Chaikhana, Bolo Hauz, Bukhara
In my experience, those who meditate regularly over a long period of time develop a different perspective. There is less boxed-in thinking because the process of meditation breaks down conditioned thinking. Spiritual poetry goes beyond culture and religion to a universal space that we all share, if we have the vision to realize this.
So when I stumbled upon Poetry Chaikhana, it was sheer joy to “meet” someone who read the poems in a different light, well beyond the conventional light. And Ivan Granger has built a cyber treasure trove of poems with his special commentary to help trigger one’s own internal vision. But first a word about chaikhana. Feel free to make yourself a cup of steaming tea, settle comfortably, and read on. We are the most receptive and open when we are relaxed.
A chaikhana is a tea house in Central Asia. These typically lined the overland Silk Route (that connected Europe to China) and were resting places for caravans and weary travelers. But they were not like the places we have along highways where we eat, fill gas, and run. Chaikhanas served more like the local English pubs which provide a place for a community to come together. There is food, often shelter, and always a place to be with others. Entertainment was provided through story telling and poems. This also created a space for a tremendous exchange of ideas across cultures.
Poetry Chaikhana’s home page states:
Poetry Chaikhana joyfully shares the sacred poetry of cultures, religions, and spiritual traditions from around the world…..As you explore the Poetry Chaikhana, notice the similarity of experience and unity of heart described by Christian saints, Sufi shaikhs, and Hindu mahatmas. While we must cherish the differences within each tradition, those who believe that there is something fundamentally irreconcilable between the spiritual traditions of the world are trapped in misunderstanding and have not yet touched the heart of their own tradition.
It takes a special vision, often obtained through years of training in meditation to see what Ivan sees. Curious to know more, I reached out to him via e-mail. What was his background?
It was no surprise to read that Ivan has been intensely interested in questions of spirituality and the deeper meaning of life since early childhood. He did not follow a single path or teacher although he studied with a few over the years–primarily in the traditions of yoga and esoteric Christianity. Books, teachers, and saints from many traditions have also been great sources of inspiration.
A little over ten years ago, life with his wife in Maui became a period of intense spiritual practice. Ivan meditated extensively in the forests of Maui and fasted. But in many ways he was lost. He felt he had no real life direction, no sense of career, and wasn’t sure where the spiritual practice was leading him. Fortuitously, he purchased a copy of sayings by Ramana Maharshi, read the first page and — POW! All sense of himself just disappeared. All thoughts stopped. His entire awareness was permeated with a sense of bliss and expanding love. Everything seemed insubstantial, unreal, but permeated with a living, flowing light. Ivan felt as if he was drinking the most sweet and subtle drink that was flowing down the back of his throat, something he had never heard of before.
In his own words:
I began to keep a private journal, but I was frustrated with the inability of descriptive language to express what I was witness to, so I started to write poetry. I also started to read poetry, the works of the great Sufi and Hindu poets, the poems of Medieval Christian mystics, and Buddhist masters. I realized that there was a rich language in these poems that was not being widely discussed by the academics and translators who made them available in English. All over the world, mystics write poems of wine and honey, of a death that is also life, of a scintillating light like the full moon that permeates all of creation. And this poetry was wonderfully free from dogma and sectarianism. That’s when I decided to create the Poetry Chaikhana, as a way to help people understand that there is more to the poetry of mystics than pretty imagery, that something very real is being described, and that something is a universal, not unique to one religion or spiritual tradition.
And so here we are today….
I hope that Poetry Chaikhana will be a frequent place of rest, inspiration, and wisdom for the readers of this blog.