The Soul of Rumi*
The Big Red Book
by Coleman Barks
Three Travellers Tell Their Dreams
Three devout men of different religions fall in together
by chance traveling. They stop
at a caravanserai* where the host brings as a gift a sweet
dessert, some taste of God's
nearness. This is how people out in the country serve
strangers. The Jew and
the Christian are full, but the Muslim has been fasting all
day. The two say, "Lets
save it for tomorrow." The one, "No. Let's save self-denial
for tomorrow!" "You want it
all for yourself!" "Divide it into three parts, and each can
do as he wants." "Ah,
but Mohammad said not to share." "That was about dividing
yourself between sensuality
and soul. You must belong to the one or the other." But finally
for some reason, he gives in,
"I'll do it your way." They refrain from tasting. They sleep,
and then wake and dress themselves
to begin morning devotions. Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman,
Zoroastrian, stone, ground,
mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the
mystery, unique and not to be
judged. This subject never ends! Three friends in a grand
morning mood. "Let us tell
what dreams we had last night; whoever has had the deepest
dreams, gets the halvah**."
Agreed. The Jewish man begins the wanderings of his soul.
"Moses met me on the road;
I followed him to Sinai: an opening door, light within
light. Mount Sinai and Moses and
I merged in an exploding splendor, the unity of the prophets!"
This is a true dream. Many
Jews have such. Then the Christian sighs, "Christ took me
in his arms to the fourth
heaven, a pure vast region... I cannot say..." His also
deep. The Muslim, "Muhammad came
and told me where you two had gone. 'You wretch!' he said,
'You've been left behind! You
may as well get up and eat something.'" "Noooo!" laugh the
Christian and the Jew. "How
could I disobey such glory? Would you not do as Moses and
Jesus suggest?" "You're right,"
they say. "Yours is the truest dream, because it had immediate
effect in your waking life."
What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.
* caravanserai: an inn surrounding a court in eastern countries where caravans rest at night
** halvah: a flaky confection of crushed sesame seeds in a base of syrup (as of honey)
She Is The Creator
There is a tradition that Muhammad said, "A wise man
will listen and be led by
a woman, while an ignorant man will not." Someone too
fiercely drawn by animal
urges lacks kindness and the gentle affections
that keep men human.
Anger and sharp desiring are animal qualities. A
loving tenderness toward
women shows someone no longer pulled along by wanting.
The core of the feminine
comes directly as a ray of the sun. Not the earthly
figure you hear about in
love songs; there're more to her mystery than that. You
might say she's not from
the manifest world at all, but the creator of it.
Note: I want to contrast this hadith about Muhammad with verses from the Koran and other hadiths
that depict women as "naturally, morally and religiously " defective. See my page on Islam. To me this is living proof that the Koran has been altered and hadiths manufactured or misquoted for political reasons. My theory is that Mohammad was a prophet and a true human being, but misunderstood and misquoted by his subsequent followers. The other possibility is that these are Satanic Verses.
There was a man breaking up the
ground, getting ready to plant, when
another man came by, "Why are you ruining this land?" "Don't
interfere. Nothing can grow here
until the earth is turned over and crumpled. There can be no
roses and no orchard without
first this devastation. You must lance an ulcer to heal it.
You must tear down parts of
an old building to restore it." So it is with a sensual life
that has no spirit. A person must
face the dragon if his or her appetites with another dragon, the
life enrgy of the soul. When
that's not strong, everyone seems to be full of fear
and wanting, as one thinks
the room is spinning when one is whirling around. If your love
has contracted into anger, the
atmosphere itself feels threatening, but when you're
expansive and clear, no matter
what the weather, you're in an open windy field with friends.
Many people travel as far as Syria
and Iraq and meet only hypocrites. Others go all the way to
India and see only people buying and selling.
Others travel to Turkestan and China to discover those
countries are full of cheats
and sneak thieves. You always see the qualities that live
in you. A cow may walk
through the amazing city of Baghdad and notice only
a watermelon rind and a tuft of hay
that fell off a wagon. Don't repeatedly keep doing what your
lowest self wants. That's like
deciding to be a strip of meat nailed to dry on a board
in the sun.
How Attraction Happens
Moses is talking to someone drunk with worshiping the golden
calf. "What happened to your
doubt? You used to be sceptical of me. The Red Sea parted.
