Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mirrors




In my most recent blog, The Esoteric Teachings of Rumi, I quoted from the Masnavi;

“An old friend came to pay his respects to Joseph, and, after some remarks upon the bad behavior of his brethren, Joseph asked him what present he had brought to show his respect. The friend replied that he had long considered what gift would be most suitable to offer, and at last had fixed upon a mirror, which he accordingly produced from his pocket and presented to Joseph, at the same time begging him to admire his own beauteous face in it.

“He drew forth a mirror from his side;
A mirror is what Beauty busies itself with.

“But since Not-being is the mirror of Being,
If you are wise, choose Not-being—self-effacement—
For Being may be displayed in that Not-being.

“Wealthy men shower their liberality on the poor,
But he who is hungered is the clear mirror of bread—
The tinder is the mirror of the flint and steel.

“Not-being and Defect, wherever they occur,
Are the mirrors of the Beauty of all beings—
Because Not-being is a clear filtered essence,
In which all beings are infused.” 
Masnavi of Rumi, trans. Whinfield


It is an amazing quotation, so much said with words so few; so deep, so profound!
At the time I wanted to say more about it, but because there was so much more to say, I decided to wait and come back to it at another time…


Mirrors have found their way into the writings of mystics and Masters down through the ages—

“The tale of love must be heard from love itself, for like the mirror, it is both mute and expressive.”— Rumi

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” – Corinthians 3:18

A mirror seems to have the capacity to reveal truth; but is the truth they reveal actually true? Consider the fact that you’ve never seen your face, only its reflection in a mirror; but this reflection is only a two dimensional reflection of a three dimensional form.  Notice also that standing at arm’s length from the mirror, the size of the reflection of your head, from hair to chin, is no more than five inches in height, yet your head is actually twice that size—measure both and see.

Also, your reflection in the mirror is reversed left and right—put your finger on your right cheek and look at your reflection from behind—your finger appears to be on the opposite cheek—on the left one. So, the mirror seems to answer, at least at some level, the question; “Who am I?” but, in fact, the answer is really a distortion and an illusion. We never really see our own faces, but others do—or do they?

Imagine that you have never seen your face reflected in a mirror, so that you have no idea what it looks like, but you can get an idea  of how you look by standing in front of a different kind of mirror, the mirror of  an-other. You stand in front of an-other and you see her looking at your face. Perhaps she laughs, or recoils, or appears to be impressed. “Oh,” you think, “I am funny looking,” or “I am ugly,” or “I am quite attractive,” your conclusion being based on the reaction you see of an-other seeing your face.

But can we trust the reflection of ourselves in an-other? Do others actually see us and do we actually see them, or is what we see only a reflection of our own impressions—what Meher Baba calls sanskaras?  Sanskaras are the impressions that veil consciousness that we have gathered through millions of reincarnations through sub-human and human forms. From this point of view, perhaps what we see when we see an-other is a more accurate reflection of ourselves? But maybe not, because these impressions—these sanskaras—are not us either—are not the ultimate truth of what we are—and in fact, are the veil between ourselves and our Self.

In Creation, everything sees and everything is seen, but the Masters are always reminding us that all this seeing and being seen is an illusion—a false reflection—until we look into the mirror of Reality—the mirror of Truth.

Upasani Maharaj, a Perfect Master, responding to being worshipped as God in human form, picks up the narrative in this talk to his followers and devotees:

Being in the state of ‘only’ if you desire to take me to be God or a Satpurusha, well, it is your affair; how could I say what I am? I cannot say if I am ‘this’ or ‘that’.* As I am just ‘only’, what can you see in me, or rather, how can you see me? When you look at me, it is not that you see me, but you only see what you are—your qualities, good or bad, are reflected in this ‘only’ and you are able to see them; and seeing that, due to your ignorance, you think you are seeing me with such and such qualities, when actually you are only seeing your own self—your qualities and not me, because I am in the state of ‘only’ and so virtually in the state of nothing.”The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part A, pages 135-136
*I omitted this sentence here; “I can say and prove that you yourself are God or a Satpurusha,” because though it makes sense in and of itself, and is a very powerful and important assertion, in the context of the talk it seems to be misplaced or misworded. – Ayushya

 So when you call me God, it is your own reflection that you see, and due to your ignorance you charge me with your qualities and call me God. But if you are a wicked man, I look a rascal to you. My form only shows you what you are.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part A, page 136

The mirror that we call life, the mirror of mirrors within mirrors, always renders distorted reflections because they are imperfect. The mirrors of life are like funhouse mirrors, and taking their reflections to be truth is what Upasani Maharaj is calling ignorance. But when one’s consciousness is divested of all of the impressions—the sanskaras—the dust that has accumulated on the surface of the mirror during evolution, then, and only then, can the mirror be said to be Perfect and in that Perfection can the truth of illusion and the Truth of Reality be reflected to all who are able to look into that mirror.

