Life Unscripted: Daniel Ladinsky sits down with Betsy Chasse to talk about Rumi, Hafiz, and his journey as a book author
I was first introduced to the Sufi poet Hafiz in a yoga class. I can’t even remember to poem the teacher read, but it spoke to me, and I immediately sought out this Hafiz guy. I came across The Gift by Hafiz and someone named Daniel Ladinsky. Of the many wonderful poems in the book, one grabbed me:
What do sad people have in common?
It seems that have all built a shrine to the past
And often go there and do a strange wail
What is the beginning of happiness?
To stop being so religious like that.
Brilliant, straightforward and spot on . . . I mean, doesn’t that just sum up the whole spiritual journey? Stop living in the past, let go of your beliefs about what you think IS and live in the moment? It was both stern and a little bit cheeky, but could a guy living in the 1300s really write that? I expected something much more esoteric and flowery, and well, you know, 1300s-like.
Hafiz is a 14th century Persian poet whose works are highly regarded in Persian literature, used in songs, and portrayed in art. He is a legend. His poems are memorized by Persians in most Iranian homes, even today.
Hafiz was also a rebel, wanting his people to be lifted up from ignorance and tyranny. At one point, the powers that be wanted to erase him from history, but his words so profoundly touched and inspired the people, that his legacy has lived on for centuries.
The Gift was translated by Daniel Ladinsky, and I reached out to him to obtain permission to use the poem in my book. Daniel, like Hafiz, has a rebellious side, mixed in with a knack for making you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. He agreed to let me use the poem, and I invited him to LA to get to know the man behind some of the world’s most beloved poems and poets.
My first impression of Daniel is of a rugged mountain man with a twinkle in his eye that says, “Maybe don’t take everything I say so seriously, but then again maybe you should.” Daniel is every bit of what I expected who brings Rumi and Hafiz to life, all three can leave you breathless and on your knees with a giggle in your heart.
I learned that he was inspired by the mystery of God and mysticism at an early age, having had his first mystical experience by the time he was five. He suffered with severe stuttering as a child, which sent him deep within, shying away from the outer world. Daniel made his way through a special school and eventually to college where he spent most of his time alone in the desert in search of that God he once met as a child.
On one of his adventures, he came across the book God Speaks by Meher Baba, who would eventually lead him to Rumi and Hafiz. That book, which, at first, left him more baffled than enlightened, sent him on a quest that started a the Mexican border, landed him in South Carolina, then to India (with the intimate disciples and family of Avatar Meher Baba), and into our hearts through his translations of Rumi and Hafiz and other poet-saints. Watch our interview to discover what caused Daniel to make a left turn at the border.
Daniel Ladinsky is one of the most successful writers in the world who works with poetry. Ladinsky’s six books are all in print with Penguin: A Year With Hafiz, The Gift, Love Poems From God, The Subject Tonight Is Love, I Heard God Laughing and his most recent Rumi collection, The Purity of Desire.
Follow Daniel Ladinsky on Twitter @cowgirlhaiku and watch for his YouTube Channel.
Betsy is an author (Tipping Sacred Cows, Metanoia- A Transformative Change of Heart, and books related to her film What The Bleep Do We Know?. She has produced other award-winning documentaries, including Song of the New Earth and Pregnant In America. She is currently in production on a new film, The Empty Womb — An exploration in the creative potential of the masculine and feminine. Betsychasse.net