Food came every day in the
wilderness for forty years. A fountain sprang out of a rock.
You saw these things
and still reject the idea of prophethood. Then the magician
Samiri does a trick to make
the metal cow low, and immediately you kneel! What did that
hollow statue say? Have you
heard a dullness like your own?" This is how attraction
happends: people with nothing
they value delight in worthlessness. Someone who thinks
there's no meaning or purpose
feels drawn to images of futility. Each moves to be with
its own. The ox does not turn
toward a lion. Wolves have no interest in Joseph, unless
to devour him. But if a wolf
is cured if wolfishness, it will sleep close by Joseph,
like a dog in the presence of
meditators. Soul companionship gives safety and light
to a cave full of friends.
Pain comes from seeing how arrogant you've been, and
pain brings you out of this
conceit. A child cannot be born until the mother has pain.
You are pregnant with real
trust. The words of the prophets and saints are midwives
that help, but first you must feel
pain. To be without pain is to use the first person wrongly.
"I" am this. "I" am that.
"I" am God, like al-Hallaj, who waited till that was true to
say it. "I" at the wrong
time brings a curse. "I" at the right time gives a blessing.
If a rooster crows early,
when it's still dark, he must have his head cut off. What is
this beheading? As one might
extract a scorpion's sting to save it, or a snake's venom to
keep it from being stoned,
headlessness comes from your cleansing connection to
a teacher. Hold to
a true sheikh. Strength will come. Your strength is his
gathering you closer. Soul
of the soul od the soul, moment to moment, hope to draw breath
from that one. No matter
how long you've been apart. That presence has no separation
in it. Do you want to understand
more about this friendship? Read the sura called Daybreak.
Note: Read this story by Hanh about the Buddha's Heart Sutra.
The Husk and Core of Masculinity
Masculinity has a core of clarity, which does not act
from anger or greed or
sensuality, and a husk which does. The virile center
that listens within takes
pleasure in obeying that truth. Nobility of spirit,
the true spontaneous energy
of your life, comes as you abandon other motives and move
only when you feel the majesty
that commands and is the delight of the self. Remember
Ayaz crushing that king's pearl!
Excerpt from Coleman Barks's
Rumi - The Book of Love
Imra'u 'l-Qays4, king of the Arabs,
was very handsome and a poet full of songs.
Women loved him desperately. Everyone loved him,
but there came one night an experience
that changed him completely.
he left his kingdom and his family.
he put on dervish robes and wandered
from one weather, one landscape, to another.
Love dissolved his king-self and led him to Tabuk,
where he worked for a time making bricks.
Someone told the king of Tabuk about Imra'u 'l-Qays,
and that king came to visit him at night.
"King of the Arabs, handsome Joseph of this age,
ruler of two empires, one composed of territories,
and the other of the beauty of women,
if you would consent to stay with me,
I would be honored. You abandon kingdoms,
because you want more than kingdoms."
The king of Tabuk5 went on line this, praising
Imra'u 'l-Qays and talking theology and philosophy.
Imra'u 'l-Qays kept silent.
Then suddenly he leaned and whispered something
in the second king's ear, and that second
king became a wild wanderer too.
They walked out of town hand in hand,
no royal belts, no thrones.
This is what love does and continues to do.
It tastes like honey to adults and milk to children.
Love is the last thirty-pound bale.
When you load it on, the boat tips over.
So they wandered around China like birds
pecking at bits of grain. They rarely spoke
because of the dangerous seriousness
of the secret they knew.
That love-secret spoken pleasantly - or irritation -
servers a hundred thousand heads in one swing.
A love-lion grazes in the soul's pasture,
while the scimitar of this secret approaches.
It's a killing better than any living.
All that world-power wants, really,
is this weakness.
So these kings talk in low tones,
and carefully. Only God knows what they say.
They use unsayable words. Bird language.
But some people have imitated them, learned
a few birdcalls, and gotten prestigious.
4 Imra'u 'l-Qays: (died ca. A.D. 540) is considered the best pre-Islamic poet in Arabic. He is credited
with being the first in that tradition to catch the reader's attention by referring at the benginning
of a poem to a lost love.
Tabuk5: City in Saudi Arabia
When Words Are Tinged With Lying -
from Rumi - The Book of Love by Coleman Barks
Muhammad gave this indication of how to know
what's real. "When you feel
a peaceful joy, you're near the truth.