“…you are only seeing your own self—your qualities and not me, because I am in the state of ‘only’ and so virtually in the state of nothing.”

The state Upasani Maharaj calls the state of nothing and the state of Not-being alluded to by Rumi are virtually the same. Nothing and Not-being are one type of mirror—the mirror of Perfection—the reflection one sees when looking at one’s reflection in that mirror always reflects the truth and the Truth of the one looking into it.

 “Not-being and Defect, wherever they occur,
Are the mirrors of the Beauty of all beings—
Because Not-being is a clear filtered essence,
In which all beings are infused.” 
Masnavi of Rumi, trans. Whinfield

Defect, on the other hand, reflects truth and Truth by reflecting its opposite,

“Wealthy men shower their liberality on the poor,
But he who is hungered is the clear mirror of bread—
The tinder is the mirror of the flint and steel.”
—Ibid.

Between the two states of God—the deep-sleep dreamless state and the fully awake dreamless state—is the intermediate dream state. This state is the Jiv-atma state. Jiv means embodied and atma mean soul. In the Jiv-atma state the soul imagines—dreams—itself to have three bodies. The average person is only conscious of the third body, the gross or physical body, which is the product of the union of the two higher bodies, the subtle and the mental bodies. Consciousness of these two higher bodies is not the goal; consciousness of the soul—of the Self—beyond these three bodies is the Goal. One who achieves this state is called Shiv-atma.
The Shiv-atma state is the state of fully awake God in which the soul consciously experiences Itself as being and always having been Eternal God without doubt. It is the experience of Jiv-atma looking into the mirror of Shiv-atma that this blog is about—that Upasani Maharaj is speaking about.

 My form only shows you what you are. The state of ‘only’ is like a hollow—like the sky. The sky or hollow contains nothing; if you go inside it with whatever you have, you will only see what you have and nothing else. The state of ‘only’ is like a mirror. When you look in the mirror you see yourself and nothing else. The mirror represents the state of ‘only’ in this world.”The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part A, page 136


Who among us sees themselves in everyone and everything? Who among us looks at another and realizes that they are looking at themselves? And there lies the difference between compassion and pity. To see others as another and feel for them is pity, but to see others as oneself is to feel compassion.

Gurdjieff used to say that in order to advance in the Way one must become a conscious egotist. The statement disturbed some people because they believed that the Way should be free of egotism, but they didn’t understand what Gurdjieff was saying; they didn’t understand the difference between an ordinary egotist and conscious egotism. Conscious egotism is seeing oneself everywhere and in everything and in that seeing is the loss of self because in that seeing all distinctions between oneself and others disappears. And, when oneself is lost, real Self manifests.

All of creation consists of mirrors within mirrors. If you see something you don’t like reflected in the mirror, do you attack your reflection in the mirror? Yet, that is exactly what happens in the state of delusion—in the world as we see it—we attack our own reflections in the mirror. That is why we fight, and argue, and judge, and go to war.

“Not-being and Defect, wherever they occur,
Are the mirrors of the Beauty of all beings—
Because Not-being is a clear filtered essence,
In which all beings are infused.” 
Masnavi of Rumi, trans. Whinfield

And so, what is the way out of this funhouse of mirrors? Is there a way out of this funhouse of mirrors? A fair enough question, and the answer is to find the mirror that does not reflect beauty as Defect but reveals beauty as perfection; in other words reflects the atma and not the jiv—the holy and not the ghost—and that mirror is the mirror of Not-Being—the state Upasani Maharaj calls ‘only.’

You have a face, but you do not know how it looks; that is why you take a mirror and look into it, and then only do you know how your face looks. I am exactly like that—a mirror—and due to my state of ‘only’—the state of a mirror—you can only see your own qualities in me.
So, when you call me God, it is your own reflection as God that you see in me, and because you do not call the mirror your face, therefore, in  the same way, you cannot call me God—or if you do, you should be aware that you are taking me to be that which you are.”The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part A, page 136

If you paint a picture of Vishnu on the mirror, you can no more see your face in it; when now you approach the mirror; you will see the picture of Vishnu. By painting the mirror this way, you have removed the quality of reflection from it. Unless you wipe out the picture from the mirror—unless you bring the mirror into its original state of ‘only’ you cannot see your reflection in it.”The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part A, page 137

I began this series of posts by discussing the qualities of mirrors—how they reflect what is put before them, how they distort the objects they are reflecting, and how the mirror of a Perfect One is different than the countless mirrors that make up the great mirror of creation. In a general way, I believe that the subject is easily understandable, but when one goes a little deeper, things become more subtle and slippery.

