Cover photograph: Double exposure of dahlia and European hollyhock by True Bennett. Copyright 1992 Coleman Barks All rights reserved. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 91-066805 ISBN 0-9618916-4-5

Maypop Books 196 Westview Drive Athens, GA 30606 404-543-2148

This book is for the dance, and the song.




Dance, Lalla, with nothing on but air. Sing, Lalla, wearing the sky. Look at this glowing day! What clothes could be so beautiful, or more sacred? * * *

I began as a bloom of cotton, outdoors. Then they brought me to a room where they washed me. Then the hard strokes of the carder's wife. Then another woman spun thin threads, twisting me around her wheel. Then the kicks of the weaver's loom made cloth, and on the washing stone, washermen wet and slung me about to their satisfaction, whitened me with earth and bone, and cleaned me to my own amazement. Then the scissors of the tailor, piece by piece, and his careful finishing work. Now, at last, as clothes, I find You and freedom. This living is so difficult before one takes your hand. Whatever work I've done, whatever I have thought, was praise with my body and praise hidden inside my head. * * *

In this state there is no Shiva, nor any holy union.

The flocks I tended are gone. I look through them and see myself as the Absolute. climbing this mountain. to whom desire makes no more loans. * * * Just for a moment. This was my inward way. nothing owed. I am a shepherd without even a memory of what that means. this new knowledge of how likenesses unite. the tender pain of seeing something I loved as an illusion. I see only God. I feel I can't go on. This day has been so meaningless.Only a somewhat something moving dreamlike on a fading road. everything is You. so that we two can do One Dance. Nothing coming. I feel so lost. I heard a truth that hurt my heart like a blister. nearly-spring tree. The sling-knot is biting into my shoulder. until I came into the presence of a Moon. . Now the delightful forms and motions are transparent. And here's the answer to the riddle of this dream: You leave. Loosen the load of sweetness I'm carrying. That one is blessed and at peace who doesn't hope. Good Friend. flowers appear on the empty. When I was with my teacher.

Lalla. Leaves fall in the slightest wind in December. Also. * * * I saw a wise man dying of starvation. I. Self inside self. Whatever your name. has run off with what belonged to you. and You are the cure. Now you're quiet. Lalla. these flower offerings that someone brought. Vishnu. And I saw a wealthy man beating his cook for some mistake with the spices. I don't know who. You are nothing but me. savior of the Jains. you. I am sick. I am only You. the pure Buddha. The why and how of this? What does it matter? * * * You are the sky and the ground. Shiva. Self inside self. you. you. You were once a swan singing melodies. You alone the day. What we are together will never die. have been waiting for my love of this place to leave me. you. lotus-born God. . The world is my disease. wind through the wild thicket thorns. Since then. you.Just for a second. You. Someone. You are all things born into being. you. the night air. the genius who inspired Scherazade.

* * * What has happened to me? All these songs tell one story: that of Lalla on a lake.The millstone stops. and the miller himself has disappeared. not knowing what sandbar I'll run aground on. Sir. Think of the damage it might do. The channel leading to the grinding work is covered over and hidden. this becoming more and more awake. Still I wonder which sandbank will strand me. and the hole where the grain is fed in fills with grain. What kind of luck have I had? I made harmony out of a man's clumsy plastering job on the ceiling. And how is it now with me? Magnificent. have you forgotten the promise you made in your mother's womb. and the punishment! Who then will carry you naked to your own death? * * * . to die before you die? When will you remember what you intended? Don't let your donkey wander loose! It will stray into your neighbor's saffron garden.

and then I saw that I was gazing from within the presence. and helpfulness to others. Open your wings and lift. as you walk out to meet the Friend. . jackals. and in giving up all trying. * * * I wearied myself searching for the Friend with efforts beyond my strength. There is a lake so tiny that a mustard seed would cover it easily. yet everyone drinks from this lake. And the longing in me became that strong. rhinocerouses. get up! It's dawn. Give like the blacksmith even breath to the bellows. With that waiting. I came to the door and saw how powerfully the locks were bolted. Alchemical work begins at dawn. falling and dissolving almost before they have time to be born. Deer. Enclose it with a hedge of meditation. Tend the fire that changes the shape of metal. and sea elephants keep falling into it. and self-discipline. time to start searching. only then did Lalla flow out from where I knelt.Forgetful one. Your way of knowing is a private herb garden.