Unquiet and off center, jealous or greedy,
then what you do seems pretentious
and those around you insincere.
Speak the clearest truth you know,
and let the uneasiness heal."
When words are tinged with lying,
they're like water dripping into an oil lamp.
The wick won't light, and the pleasure
of your love room will diminish.
What sort of person says that he or she wants
to be polished and pure, then complains
about being handled roughly?
Love is a lawsuit where harsh evidence
must be brought in. To settle the case,
the judge must see the evidence.
You've heard that every buried treasure
has a snake guarding it.
Kiss the snake to discover the treasure!
Don't run from those who scold,
and don't turn away from cleansing conflict,
or you will remain weak.
The young seeker wonders, How could a teacher
lie with that woman! Can a guide agree
with a thief?
Suddenly Sheikh Kharraqani appears, riding a lion,
firewood stacked behind him. His whip,
a live serpent. Every master rides a fierce lion,
whether you see it or not. Know this
with your other eyes: There are thousands of lions
under your teacher's thighs and all of them
stacked with wood!
Kharraqani knew the problem and immediately
began to answer, "Well, it's not out of desire
that I put up with her! Don't think that.
It's not her perfume or bright-colored robes.
Enduring her public disdain has made me strong
and patient. She is my practice.
Nothing can be clear without a polar opposite
present. Two banners, one black, one white,
and between them something gets settled.
Between Pharaoh and Moses,
the Red Sea."
6Kharraqani: Kharraqani (d. 1034) is one of those Sufis who have no visible teacher.
"I am amazed at those who declare that they require this or that master. You are well aware
that i have never been taught by any man. God was my guide, though I have the greatest
respect for all the masters." Others in this line are Attar of Nashipur, who was guided by the being of light
of Hallaj Mansour, and Ibn Arabi, who was a disciple of Khidr, the invisible master of those who are masterless! Khidr's "guidance" does not consist of leading all uniformly to the same goal. Khidr helps one attain to the Khidr of one;s individual being, the spring of life, the esoteric truth that frees one from literal religion.
Kharraqani says, "Each person is oriented toward a quest for his personal guide, or he entrusts
himself to the collective, magisterial authority as the intermediary between himself and revelation."
An empty mirror and your worst destructive habits,
when they are held up to each other,
that's when the real making begins.
That's what art and crafting are.
A tailor needs a torn garment to practice his expertise.
The trunks of trees must be cut and cut again
so they can be used for fine carpentry.
Your doctor must have a broken leg to doctor.
Your defects are the ways that glory gets manifested.
Moses and The Sheperd
Moses heard a shepherd on the road praying,
where are you? I want to help you, to fix your shoes
and comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes
and pick the lice off. I want to bring you milk
and kiss your little hands and feet when it's time
for you to go to bed. I want to sweep your room
and keep it neat. God, my sheep and goats are yours.
All I can say remembering you is aaayyyyyyy
Moses would stand it no longer.
"Who are you talking to?
"The one who made us and made
the earth and the sky."
"Dont' talk about shoes and socks with God! And what's this with your little
hands? Such blasphemous familiarity sounds like
you're chatting with your uncles. Only something
that grows needs milk. Only someone with feet
needs shoes. Not God!"
The shepherd repented
and tore his clothes and wandered out into
the desert. A sudden revelation came to Moses:
You have separated me from one of my own.
Did you come as a prophet to unite or to sever?
I have given each a separate and unique way
of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.
What seems wrong to you is right for him.
What is poison to one is honey to someone else.
Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
these mean nothing to me. I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshiping are not to be ranked as better
or worse. Hindus do Hindu things. The Dravidian
Muslims in India do what they do. It's all praise,
and it's all right. I am not glorified in acts
or worship. It's the worshipers! I don't hear
the words they say. I look inside at the humility.
That broken-open lowliness is the reality. Forget
phraseology! I want burning, burning. Be friends
with your burning. Those who pay attention to ways
of behaving and speaking are one sort. Lovers who
burn are another. Don't impose a property tax
on a burned-out village. Don't scold the lover.
The "wrong" way he talks is better than a hundred
"right" ways of others.
Inside the Ka'aba
it doesn't matter which way you point
your prayer rug!
The ocean diver doesn't need snowshoes!
The love-religion has no code or doctrine.
So the ruby has nothing engraved on it!