“But since Not-being is the mirror of Being,
If you are wise, choose Not-being—self-effacement—
For Being may be displayed in that Not-being.

“Wealthy men shower their liberality on the poor,
But he who is hungered is the clear mirror of bread—
The tinder is the mirror of the flint and steel.

“Not-being and Defect, wherever they occur,
Are the mirrors of the Beauty of all beings—
Because Not-being is a clear filtered essence,
In which all beings are infused.” 
Masnavi of Rumi, trans. Whinfield


I made a connection between the states of Not-being—self-effacement—and the state Upasani Maharaj experienced that he called ‘only.’ Now Upasani introduces a further subtlety when he talks about the face of Vishnu being painted on the mirror.

If you paint a picture of Vishnu on the mirror, you can no more see your face in it; when now you approach the mirror, you will see the picture of Vishnu…” – Ibid

I believe that when Upasani Maharaj used the example of Vishnu’s face being painted on the mirror He specifically choose that one face over all other ones. So, who, or what, is Vishnu? Vishnu, also called Parvardigar, is one of the three aspects of God responsible for the creation, the preservation, and the dissolution of and within creation. Brahma creates, Vishnu preserves, and Shiva, also called Mahesh, dissolves. These three aspects of God are not people, or gods, but states of God, yet it is possible for those states or aspects of God to take on a human form for a limited period of time.

With regard to Vishnu, Meher Baba tells us that this taking on of a human form occurs every 750 to 1400 years and this incarnation of God in human form is variously called the Avatar, the Christ, the Buddha, the Messiah—there are many names, but the state is always the same; God in any and all of His names and forms is always the same.

There have been many Incarnations—many forms—that of Krishna and Ram and Gautama and Zoroaster and Mohamed and Meher Baba—but in all of these forms, in all of these Incarnations, is same One God. Understanding this, helps us to understand what Jesus Christ meant when Jesus said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

For Jesus Christ could speak as Jesus and He could speak as the Christ and, in this instance, it He was speaking as the Christ, not as Jesus the man, for both the Father state and the Son state (the state of Christ) are Eternal, but forms, even the beloved forms of Ram, Krishna, Gautama, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Meher Baba and Meher Baba, are finite, passing, and subject to the same laws that govern all of creation.

Meher Baba tells us that the Individuality who embodies these forms of the Avatar, the Christ, etc.is the first soul who realized God through the processes of creation called evolution, reincarnation, and involution of consciousness—the One called the Ancient One—and when that One takes on a human form, He is called the God-Man— and expresses through His very being the direct descent of God into His creation.

Along with the God-man is also the state of the Man-God. The Man-God is not called the Avatar, he or she, is called a Perfect Master, a Satpurusha. A Satpurusha is one who has achieved the state of Perfection through the same processes of evolution, reincarnation, and evolution that the Avatar originally passed through in the beginningless beginning of time. The Avatar was the first God-Realized soul and when He takes a human form as the Avatar no longer needs to pass through evolution, reincarnation, and involution. His is called the direct-descent of God into a human form.

The Avatar comes again and again out of love for creation—out of love for Himself in all of the forms of creation—but the Perfect Masters—and Baba tells us that there always five of them present on the planet of involution—our planet—when a Perfect Master drops his or her human form, he or she does not take another body—does not reincarnate again—but remains in the Eternal and Infinite State of God beyond creation.

All of this is the background for trying to understand the distinction that Upasani Maharaj is making between His state of ‘only’ and the state of Vishnu—between the mirror of ‘only’ and the mirror that is covered by Vishnu’s face—between a Satpurusha and “an original Satpurusha.”

Take a mango tree; right from the beginning it is a mango tree. Does anybody call a mango tree a babhula tree?  It is not that some call it a mango tree and some call it a babhula tree. The fact that I am called virtuous by some and vicious by others should convince you that I am not an ‘original’ Satpurusha; otherwise everybody would have called me the same, as in the case of the mango tree.

“Since different qualities are seen in me by different people, it means that I am in the state of a mirror—in the state of ‘only’ in which anybody can see his own reflection.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part A, page 137

Whatever one sees in the mirror of ‘only’ is a reflection of oneself. Since that self, that Jivatma, is both illusion and reality—both man and God—the mirror of ‘only’ is able to reflect both. Why the mirror reflects illusion for one person and reality for another is because of the impressions—sanskaras—that covers one’s consciousness like dust on the surface of a mirror.

That mirror is the very same consciousness of oneself that we externalize in the forms of creation and also in the expression of God in the forms of Perfection   Masters and the succession of Avatars—for in truth, there never was, or is, or will be any reality to the external at all—the external of our waking state is merely the projection of the dream state that is experienced between the Deep Sleep State of God and the Fully Awake State of God—the two states of Reality on either side of the illusory dream state we call creation.