There's nothing more valuable than that! God does not often come as a person. Meditate on how seldom Shiva appears. Shiva is not often among them! Meditate on that. they wait at her door to enter. I could create the substance that awareness is. Again and again. or as a handsome millstone turning perfectly. as you eat the herbs. if I could perform precise surgery on myself. It's also true that Shiva can scarcely be located. Beautifully full of juice they come from the mother. Shiva is so rarely found. And each day. causing many birth-pains.Then everything you've done before will be brought as a sacrifice to the mother goddess. Four questions: Who is awake and who asleep? . the garden grows more bare and empty. she may be dangerous to you. and talking secretly to other men. the same woman. Sunlight shines everywhere equally. The woman who nurses her child with milk acts with a different love as your wife. Each is just a hardened piece of the ground. The pedestal rock can also serve as pavement. If I could control the channels of my breath. Water flows into every house.

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 answers: The mind is what sleeps. The only offering you can make to God is your increasing awareness. each moment new. I began to go naked. Lalla. I too. Don't stay in the mind. Since I scoured my mind and my body. The soul. When that was so. And the last desire is to be God in human form. is new. * * * Meditate within eternity. And I have seen the ocean continuously creating. Live in the soul. this talking and listening. What recognizes itself as God is awake. these movings-about. and always new again. and dance. . am new. This always-disappearing lake is made of our appetites. My teacher told me one thing. like the moon.

Don't search for it. who with a little guidance. and a nothing within nothing. nor even a deep longing to go through the door of freedom. Let it loose and your words will rage and cause wounds like fishing spears. restless and afraid. Eat only enough to stop the hunger-pang. and the Absolute. What you want is profoundly expensive. but there's something more that must happen. It is nothing. Meditate on who you are. * * * Awareness is the ocean of existence.Your thoughts are like a child fretting near its mother's breast. And as for your mind. You may dissolve in contemplation. as salt does in water. yet closeby. None. * * * Meditation and self-discipline are not all that's needed. Enlighten your desires. and difficult to find. can find the path of courage. Wear just enough clothes to keep warm. you'll find how much of that there is in what you say. let it work to recognize who you are. But if you tend it like a fire to discover the truth. . Quit imagining. and that this body will become food for the forest crows.

one sinks into a joy that is free of any impulse to act and will not enter a human birth again. This way is the way of those who remember I am He. sesame seed. These are accomplishments that will make you famous. * * * So ham in Sanskrit means I am He. Hold the wind in your fist. Look.Fame is water carried in a basket. He is me. a tuft of kusa-grass. Flowers. or tie up an elephant with one hair. swan. all this altar paraphernalia is not needed by someone who takes the teacher's words in and honestly lives them. No matter that we're busy in business night and day. hamsa means swan. We don't care what profit comes. * * * It is God who yawns and sneezes and coughs. Full of longing in meditation. so ham. We live alone inside the Lord. bowls of fresh water. Reversed. and hamsa. all one soaring beauty and freedom. it's God doing ablutions! . and now laughs.

Will you ever understand how near God is to you? I exhausted myself. I melted in it and came home. you hid from me. If you can kill these robbers and become the servant of everyone. these steal your energy along the road. Then I saw you inside and gave myself in a rapture of union. In this poem the words for "me" and "you" may be read together.God deciding to fast. I spend the entire day looking for mud! Now I see what's all over me ." separate: Absorbed in yourself. * * * Your pride in yourself and your wanting. I spent every day looking for you. No one ever finds this by trying. looking. where every jar is full. you'll meet the Lord in meditation and see what you used to protect as just a pile of ashes. * * * Double Poems There are at least two equally possible translations for these poems because of the puns in Sanskrit. in which case they become one word meaning "mud. together: Covered with mud. but no one drinks. God going naked from one New Year's Eve to the next.

and give in to loving it. and that if you don't control them. On the dangerous embankment of my mind I looked in the sack but could not find the Name of God. According to Grierson and Barnett. so I added the flavor of "I am That. What shall I give to get across? I went a way that was not a way. Then I came to know that body and soul are one thing. When you cook them together." On a way that wasn't a way I came to a makeshift bridge of rotten planks. you won't have true joy. I looked in my sack." I called out in the market. for example! I tried to sell this breathing body to the world. be aware that God-in-you can give tastiness to anything! One of the puns here involves "cowry shell" and "the name of God. there are a number of double meanings in this poem. What do I give to get across? . "Lotus-stalks for sale! Onions and garlic!" Then I saw how onions and garlic come from the same family. There was not even a cowry shell. an "onion" and "breath" pun.

