The Writter : Kelana Patria (Mahasiswi Oxford University)
To say that we underestimate this world could be the biggest understatement of all time. But we have to start somewhere. For a lot of people, life is mostly about struggle – it’s something to be ‘gotten through’, with only brief moments of light or happiness. Or else, there’s a quality of ‘nothing special’ about it, with no feeling one way or another.
The tragedy of course is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a few other people who tell us that, far from being a burden, this life is something to be celebrated. There are people who say this world is Divine – that it can be an unending source of wonder and joy. What do you think?
People usually don’t see it this way, and so they take advantage of each other, they prey on each other, or else they waste time, or feel bored, or dissatisfied. This is all so common.
In contrast to the way most people experience this world, there are those who have found a deep source of nourishment in this life, such that everything they say, and everything they do comes out of that joy. Such people over the years have been called ‘mystics’.
The 13th century Persian teacher and poet, Jelaludin Rumi was one such person who was able to offer the world an inspiring vision, along with guidance and encouragement. He tells us:
“Every object and being in the universe is
a jar overflowing with wisdom and beauty,
a drop of the Tigris that cannot be contained by any skin.
Every jarful spills and makes the earth more shining,
as though covered in satin…”
And he says:
“Make peace with the universe. Take joy in it.
It will turn to gold. Resurrection
will be now. Every moment,
a new beauty.”
“Human beings are mines.
World-power means nothing. Only the unsayable,
jeweled inner life matters…”
“A man sleeps heavily,
though something blazes in him like the sun,
like a magnificent fringe sewn up under the hem…”
The Life of Rumi
Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi was born 1207, in what is now Afghanistan. As a child, Rumi’s family traveled and settled in Turkey. Rumi succeeded his father as a Muslim teacher. Then, when he was 37 years old, Rumi met a mystic named Shams-I-Tabriz, and the two formed a deep spiritual relationship. Rumi’s students, it’s told, were jealous, and Shams disappeared, apparently killed out of jealousy.
Rumi grieved for his loss, having seen the Divine in Shams, or we can say having seen Shams as God, and as a doorway, to further understanding the mysteries of this life. In his grief, Rumi created the Turning Dance (called ’Whirling’) that is still a part of the Sufi Tradition today. The turning represents the search for Truth, the Beloved, the Divine, or God.
The Sufis are the mystics of Islam. The Sufi Path is sometimes called ‘The Path of Love’, or ‘The Way of Passion’, as love is such a strong element in their search for Truth, in their way of life, and their teaching.
Although they have much in common with Orthodox Muslim Traditions, the Sufis are also unique in some ways. They are not only looking for an intellectual understanding of the Divine – they aim for personal experience, and for union with this deep Truth, or with God.
Another feature that stands out is that the Sufi’s love, for God, for the Divine, or for this life is often expressed in earthy, sensual language, like a lover speaking or writing to his beloved. And so their writing moves from the experiences of longing, to the joy at being touched, to those of fulfillment.
“I want this music and this dawn
and the warmth of your cheek against mine”
“Who is the luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed.
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music.
All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only
of this chance. They sway in the canebreaks,
free in the many ways they dance.
Without you the instruments would die.
One sits close beside you. Another takes a long kiss.
The tambourine begs, Touch my skin so I can be myself.
Let me feel you enter each limb bone by bone,
so that what died last night can be whole today.
Why live some soberer way and feel you ebbing out?
I won’t do it.
Either give me enough wine or leave me alone,
now that I know how it is
to be with you in constant conversation.”
“In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.”
In the translations that have reached the West, there are included many teaching stories that are meant to guide people to living more deeply. In addition to being beautifully expressed, there is a whole way of life described in these writings.
Rumi describes how we can grow and develop as individuals, how we can learn to see, and to live more authentic lives; how we can find fulfillment. He describes many of the processes and obstacles that are a part of life – often in a humorous way, but always with compassion and respect for his listeners.
Quotes from Rumi:
Don’t ask what love can make, or can do.
Look at the colors of the world!