In short, there is an illusory distinction made between the internal and the external and if one accepts this distinction then one accepts duality, but ‘only’, by its very nature, excludes duality—excludes the reality of others. It then becomes clear that to experience the Ultimate Reality, both the external and the internal must go and what remains is the state of ‘only’—the state beyond all mirrors.

“Your face, as well as the mirror, both has a form. That mirror, however, serves the purpose of ‘onlyness’ only if you make use of it for that purpose and not use it as a mirror. This means that you should not make use of the mirror as such, but only for its quality of ‘onlyness’.” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume I, Part B, page 367

What Upasani Maharaj goes on to say is that ‘onlyness’ must stand before the mirror to see its own reflection. What a great theme upon which to meditate and contemplate—what does ‘only’ see when it sees ‘only’ reflected in the mirror? How sublime is that?

Upasani Maharaj uses the term Satpurusha to characterize the state of one who is in the state of ‘only’. He goes on to say;

The state of a Satpurusha within you does not mean your external visible form. What can be said is that your external form is able to help you to be conscious of your internal state of a Satpurusha. But that internal Satpurusha state of yours cannot be exhibited in a mirror that can only show you your external appearance.” – Ibid

Upasani Maharaj goes on to talk about the other kind of mirror—the mirror of a Satpurusha—the mirror we look into when we are in the presence of a Perfect Master—the mirror of ‘only’ that can reflect our own internal state of God.

The inner finer form within your external form that contains the qualities of a Satpurusha was reflected by that state of ‘onlyness’ in me. Thus the qualities of a Satpurusha you charge me with are actually yours.” – Ibid

He says that though those qualities are actually ours and not his, we do not experience them as ours because we are habituated to experience the external gross form only; he says; “your consciousness is not sharp enough to reach that inner finer state of yours.”

The answer, he says, is to go on charging our qualities on him. Charging here means to externalize our internal state on to him through the acts of worship, meditation, contemplation, and contemplation—to project that which is ours onto him. It is like loaning something of value that we cannot, at the moment, make use of to another—to keep for us until the time is right.

And then he reveals something quite surprising, another way to reach the Supreme Reality.

“On the other hand, being convinced that what you see in me is nothing else but your own self—your own qualities—you try to remember them—stick to them—with all determination irrespective of all the difficulties that are or may come your way, then eventually you will be able to experience your own real state which is expressed in that one small sentence, Aham Brahmasmi’, meaning I am the Brahma.” – Ibid

But he cautions; “This process, of course, is a very difficult one. The easier way is to charge somebody else with those qualities of yours and eventually experience that real state of yours—in this, not only you as an individual experience that state, but many others are able to do so along with you—in a way, thus this method is very beneficial.” – Ibid

Why is this other method so difficult? What does it actually entail?  It means to deny in every moment—in every breath—continually and without break—the ‘reality’ that illusory consciousness makes us experience while affirming the true Reality that we do not experience as real—to believe it is day when our mind and senses tells us it is night, believe we are eternal and infinite in the face of experiencing ourselves and others as finite and subject to disease and death—to believe without doubt or interruption that we are God and that all else is a dream—the dreams of woman and man, black and white, rich and poor, sane and insane…

The alternative? The simpler method? To try stick to a Perfect One with all faith and confidence. To live a normal life—a life normal to the circumstances we find ourselves in; continuing to try to be helpful to others—thinking more and more about their happiness rather than our own; to try to remain in the state that Meher Baba reminds us of, the state of “Don’t worry, be happy!”

  “It always brings me such joy to see you my dear—how are you and how is your dear grandfather?”

“Thank you! I am happy and well in Beloved Baba’s love as is grandfather. And how are you these days Ayushya?”

“Yes, quite well as well—continuing to tread the path of Baba’s ‘don’t worry—be happy!’ So, my dear, please take some tea and tell me what it is that has brought you to my home this day.”

“Of course, I have been following your inspiring posts on the subject of mirrors and, as usual, they have evoked in me questions that vibrate in the higher frequencies of my mind and heart.”

“Ah yes, questions; Questions are mirrors that can reflect reality and illusion—finitude and eternity. Questions bring energy; they are more important than answers; answers kill questions. I see you have brought with you a volume of Upasani Maharaj’s talks?”

“Yes Ayushya; while reading your posts on mirrors I began to think of the qualities of mirrors and the qualities of their reflections and this stirred in me a memory of a specific talk by Upasani Maharaj about what he called, ‘the moving temple.’”

“I remember that talk well. He says that the moving temple consists of three halls one within the other. He says that these three halls are the gross, the subtle, and the mental bodies. He says that God sits in the third hall and on certain days, with the correct preparation, one can enter that third hall and experience God.”

