Who is awake and who asleep?
What is this lake that is continually
oozing back into the earth?
What can a human being offer to God?
What do we most deeply want?
The mind is what sleeps.
What recognizes itself
as God is awake.
This always-disappearing lake
is made of our appetites,
this talking and listening.
The only offering you can make to God
is your increasing awareness.
And the last desire is
to be God in human form.
(--Lalla's Four Questions.)
Lalla's first answer sounds just right this Saturday. "The mind is what sleeps. What recognizes itself as God is awake."(Lalla lived in Kashmir during the first part of the 1300s. In that period, Kashmir was home to devotees of Shiva and devotees of Vishnu, to Islamic Sufis and to followers of Tantric Buddhism. Lalla's poems reflect all she learned from these, but synthesized to become the expression of her own devotion in colloquial Kashmiri, rather than the Sanskrit of contemporary philosophical writing. The variety of her names reflects the wide appeal of her poems: In Hindi, she is Lal Ded (grandmother Lal); in Sanskrit, Lalleshwari (Lalla the yogini); while to Muslims, she is Lal Arifa.
Lalla was apparently from a family of Brahmins near Pampore; her poetry shows her knowledge of Sanskrit and of the Hindu scriptures. Tradition says that she left her husband after some years of an unhappy marriage to become a student of Hindu and Sufi teachers. Then she became an itinerant preacher throughout the Kashmir Valley, singing her vakhs (songs) of Shiva and of the search for truth, through an inner spirituality rather than dogma and ritual.
The evening cools. Rokpa went for his first sail with Saskia and two crew. I cut two Yews, one to near ground. Old and strong. Remarkably strong. Demolition of ell between kitchen and barn introduces daylight and emptiness. Roof stands with pastiche supports. Four barn skunks find their way the last three days to peanut butter bait in hav-a-heart and are transported to parts away. I feel like a bomb demolition technician as I move step by step through the process with each skunk -- staying out of sight, covering trap, carrying, driving, uncovering, lifting release, waiting for exit, then making my way back home. That two go to one place and two to another worries my heart about breaking up family. I stay with the discomfort.
When you see yourselfWe are all losing the familiar in favor of the creating seeing of life.
and someone else
as one being,
when you know the most joyful day
and the most terrible night as one moment,
then awareness is alone with it's Lord.
(--Lalla Ishwari, trans. Coleman Barks.)
Polyphonic chant plays. Folks drift through. Things are bought.
Car door closes. The sailors are home from the sea.
Who is awake? And who is asleep?
This ordinary day is grace.
A gift of increasing awareness.