Only a soul free of desire can taste eternity. . you'll have no peace. I tied him up in an inside closet and threatened him with Om. and others awake who are sound asleep. * * * Let them throw their curses. Some of those bathing in sacred pools will never get clean. There are those sleeping who are awake. Be living. I grabbed the onion-thief and yelled for help. If you want a kingdom and get it." I locked the doors and windows. my soul stays quiet and clear. still you won't be content. I shut the body openings and found out what steals the even-breath. Do you think Shiva worries what people say! If a few ashes fall on a mirror. I am connected to what's true. the truth of Who we are. If inside. If you give it away.Again. the chief pun in this pair is "onion" and "breath. use them to polish it. Om. yet dead! Then knowing comes to live in you.

pegged it down to dry with definite.And there are others doing household chores who are free of any action. where Shiva and Shakti were making love. good sir. sharp-pointed desires. * * * One in whom the syllable OM rises steadily upward from the sex through the navel. Not even the shadow of an iron anchor will last from here. . my soul. That one is a spell. entered the jasmine garden. gently trying to let you see the nature of what you love. So you've cut up your hide and stretched it. but have you planted any fruit trees for the next generation? Wisdom offered you is like a ball thrown at a boundary post. and only OM. Lalla. That one has no interest in different kinds of magic. forms a bridge to God. useless as molasses fed to a tawny bull to help it give more milk! * * * I keep weeping for you. I. Remember the truth that you are.

the theatre nights.I dissolved into them. Lalla has become a syllable of soul-light. Enlightenment absorbs this universe of qualities. No ritual. is needed. . Your death panic will fade. This is the only doctrine. and chariot. the throne itself. Let your body wear your knowing. but really I'm walking in the jasmine garden. How is it now out in the swamp? Death will come at one specific moment. always-moving mind. Practice the breath. Rise through the disc of the sun. When that merging occurs. no religion. * * * Fearful. down bed. and what is this to me. Let your heart sing songs. The royal fan. now? I seem to be here. sunshade. There is no death. Just cry out one unobstructed cry. your soft. which of these can help your fear of death? You've demolished the highbanked marsh road. the happy feasting. the One who has no beginning is thinking of how hunger may fall away from you. there is nothing but God. How does that make you feel? There are two results and three causes.

Day and night. no categories of transcendence or non-transcendence. a constant traffic. and then they go. that whatever-it-is is the only teaching. no mystical attitude. and if there is something that remains. no mind to understand it with. and the others go. nothing. and what streamwater poured over the images? Real worship is done by the mind (Let that be a man) and by the desire (Let that be a woman). a nectar which when it rushes down gives discipline and strength. Let your worship song be silence. And let those two choose what to sacrifice. no vow of silence. . There is no Shiva and no Shakti in enlightenment. * * * They arrive and others arrive. There is a liquid that can be released from under the mask of the face. Where do they come from? Where do they go? Does it mean anything? Nothing.There is no word for it. Let that be your sacred pouring. What is worship? Who are this man and this woman bringing flowers? What kinds of flowers should be brought. nothing.

And there is that in you that will recognize the rider those are waiting on: the unobstructed sound. whose lives are getting harder and harder. Brahma adjusts the stirrup. as a bridge over this that is now Kashmir. I remember seeing the only existent place as a whirling without form. alone. even the best. the nothing without name. and as for the children. and once. can barely remember their past lives. or lineage. Vishnu puts the saddle on. Once. I saw the whole as emptiness. which are one thing. * * * Men and women now. which is continually changing into the Sound and the Dot within a human being who is That meditating inside That. the Sound and the Dot. Three times I have seen the lake of the universe overflowing. what will they do? . or form. and the rider who mounts to ride.Shiva is the horse. and seven times.

