To learn the scriptures is easy

by Lalla

English version by Coleman Barks
Original Language Kashmiri

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them, hard.
The search for the Real
is no simple matter.

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.
Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.

-- from Naked Song, by Lalla / Translated by Coleman Barks

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Ivan steps up on his soapbox for a moment...

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them, hard.


Too often people slip into the bad habit of fundamentalism, confusing the ability to quote scripture and rules with actually embodying truth in their daily lives. Memorization and carefully controlled behavior doesn't do the job. It keeps things safely in the intellect and then we never have to truly confront the heart's urge to open.

But Lalla reminds us:

The search for the Real
is no simple matter.


Not only is it not simple, it's messy too. We are confronted by aspects of ourselves that are frightening and frightened, hidden even from our own awareness. History, hopes, angers, ambitions...

Each human life is far too rich and multi-layered to be truncated into the safe, neat, predefined stories we are told to live out. The human soul is not a cartoon, without depth or detail. No, a full spirituality incorporates all that we are. To be holy is to be whole -- nothing left out. The map of the human soul is a topographical map, with mountains and valleys, and rivers of life everywhere. Until we've acknowledged that entire landscape, we only have an incomplete sense of all that we are, and all that humanity is -- that's when compassion collapses, the world appears fragmented, and the vision of Real is lost in the cracks.

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.


After learning the scriptures, Lalla has swept her mental space clean. Now that's real work! Instead of just memorizing the words of scripture, she has become the blank page that effortlessly displays them.

Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.



Recommended Books: Lalla

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty I Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded Naked Song The Ascent of Self: A Reinterpretation of the Mystical Poetry of Lalla-Ded
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To learn the