“Yes, and he also said that normally the three halls are arranged in such a way that they are opposite to each other—may I read you a passage?”

“I would be delighted!

“So, speaking about the ‘moving temple’, he says; ‘This temple is peculiar in that it consists of halls within halls, which are moving in opposite directions, the doors of which are located in opposite directions, and whose domes are also situated opposed to each other. So, if the outer hall’s door is facing east, it is moving in a clockwise manner, and has its dome positioned up in the normal way, then the next hall within it has its door facing west, moves in a clockwise motion, and its dome is positioned upside down. Meanwhile, the third hall is opposite to the second hall in every way and God sits in this innermost hall of the temple.’”

“And these three halls represent the gross, subtle, and mental bodies?”

“Yes, on the next page he says; ‘Now the moving temple is this body. The halls arranged in opposite directions are the Sthula, Suhshma, and Karana bodies (the gross, the subtle, and the causal). The Vaikuntha is the Brahmanda situated in the head.’ Earlier on he said that Vaikuntha is the abode of Vishnu meaning the Infinite Bliss.”

“Indeed, this is all most most interesting, so tell me what questions and thoughts are evoked in you by these teachings?”

“Well first, I wonder if, as he says, the third hall is opposite to the second all in every way and that the second hall is opposite to the first in every way, we can assume that the first and the third halls—the gross and the mental bodies—are in alignment in every way?”

“Yes that is quite an interesting question; what do you think?”

“Well, it does come down to the expression ‘every way’, because ‘every way’ does not leave any room for any other way, and so if the third and second halls are aligned differently in every way, as are the second and first hall aligned differently in every way, then, I think, that the first and third halls must be aligned the same in every way.”

“Somewhat beyond my personal realm of experience.”

“And mine as well, although on a few occasions, at the very moment of awakening from a nap, I have experienced for a brief moment that my body was lying in the opposite direction to what it actually was—that my head was where my feet should be and my feet were where my head should be.”

“Yes, I have had that very experience myself.”

“The other thought I have connected to your posts on mirrors is this; because the reflection seen in a mirror is always opposite to whatever is being reflected in it—what is left becomes right and what is right becomes left—can we assume that the reflection seen in the mirror is somehow a reflection of the gross world in the subtle world?”

“Interesting, although we are only talking about left and right, and not up and down—”

“Yes, very true, and perhaps this is because the mirror is only reflecting the gross appearance of a three dimensional person or object as a two dimensional representation, while, of course, the cosmos consists of more than three dimensions then the three we see due to the limitation of gross consciousness.”

“Unlike a Perfect Master who sees all of the dimensions, all of the planes, and all of the three worlds…”

“Yes, sees all of the illusion perfectly and totally in all of its dimensions, planes, and worlds.”

“And your thoughts, my dear, gives me a new insight into the distinction Upasani Maharaj makes between the mirror being in the state of ‘only’ as opposed to the mirror upon which the face of Vishnu has been painted.”

“How so?”

“Well, I have always felt that the mental world was more understandable to me than the subtle world. If, as you suggest, the mental world and the gross world are aligned in every way, then it would make sense that it is easier for me to connect to the mental word where God reposes than to the subtle world that is in every way opposite to the gross world.”

“Indeed.”

“Indeed.”

“Ayushya, do you have handy your first post on the subject of mirrors?”

“I do, would you like me to read you something from it?”

“Yes, I feel that after reading all of your posts on the subject of mirrors and having this delightful conversation with you today I can now understand at another level those quotations with which you began the topic. Would you please read them to me now?”

“Of course, my dear, it would be my pleasure.”

“An old friend came to pay his respects to Joseph, and, after some remarks upon the bad behavior of his brethren, Joseph asked him what present he had brought to show his respect. The friend replied that he had long considered what gift would be most suitable to offer, and at last had fixed upon a mirror, which he accordingly produced from his pocket and presented to Joseph, at the same time begging him to admire his own beauteous face in it.


“He drew forth a mirror from his side;
A mirror is what Beauty busies itself with.

“But since Not-being is the mirror of Being,
If you are wise, choose Not-being—self-effacement—
For Being may be displayed in that Not-being.

“Wealthy men shower their liberality on the poor,
But he who is hungered is the clear mirror of bread—
The tinder is the mirror of the flint and steel.

“Not-being and Defect, wherever they occur,
Are the mirrors of the Beauty of all beings—
Because Not-being is a clear filtered essence,
In which all beings are infused.”
Masnavi of Rumi, trans. Whinfield


“The tale of love must be heard from love itself, for like the mirror, it is both mute and expressive.”— Rumi

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” – Corinthians 3:18

                                                                        © copyright Michael Kovitz 2016

 




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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Esoteric Teachings of Rumi



About five years ago I published a series of posts that featured the teachings of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, known by many simply as Rumi. Some have said that Rumi’s poetry is more widely read than that of any other poet in the world. Of course Rumi wrote mainly in Persian, but in the West he is mainly read in English translations that began to appear in the 1950’s and continue to the present time. Translations run the gambit from the scholarly to the inspired, from the literal to the most ‘poetically licensed.’