It doesn't need markings.
God began speaking
deeper mysteries to Moses, vision and words,
which cannot be recorded here. Moses left himself
and came back. He went to eternity and came
back here. Many times this happened.
It's foolish of me to try and say this. If I did say it
it would uproot human intelligence.
Moses ran after the shepherd, following the bewildered
in one place moving like a castle
across a chessboard. In another, sideways,
like a bishop.
Now surging like a wave cresting,
now sliding down like a fish,
with always his feet
making geomancy symbols in the sand,
recording his wandering state.
Moses finally caught up with him.
"I was wrong. God has revealed to me that there are
no rules for worship. Say whatever and however
your loving tells you to.
Your sweetest blasphemy
is the truest devotion. Through you a whole world
Loosen your tongue and don't worry
what comes out. It's all the light of the spirit."
The shepherd replied, "Moses, Moses,
I've gone beyond even that.
You applied the whip,
and my horse shied and jumped out of itself.
The divine nature and my human nature came together.
Bless your scolding hand.
I can't say what has happened.
What I'm saying now is not my real condition.
It can't be said."
The shepherd grew quiet.
When you look in a mirror, you see yourself,
not the state of the mirror.
The flute player
gives breath into the flute, and who makes the music?
The flute player!
Whenever you speak praise
or thanksgiving to God, it's always like
the dear shepherd's simplicity.
Who Makes These Changes?
Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and I find myself
chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.
I should be suspicious
of what I want.
Personal Note: This poem highlights Rumi's belief that human free will is an
illusion. Only Islam, letting go, surrender to God's will is true freedom. This also reinforces
the Buddhist teaching that the illusion of "separateness" or Western Duality is an
instrument of the devil. Man's condition seems like a man who is afraid of drowning
in an Ocean of Bliss that is surronding him. He thrashes, kicks, fights trying not to drown...
This illusion and the concomitant fear are constructs of the intellect. That is why Rumi teaches that
"the ladder to God is in your head - when you lower it below your feet. When you put it in the mud."
I marveled one day as a drunk/high English lass I was hanging out with told a story that the only time in her
life that she felt truely blissful was at an audition for a stripper job when she completely "Let go". A bystander
afterwards told her she had some sort of "halo" she said...
A Teacher's Pay
God has said Be Moderate with eating and drinking,
but never, Be Satisfied when taking in light.
God offers a teacher the treasures of the world,
and the teacher responds, "To be in love with God
and expect to be paid for it!" A servant wants
to be rewarded for what he does. A lover wants
only to be in love's presence, that ocean
whose depth will never be known.
from Ayaz and The King's Pearl
"Don't worry about forms. If someone
wants your horse, let him have it. Horses are for
hurrying ahead of others."
I find this line amazing. It basically puts a knife to the throat of the competitiveness of the world of ambition. It also reminds me of Jesus's sayings "If someone wants your robe, gtive them your tunic also" and "If someone asks you to walk a mile with them, go with them for two." In another place, Rumi likens the world of ambition
to a game of "King of The Hill". A child climbs a hill and claims that he is the king
for a little while - before another kid brings him down and does the same.
Hallaj said what he said and went to the origin
through the hole in the scaffold.
I cut a cap's worrth of cloth from his robe,
and it swamped over me head to foot.
Years ago I broke a branch of roses
from the top of his wall. A thorn from that
is still in my palm, working deeper.
From Hallaj, I learned to hunt lions,
but I became something hungrier than a lion.
I was a frisky colt. He broke me
with a quiet hand on the side of my head.
A person comes to him naked. It's cold.
There's a furn coat floating on the river.
"Jump in and get it," he says.
You dive in. You reach for the coat.
It reaches for you!
It's a live bear that has fallen in upstream,
drifting with the current.
"How long does it take!" Hallaj yells from the bank.
"Don't wait," you answer. "This coat
has decided to wear me home!"
A little part of a story, a hint.
Do you need long sermons on Hallaj?
7Hallaj: Al-Hallaj Mansour was martyred in Baghdad in 922 for saying, Ana'l Haqq, or
I am the truth. I am God.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Sufi masters are those whose spirits existed
before the world. Before the body,
they lived many lifetimes. Before seeds
went into the ground, they harvested wheat.
Before there was an ocean, they strung pearls.