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty, and scared.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument and start to play.
Let the beauty you love be what you do.
There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Respond to every call that excites your spirit
The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt
is the patience it contains.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull
of what you really love
When you do things from your soul, a river moves though you,
Freshness and a deep joy are the signs…
Be concentrated, and leonine
in the hunt for what is your true nourishment
Let body needs dwindle and
soul decisions increase
Diminish what you give your physical self.
Your spiritual eye will begin to open.
Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.
From an embryo, whose nourishment
comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter after more invisible game.
Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say, “The world is vast and intricate.
There are wheat fields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.
At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.”
You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up
in the dark with eyes closed.
Listen to the answer:
“There is no ‘other world’.
I only know what I’ve experienced.
You must be hallucinating.”
The soul at dawn is like darkened water
that slowly begins to say Thank you, thank you.
When you feel gloomed over,
it’s your failure to praise. Irreverence
and no discipline rob your soul of light.
Awe is the salve
that will heal our eyes.
Don’t ever feel sorry for someone
who wants to be the sun, that other sun,
the one that makes rotten things fresh.
Make your loving clearer and clearer
No wantings, no anger. In that purity
you can receive and reflect the images of every moment,
from here, from the stars…
There is one righteousness:
Water the fruit trees,
and don’t water the thorns. Be generous
to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous
A Basket of Fresh Bread
The Prophet Muhammad said,
“There is no better companion
on this Way than what you do. Your actions will be
your best friend, or if you’re cruel and selfish,
your actions will be a poisonous snake
that lives in your grave.”
But tell me,
can you do the good work without a teacher?
Can you even know what it is without the presence
of a Master? Notice how the lowest livelihood
requires some instruction.
First comes knowledge,
then the doing of the job. And much later,
perhaps after you’re dead, something grows
from what you’ve done.
Look for help and guidance
in whatever craft you’re learning. Look for a generous
teacher, one who has absorbed the tradition he’s in.
Look for pearls in oyster shells.
Learn technical skill from a craftsman.
Whenever you meet genuine spiritual teachers,
be gentle and polite and fair with them.
Ask them questions, and be eager
for answers. Never condescend.
If a master tanner wears an old, threadbare smock,
that doesn’t diminish his mastery.
If a fine blacksmith works at the bellows
in a patched apron, it doesn’t affect
how he bends the iron.
Strip away your pride,
and put on humble clothes.
If you want to learn theory,
talk with theoreticians. That way is oral.
When you learn a craft, practice it.
That learning comes through the hands.
If you want dervishood, spiritual poverty,
and emptiness, you must be friends with a sheikh.
The mystery of spiritual emptiness
may be living in a pilgrim’s heart, and yet
the knowing of it may not be his.
Wait for the illuminating openness,
as though your chest were filling with Light,
as when God said,
Did we not expand you?
Don’t look for it outside yourself.
You are the source of milk. Don’t milk others!
There is a milk-fountain inside you.
Don’t walk around with an empty bucket.
You have a channel into the Ocean, and yet
you ask for water from a little pool.
Beg for that love-expansion. Meditate only
on THAT. The Qur’an says,
And he is with you
There is a basket of fresh bread on your head,
and yet you go door to door asking for crusts.
Knock on your inner door. No other.
Sloshing kneedeep in fresh riverwater, yet
you keep wanting a drink from other people’s waterbags.
Water is everywhere around you, but you only see
barriers that keep you from water.
The horse is beneath the rider’s thighs, and still
he asks, Where is my horse?
“Right there, under you!”
Yes, this is a horse, but where’s the horse?
“Can’t you see!”
Yes, I can see, but whoever saw such a horse?
Mad with thirst, he can’t drink from the stream
running so close by his face. He’s like a pearl
on the deep bottom, wondering, inside his shell,
“Where’s the Ocean?”
His mental questionings
form the barrier. His physical eyesight
bandages his knowing. Self-consciousness
plugs his ears.
Stay bewildered in God,
and only that.
