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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.

Lalla's in the NEWS! Read about the release of Lalla Unveiled in the November 5th edition of the Harvard Press!

Learn more about Lalla on the BBC!

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Praise for Lalla Unveiled

Jen Sundeen is dancing and singing along with Lalla, in the same wisdom, the same joy!

                          ~Coleman Barks

What mysterious power of attraction leads a modern woman to the precious words of Lalla - a Kashmiri mystic who lived in the early fourteenth century - and devote herself to the painstaking task of translating her exquisite verses, miraculously preserved through 700 years, for a modern audience? And what more auspicious moment to offer them to the world than at this time, when Kashmir is torn asunder by opposing forces that, in their quest to control this sacred land, have lost all awareness of a deeper reality? 

Jenny Sundeen's sensitive and beautiful translation of Lalla's poems lead us from her uncomprehending pain and suffering through the dawning of insight and wisdom to the rapture of discovering that she is one with All that is. At a time when the world is following a path that is leading us to our ultimate destruction, this precious book with its wonderful illuminating Preface takes us into another dimension of experience and the revelation of who, in truth, we are. Her own awakening experience led her, as she describes it, to living with a deeper insight into the Divine Love spoken of by the yogis and to seeing in all moments, in all places, one profound Love singing and dancing everywhere. We may hope that Lalla's last quatrain on page 138 is a prophecy:

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.
Only then will a great Knowing be born and a love that embraces all of it.

~Anne Baring, PhD,
author of The Dream of the Cosmo

This collection of 109 verses has been translated and reinterpreted from the original works of Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel Barnett (1920) by Jennifer Sundeen, accompanied by watercolors from artist Linda Hoffman. 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.

The following is a sampling of 109 verses of Lalla, as once translated in the 1920 edition of "Lallavakyani" by Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel Barnett. The "songs" have been translated and 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 

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 

 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 

 

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

 

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

 

The sun will dissolve in moonlight, the moon will dissolve in the heart
The thinking mind will be burned away
And there shall 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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Meet Lalla

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.

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.