While the great meeting was going on
about bringing human beings into existence,
they stood up to their chins in wisdom-water.
When some of the angels opposed creation,
the Sufi masters laughed and clapped
among themselves. Before materiality,
they knew what it was like to be trapped
inside matter. Before there was a night sky,
they saw Saturn. Before wheat grains,
they tasted bread. With no mind, they thought.
Immediate intuition to them is the simplest act,
what to others would be an epiphany. Much
of our thought is of the past or the future.
They're free of those. Before a mine is dug,
they judge coins. Before vineyards, they know
the excitements to come. In July they feel
December. In unbroken sunlight, they find
shade. In fana, the state where objects
dissolve, they recognize things and comment
rationally. The open sky drinks from their
circling cup. The sun wears the gold of their
generosity. When two of them meet, they
are no longer two. They are one and six
hundred thousand. The ocean waves are their
closest likeness, when wind makes from unity
the numerous. This happened to the sun and it
broke into rays through the window, into bodies.
The disc of the sun does exist, but if you see
only the ray bodies, you may have doubts.
The human-divine combinations are a oneness.
Plurality, the apparent separation into rays.
Friend, we're traveling together. Throw off
your tiredness. Let me show you one tiny spot
of the beauty that can't be spoken. I'm like
an ant that's gotten into the granary,
ludicrously happy, and trying to lug out
a grain that's way too big.
from The Prince of Kabul
Rumi - The Book of Love by Coleman Barks
"When you think your father is guilty
of an injustice, his face seems cruel.
Joseph, to the envious brothers, seems
dangerous. When you make peace
with your father, he will look peaceful.
The whole world is a forum for truth.
When someone does not feel grateful to that,
the forms appear to be as he feels.
They mirror his anger, his greed, his fear.
Make peace with the Universe.
Take joy in it. It will turn to gold.
Resurrection will be now. Every moment
a new beauty, and never any boredom."
Blasphemy and The Core
My soul keeps whispering, "Quickly,
be a wandering dervish, a salamander
sitting in its homefire. Walk about
watching the burning turn to roses.
As this love-secret we are both
blasphemy and the core of Islam.
Don't wait. The open plain is better
than any closing door. Ravens love
ruins and cemetery trees. They
can't help but fly there. For us
This day is friends sitting together
with silence shining in our faces."
I may be clapping my hands,
but I don't belong to a crowd of clappers.
Neither this nor that, I'm not part
of a group that loves flute music
or one that loves gambling or drinking wine.
Those who live in time, descended
from Adam, made from earth and water,
I'm not part of that.
Don't listen to what I say,
as though these words came from an inside
and went to an outside.
Your faces are very beautiful,
but they are wooden cages.
You had better run from me.
My words are fire.
I have nothing to do with being famous,
or making judgements, or feeling
full of shame. I borrow nothing.
I don't want anything from anybody.
I flow through human beings.
Love is my only companion.
I used to want buyers for my words.
Now I wish someone would buy me away from my words.
I've made a lot of charmingly profound images,
scenes with Abraham and his father Azar,
who was famous for icons.
I'm so tired of what I've been doing.
Then one image without form came,
and I quit.
Look for someone else to tend the shop.
I'm out of the image-making business.
Finally I know the freedom
A random image arrives. I scream,
"Get out!" It disintegrates.
Only the holder the flag fits into,
Note: This poem reminds me of the bumper sticker that I once saw in Los Angeles:
"Raise Flag - Close Mind".
To all you close-minded patriots singing "God Bless America"...
The Gazing House
On the night when you cross the street
from your shop and your house to the cemetary,
you'll hear me hailing you from inside
the open grave, and you'll realize
how we've always been together.
I am the clear consciousness core
of your being, the same in ecstacy
as in self-hating fatigue.
That night, when you escape the fear of the snakebite
and all irritation with the ants, you'll hear
my familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
smell the incense and the suprise meal fixed
by the lover inside all your other lovers.
This heart tumult is my signal to you igniting
in the tomb, so don't fuss with the shroud
and the graveyard road dust. Those get ripped
open and washed in the music of our meeting.
And don't look for me in a human shape!
I am inside your looking. No room for form
with love this strong.
Beat the drum and let
the poets speak. This is a day of purification
for those who are already mature and initiated
into what love is.
No need to wait until we die!