Readers of my blog, Embedded with the Kali Yuga, know that it focuses primarily on the words of the Avatar and the Perfect Masters. Meher Baba stated that Rumi was a Perfect Master and hence my interest—that and the fact that I personally find the most incredible beauty and truth in Rumi’s words. I have decided to publish a newly edited version of those early posts for any of my readers who may have missed them the first time around. May they bring you happiness and inspire in you love for God. – Michael Kovitz (Ayushya)

The destinies of both were fulfilled when the sun eclipsed the moon and the beggar who was the Real King—Shams-e-Tabriz—bestowed upon Rumi the Gift of gifts—the Final Fana—Realization of God—Realization of Self.

It took place over a chessboard, in a little teahouse, when Rumi despaired, “I have lost again,” as he toppled his king on the board at the feet of the victorious beggar.

No, this time you have won!” replied the beggar…  


Rumi had been discoursing to his students one day when the ragged beggar stumbled into the garden and grabbed up all of Rumi’s books and threw them into a well.  

Do you want them back?” the ragged stranger had softly replied to the furious scholar. The sound of the stranger’s voice reached deep into Rumi’s heart and instantly dispelled his fury and when Rumi looked into His eyes he recognized, without a doubt, the face of his Master, the source of his own reflected light. The sun had revealed itself to the moon and the moon prostrated itself at his Beloved’s feet. And so the Beloved and lover became inseparable until that moment when the lover prostrated his king at the feet of his King and Shams dissolved all vestiges of their we into the eternal experience of One.

“Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But in the end he is drawn to the King of love.

“Of that experience, all we try to say falls short,
and we become ashamed of our words,
For explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,
But love unexplained is clearer.

“When pen hasted to write,
On reaching the subject of love it split in twain.
On the matter of love, pen was broken and paper torn.
Naught but Love itself can explain love and lovers!”
—The Masnavi: trans. & abridged by E.H. Whinfield

“The tale of love must be heard from love itself,
For like the mirror, it is both mute and expressive.”
— The Last Barrier: Reshad Field



With the frankness of ignorance he spoke to his Beloved, “You say you need nothing and want only my love, but at that table, the table of love, I feel like a hopeless beggar sitting on the floor waiting for a single crumb to fall my way.”



“An old friend came to pay his respects to Joseph, and, after some remarks upon the bad behavior of his brethren, Joseph asked him what present he had brought to show his respect. The friend replied that he had long considered what gift would be most suitable to offer, and at last had fixed upon a mirror, which he accordingly produced from his pocket and presented to Joseph, at the same time begging him to admire his own beauteous face in it.

“He drew forth a mirror from his side;
A mirror is what Beauty busies itself with.

“But since Not-being is the mirror of Being,
If you are wise, choose Not-being—self-effacement—
For Being may be displayed in that Not-being.

“Wealthy men shower their liberality on the poor,
But he who is hungered is the clear mirror of bread—
The tinder is the mirror of the flint and steel.

“Not-being and Defect, wherever they occur,
Are the mirrors of the Beauty of all beings—
Because Not-being is a clear filtered essence,
In which all beings are infused.” 
Masnavi of Rumi, trans. Whinfield, (paraphrase Kovitz)


I will help you,” the Beloved replied, and to His lover's great amazement and shame He began to cleanse the defects from the mirror of His lover’s soul, and from that day forth revealed that love He had promised to His lover—not within him, not directly, but mirrored all around him, in the faces and the tears of others, allowing His lover to be privy to their hearts, to their longing, and to their soul's most sacred love.
“You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt loses it saltiness, from where will it regain it savor? Having become good for nothing, the good wife casts it into the street where it is trodden under foot of men.” – Jesus to His disciples, Mathew 5:13


Salt flavors life, yet within itself nothing grows — no desires are seeded, nourished, or fructified.


“Moses once heard a shepherd praying as follows: ‘O God, show me where thou art, that I may become your servant. I will clean your shoes and comb your hair, and sew you clothes, and fetch you milk.’

“When Moses heard him praying in this senseless manner, he rebuked him, saying, ‘O foolish one, though your father was a Sufi, you have become an infidel. God is a Spirit, and needs not such gross ministrations as, in your ignorance, you suppose.’ The shepherd was abashed at his rebuke, and tore his clothes and fled away into the desert.

