation, no mantras, no mystical mudras that will open the door
There is no Shiva, there is no Shakti in enlightenment
If there is anything that remains, that is the only teaching.
~ Lalla 2

 

 

DSC_5600-2-751x500