There's more to want here than money and being
famous and bites of roasted meat.
shall we call this new kind of gazing-house
that has opened in our town where people
sit quietly and pour out their glancing
like light, like answering?
The interpretation of a sacred text is true
if it stirs you to hope, activity and awe;
and if it makes you slacken your service, know the real truth to be this:
that it's a distortion of the sense of the saying, not a true interpretation.
This saying has come down to inspire you to serve -
that God may take the hands of those who have lost hope
and deliver them.
Ask the meaning of the Qu'ran from the Qu'ran alone,
and from that one who has set fire to his idle fancy and extinguished it,
and has become a sacrifice to the Qu'ran, bowing low in humbleness,
so that the Qu'ran has become the essence of his spirit.
That essential oil that has wholly devoted itself to the rose -
you can smell either that oil or the rose, as you please.
Mathnawi V, 3125-3130
from Jewels of Remebrance - Rumi, by Camille and Kabir Helminski
Seek God in self-abasement and in self-exctinction,
for nothing but forms is produced by thinking.
And if you derive no comfort except from form,
then the form that comes to birth within you involuntarily is best.
Suppose it is the form of a city to which you are going:
you are drawn there by a formless feeling of pleasure, O dependant one;
therefore you are really going to that which has no location,
for pleasure is something different from time and space.
Suppose it is the form of a friend to whom you would go:
you are going for the sake of enjoying his company;
therefore in reality you go to the formless world,
though you are unaware of that being the object of your journey.
In truth, then, God is worshipped by all,
since all wayfaring
is for the sake of the pleasure of which He is the source.
Mathnawi Book VI, v. 3749-3755
From Jewels of Remembrance - Rumi by Camille and Kabir Helminski
The Rider and the Man Who Swallowed a Snake
Once, a holy man,
riding his donkey, saw a snake crawling into
a sleeping man's mouth! He hurried, but he couldn't
prevent it. He hit the man several blows with his club.
The man woke terrified, and ran beneath an apple tree
with many rotten apples on the ground.
You miserable wretch! Eat!”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Eat more you fool.”
“I've never seen you before!
Who are you? Do you have some inner quarrel with my soul?”
The wise man kept forcing him to eat, and then he ran him.
For hours he whipped the poor man and made him run.
Finally at nightfall, full of rotten apples,
fatigued, bleeding, he fell
and vomited everything,
The good and the bad, the apples and the snake.
When he saw that ugly snake
come out of himself, he fell on his knees
before his assailant.
“Are you Gabriel? Are you God?
I bless the moment you first noticed me. I was dead
and didn't know it. You gave me new life.
Everything I've said to you was stupid!
I didn't know.”
“If I had explained what I was doing,
you might have panicked and died of fear.
‘If I described the enemy that lives
inside men, even the most courageous would be paralyzed. No one
would go out, or do any work. No one would pray or fast,
and all power to change would fade
from human beings,'
so I kept quiet
while I was beating you, that like David
I might shape iron, so that, impossibly,
I might put feathers back into a bird's wing.
God's silence is necessary, because of humankind's
faintheartedness. If I had told you about the snake,
you wouldn't have been able to eat, and if
you hadn't eaten, you wouldn't have vomited.
I saw your condition and drove my donkey hard
into the middle of it, saying always, under my breath,
‘Lord, make it easy on him' I wasn't permitted
to tell you, and I wasn't permitted to stop
The healed man, still kneeling,
“I have no way to thank you for the quickness
of your wisdom and the strength of your guidance.
God will thank you.”
Mathnawi II: 1878-1915, 1923-1926, 1930
* Rumi: Rumi was born in the city of Balkh, a small town west of Mazar-i-Sharif, in what is modern day Afghanistan, then the eastern edge of the Persian empire, on September 30, 1207. I find it ironic that he is one of the first feminists (see the poem She Is the Creator above), and at the same time from the same country that was subjected to the rule of the Taliban. My explanation of this fact is that it is not Islam that is responsible for backwardness in many middle-eastern and Arab countries: it is ignorance that is precipitated by economic depravity which breeds the forms of hateful brands of distorted Islam that we see plaguing some Arab and Muslim countries. Rumi blasts out all those that disagree about names. Call God Allah or call Him the Holy Trinity or call him Krishna or call him Jahovah, if you quarrell about these names all of you are deluded and guilty of Bibliolatry - worship of graven images in the form of words!