“Then a voice from heaven was heard, saying, ‘O Moses, wherefore have you driven away my servant? Your office is to reconcile my people with me, not to drive them away from me. I have given to each race different usages and forms of praising and adoring me. I have no need of their praises, being exalted above all such needs. I regard not the words that are spoken, but the heart that offers them. I do not require fine words, but a burning heart. Men's ways of showing devotion to me are various, but so long as the devotions are genuine, they are accepted.’”


“A voice came from God to Moses,
‘Why hast thou sent my servant away?
Thou hast come to draw men to union with me,
Not to drive them far away from me.
So far as possible, engage not in dissevering;
The thing most repugnant to me is divorce.

“To each person have I allotted peculiar forms,
To each have I given particular usages.
What is praiseworthy in thee is blamable in him,
What is poison for thee is honey for him.
What is good in him is bad in thee,
What is fair in him is repulsive in thee.

“I am exempt from all purity and impurity,
I need not the laziness or alacrity of my people.
I created not men to gain a profit from them,
But to shower my beneficence upon them.

“In the men of Hind the offerings of Hind are praiseworthy,
In the men of Sind those of Sind.
I am not purified by their praises,
It is they who become pure and shining thereby.

“I regard not the outside and the words,
I regard the inside and the state of heart.

I look at the heart if it be humble,
Though the words may be the reverse of humble.

“‘Because the heart is substance, and words accidents,
Accidents are only a means, substance is the final cause.

“How long wilt thou dwell on words and superficialities?
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!

‘Kindle in thy heart the flame of love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.

“O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class,
They whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.

“Lovers must burn every moment,
As tax and tithe are levied on a ruined village.

“If they speak amiss, call them not sinners;
If a martyr be stained with blood, wash it not away.

“Blood is better than water for martyrs,
This fault is better than a thousand correct forms.

“No need to turn to the Ka'ba when one is in it,
And divers have no need of shoes.’”
— Ibid


Two followers were arguing when Meher Baba approached. “Why are you shouting at each other?” He said to them.


Because he said this and he did that..,” each went on about the other.  


Yes, but why are you shouting at each other?” Baba repeated.


Because he was supposed to..,” they continued to complain.


Yes, you have this disagreement, but why are you shouting at each other?” Baba continued to ask until the two followers finally stopped yelling because they realized that they did not understand what Baba was asking them. Silently they looked at Him, and then He explained: “Two lovers speak in whispers to each other; why? Because their hearts are close, but your hearts were far apart and so you shouted in order to be heard across the distance. You can have your disagreements, but keep your hearts close.”


In his little shop on a busy street in Damascus, Hamid and his old friend Ayushya were sitting on a pile of rugs, talking about this and that, when a young boy, the son of the near-by tea seller, entered the shop with a steaming metal pot, filled two cups, and left.

Hamid poured a little tea from his cup onto the saucer and took a sip.

I just want to die,” he said to his friend and sighed. His friend turned an amber rosary bead over his finger and slowly nodded his head.

There is dying,” Ayushya said, and after a pause he continued, “and there is real dying,” and then he repeated the line from Maulana Shabistari’s Gulshan-e-Raz, ‘He returns through the door from which he first came out, although in his journey he ventured from door to door.’

My friend, may we all achieve the death of all illusions that is the real dying, the dying from which the dream doors of the caravan of birth and death no longer exist—that state called arsh – e-ala.”

Inshalla!” Hamid said with feeling.

Inshalla!” repeated his friend with a sigh and took a sip of tea.

After many minutes had passed, Hamid said with feeling, “But I am not worthy.”

Only the Qutubs and the Qutub - Irshad know a soul’s worth,” replied his friend.

I am not good,” continued Hamid.

Good is not God,” countered his friend. “God loves both the scorpion and the saint. You can only act according to you nature,” he reminded his friend and then told him the following story:

“A saint had finished bathing in a stream before his morning prayers when he noticed a scorpion that had fallen into the water and was drowning. Bending over, the saint slid his hand under the water and began to lift up the scorpion, but feeling the saint’s hand, the scorpion stung it, the pain from which caused the saint’s hand to shake, and he dropped the scorpion back into the stream.

“Undaunted, the saint tried again to save the scorpion and again was stung and again he dropped the creature back into the water. But the saint continued to try, again and again, to save the scorpion and again and again he felt the scorpion’s painful stings. All this was going under the watchful eye of one of the saint’s disciples.

“‘Just leave the damn scorpion,’ he finally shouted unable to control himself. ‘You are being stung again and again.’

“‘But it is the nature of the scorpion to sting,’ the saint replied to his disciple. ‘He stings even though it may cause him to die.’

“‘Then let him die,’ argued the disciple.

“‘But how can I abandon him?’ replied the saint. ‘It is his nature to sting and it is my nature to help. If this creature will not abandon his nature — even at the cost of his own life — then how can I abandon my nature for the mere pain of his bite?’”