I saw the great mother of kings. be aware with each breath. I saw a bush full of opening buds. if you're not deeply conscious.A time is coming so deformed and unnatural that pears and apples will ripen with the apricots. Then a vast water with no means of crossing it. you are God to me! Tell me the inner meaning . what comes of what I do. For a moment. is the helpless old aunt of the potter's wife. the next moment. the responsibility is mine. and wherever I go. For a moment I saw a beautiful moving river. will be for others. Some people abandon their homes. and live there. All this renunciation does nothing. * * * Whatever I do. Then no roses. sitting here. For a moment I saw a busy cooking fire. no smoke. Kunti. the fruit. Then. Then no hearth. but like one who plants an orchard. My teacher. Others abandon hermitages. and a daughter and a mother will leave the house every day hand in hand to find new strangers to lie down with. the way is blessed. no flame. Day and night. no thorns. nothing. I offer the actions of this life to the God within.

how inside that. as I brought the syllable OM. You are one.of my two breathings. there's no birth or death. "In your pelvis near the navel is the source of many motions called the sun. the other cool. it warms. those are one event." My body caught fire like an ember. which is cool and called the moon. and in your mouth it meets the downward flow through the fontanelle of your higher self. the one that says You are That. You do not walk with people who only talk about truth. Dying and giving birth go on inside the one consciousness. The experience of God is continuous amazement. the city of the bulb. * * * . As your vitality rises from that sun. I moved through the six chakra centers that urge human beings to action and out into the lightedness where Lalla lives now. but not with happiness or difficulty. into me. by turns. * * * Lalla. This rivering mixture feels. but most people misunderstand the pure play of creative energy. or Shiva. warm and cool. not with desire or anger. the one warm.

Lalla. why do you keep on wandering. there God was inside me! Oh Lalla. in the heart-shrine. you've wandered so many places trying to find your husband! Now at last. and my interest in the inner grew. As my love and my faith. Act! And God will appear in the form of a love that fills your heart. and begging? Make just a little effort. . Then I gave up. And sometimes I sang Om Namah Shivaya. the greeting that gives peace to the world as well as to the spirit. All the names are true. turned around. * * * I spent my days idly as a vine growing slowly in some holy place. you discover where he lives. and I saw the Absolute. * * * When you eat too much. I made pilgrimages. and OM. the darkness diminished. looking for God. within and without. you forget your truth. inside the walls of this body-house. but I kept repeating that of my teacher. Then compassion came. and Lalla lost herself in that light.

like night coming at noon." * * * On the way to God the difficulties feel like being ground by a millstone. . or the longing to touch. comes. be moderate! Everything is new now for me. washed in the rain of I am That Lalla leaps and dances inside the energy that creates and sustains the universe. inner life everywhere. Then the door will open.and fasting makes you conceited. The whole world looks rinsed with water. this is true! If you live on the breath. and now wherever I look I see the self. My mind is new. the moon. Lalla. you won't be tortured by hunger and thirst. and you'll recognize the way. God. Lalla. as your mind dissolves in God. and consciously. the sun. so eat with some discipline. * * * My teacher put a lotion on my eyes that dissolved the cataracts. like lightning through the clouds. Be an ordinary human being. Face everything with love. But don't worry! What must come. The purpose of being born is fulfilled in the state between "I am" and "That.

everything I am is You. Nothing is earned. . as a sign of attainment. whereas devotion builds your strength and protects the intelligent flame that leads to the truth within. The "you" and "I" thought does not occur. They steal your energies. * * * Meditate. * * * Lord. Your power moves. you exist as me. A prior impulse is the only difference between us. so learn to serve others. Watch anger and wanting turn to ashes. not your own desire and greed and ego. Life is given. and grow humble. I saw that my family and others I love are the same as me. and I start walking.When the mirror of my consciousness became clear. The entire world is God. Lalla. Study the ground. Other than that.

