One Thread Onlyby Bulleh Shah
English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Punjabi
One thread, one thread only!
Warp and woof, quill and shuttle,
countless cloths and colors,
a thousand hanks and skeins --
with ten thousand names
ten thousand places.
But there is one thread only.
|-- from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger|
/ Image by barb.howe /
Think about this image Bulleh Shah has given us: I imagine a great loom, with colored yarn feeding into it from all direction, the shuttle shooting back and forth, producing a highway of cloth in dazzling patterns and colors.
But obviously Bulleh Shah is talking about more than cloth. When he refers to "ten thousand names / ten thousand places," we recognize he is actually talking about the entire world, the whole universe. Bulleh Shah is telling us that, underlying the endless variety and design of the universe, it is all fundamentally one, made of the same single material.
We look at a multicolored cloth and see green in one part and red in another, and we see them as different. The mind names them "green" and "red," and separates them into different categories. We've mentally taken our shears and cut up the cloth -- and we then see two where there is, in fact, only one.
It requires a delicate balance of perception to appreciate the endless variety of existence, but without mentally losing sight of the whole. Most of us learn to pull it apart into separate swatches. It is only in the interrelated patterns spread wide across the whole cloth that we witness the grand beauty of the design.