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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

 

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 

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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 

 

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 

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 

 

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 

 

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

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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 

 

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 

 

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 

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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

 

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 

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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 

 

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 

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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 

 

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

 

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
~ Lalla 

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