and as the sun of a new knowing rose. Your tongue is tired of saying sacred words over and over. so there are three forms of consciousness: the individual. In meditation. I came to this birth and rebirth universe and found the self-lighting light. * * * Intense cold makes water ice. the world. you've worked them to the nub copying texts. The way is difficult and very intricate. and God. but your loving is cold. * * * What understanding comes through reading? I decided not to let books determine my life. and through meditation saw the truth that never comes to anyone from reading words. and your fingers. burned impurities away.Your face is beautiful. . subtle intellect is a fox who knows what I need. I entered the love-furnace. which in the sun of True Awareness melt to one flowing: Lalla is that. I realized that the words "Lalla" and "God" point to this peacefulness. Lalla discarded her books that told about it. but only whatever helps dissolve infatuation and sentimental longing. but the rage stored inside you has found no way to leave. The shrewdness of innate. Then the hard ice turns to slush and back to water.

those who can cool a fire. Then they saw. and their seven levels of attainment dissolved to nothing. it's nothing to me. the sandal knot. and how? Where am I going? Will I know the road? This life is empty breath. I'll be fortunate. nothing more. * * * Where did I come from." no object to contemplate. * * * You are the sky and the ground. The blind theologians didn't understand. You alone the day. You are the meal that's being brought. it's nothing to anyone. It's good to die. * * * . flowers and their watering. or get milk from a wooden cow. Those with a knack for walking in air. the night air.If someone dies. If I can hear one clear truth. and if I die. no contemplation! Everything is That lost in That. and good to live long. You are all this. they're street jugglers. What could I possibly bring You! There is no "You" or "I. still a stream.

I went everywhere with longing in my eyes. looking for what can only come from visiting the soul. or anyone else. you'll be That. until here in my own house I felt truth filling my sight. the dub grass looks fresher a little ways off. Study the mystery you embody. Stay here. Then all these customs will disappear like clothing. A man is one who trembles in the presence. If you've melted your desires in the river of time. When you look up from that. There's only the soul.Ascetics wander shrine to shrine. choose to be a recluse. There are very few of those. or choose a family. If you know the pure Lord within you. * * * I have not really known myself. Why not go naked? The ram of experience must be fed and ripened for the sacrifice. the village job. and even more green farther on. I've tried to do good. and not just what my appetites wanted. . wherever. * * * Don't be so quick to condemn my nakedness.

and it leads to some truth. squint. . If you can see. isolated. be foolish. I'm Lalla. disappeared.but that was all infatuation with this precious. listen and agree. body. been lots of different human beings. the moon. Why have I gone through this? If you're wise. Whatever anyone says. Still. That you and I were constantly joining. This is a friendly practice. Then the highest. Where now have the earth and the sky gone? Are they hiding in the nothing like friends on a walk? * * * I have drunk many times the wine of existence. The sun. Though you can hear. the same. I didn't know. I didn't know that even to ask "Who are You?" or "Who am I?" breaks the harmony. and the water of this Sindhu River. * * * Day will be erased in night. I've played many roles. Absorbed in the infinite. the lowest chakra of action. sit dumb as an old rock. my mind dissolved.

I'm not part of any of that. and taken on another six. who drank the poison to save us. The new moon will be swallowed in eclipse. When you see yourself and someone else as one being. * * * With repeated meditation practice the expanse of the visible universe . bringing their souls here like flowers. They mislead me. and the mind in meditation will be completely absorbed by the Void inside it. You have six powers.The ground's surface will extend outward. Or let them worship me. Let him say whatever he wants against me. and so must I! But I've grown separate from You. when you know the most joyful day and the most terrible night as one moment. Let whoever come and say whatever. So where's the exchange? * * * God of the dark blue throat. then awareness is alone with its Lord.

"It's me. and clear awareness. * * * With passionate practices I held the reins secure on my mind and made the breath one column. and the lake is crystal-clear.with all its qualities dissolves to nothing. * * * At the end of a crazy-moon night the love of God rose. All teaching comes to this. There are some demons dangerous to your soul: lust. But there's a way to kill them. to where there is only health and a great joy. I didn't trust it for a moment. Then the new moon's clear nectar descended into me. hunger and thirst and other wantings will not be dangerous to you. anger. If you ride the breath and keep it under control. We became That. Lalla. Feed them meditation only. I said. nothing pouring into Nothing." The Beloved woke. . and you'll see the illusion of what they control. Being skilled with that bridle is a great blessing.

