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Shambhala Sun | May 2012
You'll find this article on page 96 of the magazine.

About A Poem: Daniel Ladinsky on “Know the True Nature” by Hafiz

Know the True Nature

Know the true nature of your Beloved.

In His loving eyes, our every thought, word

and movement is always, always beautiful.

For about twenty years, I have been working with the poetry of Hafiz, a fourteenth-century Persian poet who is considered one of the seven literary wonders of the world. The above verse (slightly sculpted by me) is very close to a literal translation by the late Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, who was a top psychiatrist at Tehran University and the head of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order. I feel those twenty-one words are the cornerstone of Hafiz’s poetic work: They help us to realize our own sacredness and to stumble upon the kingdom of heaven within, and thus know a far greater sovereignty. The hallmark of Hafiz is freedom. His poetry is about busting out of every cage, letting our self off every hook, aiding the soul to unfurl its wings. And, via a sweet playful genius and a sublimity of language, he often remarkably succeeds at that.

Once, after a poetry reading in New York, I was talking with a young female Persian doctor and asked her, “You can be frank—I can take it. Who is your favorite poet between Rumi and Hafiz?” This very sophisticated person blushed. Then she responded, “Well Daniel, to me, Hafiz comes closer and stays longer. What smart woman wouldn’t want that?”

Of course, it’s a tall, tall order, but anything short of our knowing what the Buddha did—or at least knowing what some angels who rode in his pockets perceived—will rightfully leave us feeling that something is still greatly amiss. I think perhaps the only way out of every dilemma is to get closer to some living person, spirit, or art, which does know and which can help lead us back into the sky and more into the heart of the earth. Contact with a true spiritual teacher, or just hanging out with a friend who has moments of brilliance, can help untie and lift us out of the burlap sack where a lot of us still move—a tough place to laugh or sing.

I like these lines attributed to teacher and friend Hafiz, “How did the rose ever open up its heart and give to this world all of its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise we all remain too frightened.”

Here, again, is the tremendous value of someone recognizing our worth—our extraordinariness. We humans need someone looking at us now and then with real love and appreciation in their eyes, for that caring is like a precious rain that we require or die. Hafiz and all the great poets help us ring the temple bell. And that ring can summon the Beloved’s presence, give us an awakening poke in the ribs, and impart that taste—if only for a blessed moment—of the sublime ground of conscious nothing where the sun ever blooms. Hafiz is loaded with encouragement and an expert with bestowing it, as is the organic, jam-filled gaze from any well-toasted and buttered Zen master. Intelligent, compassionate eyes can clearly tell you that your every thought, word, and movement is a miracle.

I could write and gossip about most any Hafiz poem for pages, for they are such rich, wild lovers and gold mines. But for now I will conclude with something I bet one of the angels in the Buddha’s pocket figured out: Paradise draws itself from a well in every object, creature, and atom. Seeing that, knowing the true nature of existence, who could ever again suffer want or loss? Who could then not join the eternal party the Great Ones are hosting? Beyond any limiting dogma, in the luminous (penthouse) refuge of perfect nonbeing that results in fantastic awareness, you have never been more alive and always, always beautiful.

Verse from the Penguin publication A Year With Hafiz: Daily Contemplations by Daniel Ladinsky © 2011.

From the May 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

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