Those of you who are scattered,
simplify your worrying lives. There is one
righteousness: Water the fruit trees,
and don’t water the thorns. Be generous
to what nurtures the Spirit and God’s luminous
reason-light. Don’t honor what causes
dysentery and knotted-up tumors.
Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.
The spirit and the body carry different loads
and require different attentions.
we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey
run loose in the pasture.
Don’t make the body do
what the spirit does best, and don’t put a big load
on the spirit that the body could carry easily.
(Mathnawi, V, 1051-1094)
Some commentary on I was a hidden treasure,
and I desired to be known: tear down
this house. A hundred thousand new houses
can be built from the transparent yellow carnelian
buried beneath it, and the only way to get to that
is to do the work of demolishing and then
digging under the foundations. With that value
in hand all the new construction will be done
without effort. And anyway, sooner or later this house
will fall on its own. The jewel treasure will be
uncovered, but it won’t be yours then. The buried
wealth is your pay for doing the demolition,
the pick and shovel work. If you wait and just
let it happen, you’ll bite your hand and say,
“I didn’t do as I knew I should have.” This
is a rented house. You don’t own the deed.
You have a lease, and you’ve set up a little shop,
where you barely make a living sewing patches
on torn clothing. Yet only a few feet underneath
are two veins, pure red and bright gold carnelian.
Quick! Take the pickaxe and pry the foundation.
You’ve got to quit this seamstress work.
What does the patch-sewing mean, you ask. Eating
and drinking. The heavy cloak of the body
is always getting torn. You patch it with food,
and other restless ego-satisfactions. Rip up
one board from the shop floor and look into
the basement. You’ll see two glints in the dirt.
At breakfast tea a beloved asked her lover,
“Who do you love more, yourself or me?”
From my head to my foot, I have become you.
Nothing remains of myself but my name.
You have your wish. Only you exist.
I’ve disappeared like a drop of vinegar in an ocean of honey.
A stone, which has become a ruby
is filled with the qualities of the sun.
No stoniness remains in it.
If it loves itself, it is loving the sun.
and if it loves the sun, it is loving itself.
There’s no difference between these two loves.
Before the stone becomes the ruby it is its own enemy.
Not one but two exist. The stone is dark and blind to daylight.
If it loves itself it is unfaithful. It intensely resists the sun.
If it says “I” it is all darkness.
A Pharaoh claims divinity and is brought down.
Hallaj says the same and is saved.
One I is cursed, another is blessed.
One I is a stone, another a crystal.
One an enemy of the light, the other a reflector of it.
In its inmost consciousness, not through any doctrine,
it is one with the light.
Work on your stony qualities and become resplendent like the ruby.
Practice self-denial and accept difficulty.
Always see infinite life in letting the self die.
Your stoniness will decrease, your ruby nature will grow.
The signs of self-existence will leave your body
and ecstasy will take you over.
Become an all-hearing ear and gain a ruby earring.
Dig a well in the earth of this body,
or even before the well is dug
let God draw the water up.
Be always at work scraping the dirt from the well.
To everyone who suffers, endeavor always brings its fortune.
The prophet has said each prostration of prayer
is a knock at heaven’s door.
When anyone continues to knock
felicity shows its smiling face.
my dear friend
never lose hope
when the beloved
sends you away
if you’re abandoned
if you’re left hopeless
tomorrow for sure
you’ll be called again
if the door is shut
right in your face
keep waiting with patience
don’t leave right away
seeing your patience
your love will soon
summon you with grace
raise you like a champion
and if all the roads
end up in dead ends
you’ll be shown the secret paths
no one will comprehend
the beloved i know
will give with no qualms
to a puny ant
the kingdom of Solomon
my heart has journeyed
many times around the world
but has never found
and will never find
such a beloved again
ah i better keep silence
i know this endless love
will surely arrive for you and you and you
Jalaluddin Rumi. 1994. Al-matsna Al-maknawi. Beirut.
Demingos Stoe. 2005. The History Of Jalaluddin Al-rumi. London : The Macmilan Company.