* * * One who handles a sword well gets power. the wine of my own poetry. caught in its illusion of ownership. I tended the bellows of my throat. you're not who you think you are. Whatever I do is a waste. But knowledge of the deep self comes only from a teacher who is That. Mind. . * * * I am towing my boat on the ocean with a rope of untwisted yarn. so that within even it. Everything we do mixes in the ground of the self. like water poured on unbaked clay plates. Slowly. You're dancing over a pit. It gave me the daring to take hold of the darkness and tear it down and cut it into little pieces.but I drank it anyway. and the light inside grew and filtered out through the dark. slowly. I saw the truth. How will I ever make it home? Gently I weep for my mind. Someone generous and disciplined wins what the public religions offer.

Soon you'll fall through. In the middle of the marketplace I am a shop with no lock on its door. I have no guide to show me the way. my dear. My thumb and my forefinger wore smooth with telling beads. There is some mysterious meaning in this. My mouth got tired of saying words. My sweet dear. We keep walking day and night. We leave. do you understand this. I am an unskilled architect who's been asked to build a palace for the king. and if you do. this love feels the pull of another. but what is it? * * * When will my shame fall away? When will I accept being mocked and let my robe of dignity burn up? When the wandering pony inside comes calm to my hand. how does your food taste? * * * I am a wooden bow trying to shoot arrows made of flimsy grasses. and these things you've valued and collected will be left behind. and come back where we began. . Life sinks down. and still.

. and I knew that That was everything. The presence came near. * * * Don't talk of different religions. * * * Lost in the wilderness between true awareness and the senses. or a Muslim. Three things about grinding grain: Once you start the mill turning. in their cages. every living moment as prophecy. Read rather.I haven't lost my sense of being separated. The one reality is everywhere. grist will find its own way into the millyard. with me. It's all pretend-knowledge. or anywhere else! Realize: your awareness is the truth about God. not just in a Hindu. Ram. Only the hub knows the secret of milling. it easily keeps its momentum. When fine flour appears by the millstone. * * * Unconscious people read the scriptures like parrots saying Ram. and I nothing. Awareness cleaned my mind to a polished mirroring.

and I you. Then I discovered I was you. Is breath-awareness all there is? * * * I do not know myself. . How did I get here? Where am I going? Only true initiation helps. a living combination that cannot be described in those terms. Introduction Lalla lived in Kashmir in the 14th century. I didn't know that you are me. * * * Playfully. and other -isms. sufism. All day I looked. I mistook the body for my identity. nor you. when many doctrinal streams were merging: Shaivism. Vedantic non-dualism. and the celebration of That began. yet still I keep wondering who you and I are. you hid from me.I suddenly woke inside myself like a lotus opening in waterweeds. but Lalla is beyond religious categories. my Lord.

and which can include her doubt and her lostness. ham. compassion and moderation. . For Lalla. to me. "the Supreme Principle. and a Hopi-like prophetic mode: "A time is coming so deformed ." This awareness is the essence of worship. "Wherever I look. The act of moving onto the path of courage is a baby struggling on the mother's chest and then finding the nipple! And one other picture of the surrendered life shows "someone doing household chores. I see the self. . she doesn't see the Beloved presence everywhere. Breathing out. Action. which dissolves duality. Ecstasy is only one of her moods. . The names for the various elements — soul. though." She is most well known for wandering and dancing naked as she sang her songs. her sense of being dissolved into the lovemaking in the jasmine garden. "a somewhat something moving dreamlike on a fading road. free of any action. Lalla has little use for scriptures. In it." Shakti being the feminine creative aspect of Shiva. compose one realization. The changeless (Shiva) and the constantly creating (Shakti) are joined in the breath." Sometimes "my Lord. but the deepest.Sometimes she refers to the one reality as "Shiva. and her attention to a truth which is very much in motion. and not the primary one. and breathing in. Political disgust is another." Other times. enlightenment—do not matter. She lives between the "I am" and the "That" of the famous Upanishad sentence. "Eat only enough to stop the hunger-pang. She becomes emptiness. I am That (sah-ham). Lalla has other qualities that seem. and Shaivite and sufi terms in the poetry. "only God. there is no difference between the individual self and the universal self. most constant truth is what she shares with all the great mystics. or anywhere. Words about the way are not the way. and so completely merged . Always it's a dissolving of self into the Absolute that she celebrates." Sometimes it's "Shiva and Shakti making love in the jasmine garden." a pun rising from the juxtaposition in Sanskrit of the "you" and "I" pronouns." And glistening affirmations. is beyond imagery." And in one instance it's "mud." The balance of no and yes in her poems has a remarkable grace. sah. God. essentially feminine: her firm location in the breath. "There is no reality but God. In the ecstatic line of the hassids and the sufis she joined the pure joy of existence." Her most penetrating vision. "nothing pouring into Nothing. Sometimes it's the presence of an indeterminate "You" or "That. There are some obviously feminine images. Tat Tvam Asi. in a state there are no words for." There's knife-like attention to specific behavior." There are yogic references. Along with the variety of her modes. and listening to the innate intellect bring what's needed." within and without. and the purpose of human life is to realize this.

