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Reading and Writing Poetry as Practice in Buddhism and Islam
Dates: Jun 03, 2021 - Jun 06, 2021
Online Course

Instructor(s): William Edelglass, Amer Latif

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Over many centuries of living together, in South and Central Asia, Buddhists and Muslims often found themselves in dialogue, learning and growing from their encounter with each other. They shared the view that the nature of uncreated reality –the dharma, the haqiqa– is beyond the limits of thought and language, even as Buddhist and Islamic poets never cease describing their understandings. And they shared the concern that focusing on one’s self could be a hindrance on the path to freedom and joy, even as Buddhist and Islamic poets never cease describing their individual experiences of walking the path. Great Buddhist teachers of wisdom, such as Nagarjuna, Śāntideva, Tsongkhapa, and Dōgen, like great Muslim teachers of wisdom, such as Rumi, Ibn al-‘Arabi, ‘Attar, and ibn al-Farid, wrote poetry expressing their sense of devotion and wonder that moves their readers beyond the limits of reason. Poetry and song were at the heart of many Buddhist and Islamic traditions, where the beautiful play of language was cultivated as a practice. This retreat will be devoted to the careful and collaborative reading of Buddhist and Islamic poetry and the exploration of the shared themes of spiritual friendship, faith, gratitude, and the world as it appears to awakened perception in selected poems. We will attend to these poems as works of art, historical documents, Dharma/haqiqa teachings, and personal expressions of the challenges and refuge of the path. Throughout, we will also write our own Dharma poems, inspired and informed by the poetry and practices we explore together, giving voice to our own experience and insight.  

As we work to become a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming; please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.


Online Study Retreat: This study retreat will be hosted on the Zoom video conferencing platform and closed captions are available. Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and with teachers in our online retreats. Please plan to attend as many sessions as possible. The schedule of Zoom meetings for this retreat (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:


Thursday, June 3

6:00 – 9:00 pm: Opening Session


Friday, June 4 – Saturday, June 5

8:30 - 9:00 am: optional meditation

9:30 am – 12:30 pm: Morning Session

6:00 – 9:00 pm: Evening Session


Sunday, June 6

8:30 - 9:00 am: optional meditation

9:30 am – 12:30 pm: Closing Session


Please check the time of the group meetings in your timezone here, and please note that sessions will not be recorded.


Registration fees for online study retreats are nonrefundable after the study retreat start date. Cancellations prior to the start date of the study retreat will incur a $25 admin fee. Thank you for your understanding.


  • William Edelglass is Director of Studies at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. He is a scholar who has practiced in several Buddhist traditions. In addition to teaching at dharma centers, William taught in a federal prison in New York, as a wilderness guide for many years, and at the Institute for Buddhist Dialectics, in Dharamsala, India. William is co-editor of Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings, the Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy, and Facing Nature: Levinas and Environmental Thought.

  • Amer Latif is an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in comparative religion and Islamic studies. He is particularly interested in the role of poetry, music, and ritual in religious practice.  He has published translations of the poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth century Muslim saint, and is a student of the ney, the traditional reed flute associated with Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes.  Having grown up in Pakistan and with an undergraduate degree in physics, Amer thrives on studying and creating containers that are capacious enough to hold seeming contradictions such as science and religion, East and West, scholar and practitioner. Amer holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies from Stony Brook University and is Associate Professor of religious studies at the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College.


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