There You Are
You are inside every kindness.
When a sick person feels better, you are that,
and the onset of disease too.
You are sudden, terrible screaming.
Some problems require we go for help.
When we knock on a stranger's door, you sent us.
Nobody answers. It's you.
When work feels necessary,
you are the way workers move in rhythm.
You are what is, the field, the players,
the ball, those watching.
Someone claims to have evidence that you do not exist.
You are the one who brings the evidence in,
and the evidence itself.
You are inside the soul's great fear,
every natural pleasure, every vicious cruelty.
You are in every difference and irritation.
Someone loves something. Someone else hates the same.
There you are.
Whatever eyes see, what anyone wants or not,
political power, injustice, material possessions,
those are your script, the handwriting we study.
Body, soul, shadow.
Whether reckless or careful, you are what we do.
It is absurd to ask your pardon.
You are inside repentance and sin.
The wonder of various jewels: agate, emerald.
How we are during a day, then at night,
you are those moods and qualities.
The pure compassion we feel for each other.
Every encampment has a tent where the leader is
and also the wide truth of your imperial tent overall.
from The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question,
nor it it bought with going to amazing places.
Until you have kept your eyes
and your wanting still for fifty years,
you do not begin to cross over from confusion
from The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
We take long trips.
We puzzle over the meaning of a painting or a book,
when what we are wanting to see and understand in this world,
we are that.
from The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
Who sees inside from outside?
Who finds hundreds of mysteries
even where minds are deranged?
See through his eyes what he sees.
Who then is looking out from his eyes?
from The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
Those who do not feel this love pulling them like a river,
those who do not drink dawn like a cup of springwater
or take in sunset like supper,
those who do not want to change,
let them sleep.
This love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocricy.
If you want to improve your mind that way,
I have given up on my brain.
I have torn the cloth to shreds and thrown it away.
If you are not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words around you,
from The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
Conversation At Night
Do not go to sleep one night.
What you most want will come to you then.
Warmed by a sun inside, you will see wonders.
Tonight do not put your head down.
Be tough, and strength will come.
That which adoration adores appears at night.
Those asleep may miss it.
One night Moses stayed awake and asked,
and saw a light in a tree.
Then he walked at night for ten years,
until finally he saw the whole tree illluminated.
Muhammad rode his horse through the nightsky.
The day is for work.. The night for love.
Do no let someone bewitch you.
Some people sleep at night, but not lovers.
They sit in the dark and talk to God,
who told David, Those who sleep all night every night
and claim to be connected to us, they lie.
Lovers cannot sleep
when they feel the privacy of the beloved around them.
Someone who is thirsty may sleep for a little while,
but he will dream of water, a full jar beside a creek,
or the spirit water you get from another person.
All night, listen to the conversation, Stay up.
This moment is all there is.
Death will take it away soon enough.
You will be gone,
and this earth will be left without a sweetheart,
nothing but weeds growing inside thorns.
I am through.
Read the rest of this poem in the dark tonight.
Do I have a head, and feet?
Shams, so beloved by Tabrizians, I close my lips.
I wait for you to come and open them.
From The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
A spirit lives in this world
and does not wear the shirt of love,
such an existence is a deep disgrace.
Be foolishly in love,
because love is all there is.
There is no way into presence,
except through a love exchange.
If someone asks, But what is love?
Answer, Dissolving the will.
True freedom comes to those who have escaped
the questions of freewill and fate.
Love is an emperor.
The two worlds play across him.
He barely notices their tumbling game.
Love and lover live in eternity.
Other desires are substitutes for that way of being.
How long do you lay embracing a corpse?
Love rather the soul, which cannot be held.
Anything born in spring dies in fall,
but love is not seasonal.
With wine pressed from grapes,
expect a hangover.
But this path has no expectations.
You are uneasy riding in the body?
Dismount. Travel lighter.
Wings will be given.
Be clear like a mirror reflecting nothing.
Be clear of pictures
and worry that comes with images.
Gaze into what is not ashamed
or afraid of any truth.
Contain all human faces in your own
without any judgement of them.
Be pure emptiness.
What is inside that? you ask.
Silence is all I can say.
Lovers have some secrets that they keep.
from The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks
First published by Rami E. Kremesti M.Sc.
Los Angeles, CA September 22, 2004
Last Update: March 11, 2014
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