but is not identified with it. One day her husband. The "text" has come down with many variations. Tradition has it that Lalla left home. She is also known as Lal Ded. struck the jar she was carrying. the rest being just language. some of it in an old Kashmiri dialect. but to the common people. all of which mean Granny Lal. and sayings seem to have survived. a cloth merchant scolded their disrespect. Her mother-in-law would put a stone on her plate and cover it thinly with rice. Grandmother Lalla. Lalla-Vakyana means Lalla's Word. Her awareness observes the body. poems. side by side with Sanskrit transcriptions.with it that the bare form of "Lalla. Sed Bayu. The legends of her life and the poems were preserved in the oral tradition. seemed clothing enough. It broke. And she loved to spend time meditating at the holy shrines. That water became the sacred "Lalla's Lake" in Kashmir. All these facts are speculative. other than what comes through the poetry. at twenty-four to become a student of the Hindu teacher. We know very little about her. grandmotherly glance. There are no official references until four hundred years after her death. Lalla means "darling. Sent to fetch water. Her diction is colloquial. Between one hundred and two hundred songs. prophetess and practicioner of yoga. Her metaphors of oneness are not majestic light-upon-light images. "Study the ground. Allah and Lalla. One morning as children were making fun of her nakedness. tuned not to philosophy and organized religion. probably in a village near Srinagar. Born in Kashmir. Lalla never complained." whom she often addresses. The other a more severe. and no contemporary manuscripts. she died near there in 1391. Lalla asked him for two strands of cloth . she would stop there. Lalla the great yogini." she reminds herself.Vakyana are still actively a part of Kashmiri conversation. thinking to punish her for dawdling on the way home. It is said that only two words mean anything in Kashmiri." and she is certainly beloved in Kashmir. The poems reveal this double nature: one eye a warm. Lalla. It was then also that she began to ignore conventional standards of dress and to wander in a state of ecstatic clarity. but the water remained in place as a jar-shaped column on Lalla's head. There are stories of her being mistreated as a young wife living with in-laws. The shapes of melting ice interest her. maybe in 1320. And in Sanskrit she is called Lalleshwari. Hundreds of lines from the Lalla. And she also notices how ashes merge with clay to become soil. Lai Didi. and Mai Lai Diddi. and the marriage. truth-telling vision into the Void. so that it would look like Lalla was getting more food than she actually was.

