The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari: A Commentary on the Mystical Poetry of the Great Yogini of Kashmir by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke)
Lalla Yogeshwari, also known as Lalleshwari or Lad Ded (Mother Lalla), was a great fourteenth-century yogini of Kashmir. She created a form of mystic poetry called Vatsun or Vakhs (from the Sanskrit Vak, which means Speech) that were the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language. They were first written down in the twentieth century, until then having been memorized and spoken or sung only.
Swami Nirmalananda’s commentary of these Vakhs mines the treasures of Lalleshwari’s mystic poems and presents his reflections in an easily intelligible fashion for those wishing to put these priceless teachings on the path of yogic self-transformation into practice.
Lalla was in the tradition of the Nath Yogi Sampradaya whose meditation practice is that of Soham Sadhana: the joining of the mental repetition of Soham Mantra with the natural breath. (The mental intonation of the syllable So when inhaling and the mental intonation of the syllable Ham [“Hum”] when exhaling.)
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Excerpts from The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari
I will weep and weep for you, O Mind;
The world has caught you in its spell
Though you cling to them with the anchor of steel,
Not even the shadow of the things you love
will go with you when you are dead.
Why then have you forgotten your own true Self?
I will weep and weep for you, O Mind. On reading this sentence there came to my memory a high school classmate of mine that got his first teenage crush and spent a lot of time each day circling the block in his car in hopes of seeing his crushee through the windows of her house. At home he sat moping over his hopeless fixation for someone that literally did not know he existed. One of his aunts asked him what was the matter, and when he explained she commented, “Look, Jack, it is only in your head!” Where else would it be?
The mind is a wonderful thing, but also an overwhelming source of misery. The yogi, being introspective and more sensitive to the ways and depths of his mind than ordinary people, especially knows this to be true. The mind being a field of fluidic energies, it is its nature to fluctuate constantly in response to inner and outer conditions. And since we are not the mind but only its witness, however much we may identify with it, we are its observer and certainly may “weep and weep” for it and over it, both pitying it and pitying ourselves for our vulnerability to its instability and vagaries.
Forever we come, forever we go;
Forever, day and night, we are on the move.
Whence we come, thither we go,
Forever in the round of birth and death,
From nothingness to nothingness.
But sure, a mystery here abides,
A Something is there for us to know.
Forever we come, forever we go. This verse is about those who are immersed in samsara and its delusions which we call maya. Impermanence and constant change are its attributes, and so are the lives and minds of those in its influence. In Hebrew the word for samsara means “rolling” in the sense of constant movement and instability. So is all relative existence.
Human beings are in the grip of the dualities, the dwandwas, the pairs of opposites inherent in nature (prakriti) such as pleasure and pain, hot and cold, light and darkness, gain and loss, victory and defeat, attraction and aversion, happiness and sorrow, birth and death. They are the waves of the ocean of samsara which perpetually rise and fall, move back and forth, sometimes calm and sometimes stormy.
Forever, day and night, we are on the move. Since the external aspect of us is part of prakriti, we never stop being “on the move.”
Whence we come, thither we go, forever in the round of birth and death. We come from disembodiment into embodiment and back into disembodiment over and over again caught in that duality. “Thus they are seen, and appear unceasingly,… returning back to the new birth, new death: all helpless” (Bhagavad Gita 8:19). “Helpless all, for Maya is their master” (Bhagavad Gita 9:8).
Impart not esoteric truth to fools,
Nor on molasses feed an ass.
Do not sow seed in sandy beds,
Nor waste your oil on cakes of bran.
Impart not esoteric truth to fools. This is a most important injunction for many reasons.
- They will drive you crazy asking you over and over to explain, and looking at you blankly so you foolishly think you have failed to communicate with them so they still do not understand.
- They will think you are yourself crazy or irrational or a fool and will say or act so and mock you and the wisdom you have spoken to them.
- They will be outraged at you “confusing” them since they cannot understand what you said. And denunciation will not be far behind.
- They will especially hate the esoteric truth that is the basis for disciplines, especially in diet and abstinence from harmful things such as alcohol, nicotine and mind-affecting substances.
- They will pretend to accept what you say, but twist and pervert the truth you told them. For example, one fool claimed that the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita (2:19), “Some say this Atman is slain, and others call It the slayer: they know nothing. How can It slay or who shall slay It?” meant that abortion was not an act of murder. One man said to me several times, “I remember you once told me…,” and then proceeded to say idiotic and outrageous things which I never thought or said in my life. The purpose of these fools? To take vengeance on you for telling them the truth. Remember: they may be fools, but that does not mean they are not also cunningly intelligent. And evil.
Read the first article in The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari: Author’s Preface
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