"There is no light like that in the eyes. no relationship like that with one's own pocket. I recommend his study to anyone interested in identifying the strands. Lalla suddenly appeared out of the oven wearing the shimmering green and gold of Paradise. She ran into a baker's shop and leaped into the blazing oven. Other parables and legends.equal in weight. That day as she walked about. and with Sed Bayu. "There is no light like that of the sun. the skin. There is no relationship closer than with a brother. has untangled the threads of the various religions woven into Lalla's Word. and as she met with respect or scorn." She was undoubtedly a challenge for her several teachers. no relationship except the one with God." Lalla raised the level yet again. no pilgrimage like a deep longing. are associated with her meeting the sun master. She said. with great pains. no pilgrimage like going down on your knees. Ali Hamadani." Sed Bayu did not agree. mentioned earlier. Praise and blame have no substance of their own. of course. she tied knots in one or the other. of the counter-culture mystic . and no comfort like a blanket. and no ease like a wife. Sed Bayu was sitting with his disciples. The scales swung in balance. she saw him approaching." Lalla is also connected with a Sheikh Nuruddin. many of them miraculous. Hamadani stopped and asked if a woman had come into the shop. In the evening she came back to the merchant and asked him to weigh the cloth again. "There is no light like that of knowing God. Wandering naked. she wore a piece of cloth over each shoulder. but I prefer the whole cloth. no pilgrimage like that to the Ganges. and there is no peace that isn't gratitude for that. no matter how the cloth was knotted. when these questions were asked: Which is the greatest of all lights? What is the greatest pilgrimage? Which relationship is best? What is most comforting? Lalla was the first to answer. The scholar Richard Temple. "I had never seen a man until you. An interesting exchange between Lalla and this man has come down to us.

Which never went away. What I love about the poems is that they feel close to experience. un-fancy steps that aren't trying to convince or impress." I have come to Lalla after fifteen years of collaborative work on Jelaluddin Rumi. The difference in the two is considerable. Where Rumi is extravagant. looked at the six volumes of Rumi's Mathnawi and said. always moving. Rumi works within a group. but to let you in her life. the rooted. Her heart's cry is. Yunus Emre. The clarity. and her dancer's simplicity: amazement felt. severely clear. Lalla is spare. Where Rumi is exuberant. Here is her statement about the use of poetry for the poet. But how can that stupendous come.who moves through this poetry. Which seems oddly paradoxical to their actual lives: Rumi being located at the center of a community. breathing word. Lalla. simple. "All these words!" Rumi asked. like a lotus in the mud. and Lalla the wanderer. but I drank it anyway. I didn't trust it for a moment. Rumi is intricate. Not the daily specifics. stated. whereas Rumi plays in the ocean of longing. Lalla. Lalla walks alone. sure. Quick. and then the moving on. Om Namah Shivaya. "I bow to the Highest Consciousness. a restlessness. the Turkish mystic. Other polarities could be set up. Rumi is caressingly affectionate. Rumi is the imagination in full flower. Lalla is cold-sober. "How would you have done it?" "I would just wrap some skin around some bones and call it Yunus" I am reminded of an Emily Dickinson poem. the wine of my own poetry. With Emily. Lalla stays home. but an inner attention. . Lalla is the condensed code of the body. The infinite a sudden guest Has been assumed to be.

1920). Cambridge University Press (Cambridge. 1973). her short-song scissor-bites cut free the conventional veils and solaces. that hide our own soul-nakedness. Her Life and Sayings. Richard Carnac. SYDA Foundation (South Fallsburg. like the new moon. Sometimes abstract. selected and translated by J. as Gurumayi is the living inheritor of this enlightened lineage. Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi. Utpal Publications (Srinigar. Jayalal. Lai Ded. I Am That. Lionel D. The Word ofLalla the Prophetess. Lai Ded. Temple. edited by Swami Ghanananda and Sir John Stewart-Wallace. A Mystic Poetess of Ancient Kashmir. 1989). Sir George and Barnett. 1924). Kotru.. ---Coleman Barks Bibliography Grierson.It gave me the daring to take hold of the darkness and tear it down and cut it into little pieces. N. Kashmiri Lyrics. the light-blockers. . Nisargadatta.Y. Lalleshwari.C. 1981). the Wise Sayings of Lai Ded. for helping with various re-writings of these poems. N. Acorn Press (Durham. and other times wonderfully imaged. Kaul. L. 1945). She leaves us out in the open with nothing on.. This is an especially valuable work. 1973). Women Saints of the East and West. Reducing shadowcloth to shreds and patches is fine work for poetry. Lalla-Vakyani. Kaul. Vedanta Press (Hollywood. poems rendered by Muktananda and Gurumayi. Nil Kanth. Acknowledgements I want to thank Miranda Shaw for introducing me to Lalla. Rinemisray (Srinigar. Royal Asiatic Society (London. and the dancer Zuleikha and my sister Betsy (the novelist Elizabeth Cox).

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