“‘I must pray more,’ Hamid said after some time. His friend smiled and said,

There is prayer and there is prayer my friend,” said Ayushya, and then repeated these couplets from the Masnavi;
“‘No need to turn to the Ka'ba when one is in it,
And divers have no need of shoes.’
“‘God once told Moses,’

“‘A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!
Kindle in thy heart the flame of love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.

“‘O Moses! The lovers of fair rites are one class,
They whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.
Lovers must burn every moment.’”
— The Masnavi, trans. Whinfield

A man approached the Prophet and said, “We must go to the Ka’ba.” The Prophet arched his right eyebrow and agreed to go. They departed immediately for Mecca and arrived late in the night. “We must stop now and rest here and then enter tomorrow morning for prayers,” said the man. Again the Prophet arched his right eyebrow but offered no argument to the man. Instead, he unrolled a small rug and proceeded to lay down.

You cannot lay down that way,” said the man.

Why not?” asked the Prophet. The man pointed to the Prophet’s feet which were pointed in the direction of the Ka’ba. The Prophet looked at the Ka’ba framed by his own naked feet. Immediately the Prophet changed his position, placing his head where his feet had been and again laid down. But to the man’s amazement, the Ka’ba had moved and was still between the feet of the Prophet.

What is it now?” asked the Prophet as the man pointed to his feet — and again the Prophet changed his position and again the Ka’ba moved. At the request of the man the Prophet changed his position two more times that night, so that his feet had pointed in each of the four directions, but each time the Ka’ba would follow him, always to remain bowed at his feet.”

(My loving thanks to dear old Baba Singh who told me this story and the story of the scorpion and the saint many years ago when I stopped by his shop to buy spices and rice. —Ayushya)


Drunkenness and empty-handedness brought thee to Me;
I am a slave of thy drunkenness and indigency!”

“God most High granted Pharaoh four hundred years of life and rule and kingship and enjoyment; but all that was a veil which kept him far from the presence of God.

“Between a man and God there are just two veils and all other veils manifest out of these two: they are health and wealth. The man who is well in body says, ‘Where is God? I do not know, and I do not see.’ As soon as pain afflicts him he begins to say, ‘Oh God! Oh God!’ communing and conversing with God.’ So, health was a veil and God was hidden under that pain — and so it is with wealth and indigence.”
The Discourses of Rumi, trans. A.J. Arberry

There is another saying of Rumi, “Cry out for water less; cry out for thirst more.” But, I wonder; is it the thing or the no-thing that is the veil, or is it the attachment to those opposites that is the real hindrance? Meher Baba said, “The saint is bound by a golden chain, the sinner by a spiked one, but the goal is to be free of all chains.”

A haughty king looked out his window at a hapless beggar in the street and thought, ‘that worthless tramp, I am glad I am not like him — and thus the king sowed the seeds of his next life as a beggar. Meanwhile, the beggar gazing up into the castle window at the king, lamented his loathsome situation wishing for the wealth and power of the king — and thus the beggar sowed the seeds of his next life as a king.

The two went on exchanging the roles of beggar and king for lifetimes to come, but at some point the king over time lost his sense of self-importance and hence his haughtiness and so when he looked down at the beggar in the street thought, ‘there is no difference between him and me, rags or royal robes are only garments we wear for a while and then discard.’ At the same time, the beggar in the street who after experiencing many lifetimes as a both as beggars and kings had lost his envy of the king  looked up at him and thought, ‘there is no difference between him and me, rags or royal robes are only garments we wear for a while and discard.’ From that moment, both souls were freed, never again having to experience the roles of the beggar and the king.

“King Solomon grew weary of his reign, but Job was never sated of his pain.”
— Ibid.
“The glass is thin, the wine clear,
Where can a distinction be made?
For it appears that there is wine and yet no wine glass there,
Or that there is a wine glass and no wine there.”
— Mishkat Al Anwar, Al-Ghazali

Maurice Nicoll delineated three level of truth in the New Testament in his books The Mark and The New Man.  The lowest level is that of stone. Stone can be carved into a particular form, like an idol, but after that, it cannot be changed.

Truth at the level of water, however, takes on the different shapes of the vessels that contains it, yet consistently retains its nature as water. In other words, the outer form is of little consequence to that level of truth.

Wine, like water, takes the shape of the vessel that contains it—the glass that brings it to one’s lips—but wine is greater than water because it has the power to intoxicate, and divine wine creates divine intoxication—the state of metanoia spoken of in the Gospels—the state of the butterfly beyond the caterpillar—the states of higher consciousness.  That wine is spoken of in the Gospels as the Holy Spirit and fire:


"I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."  John the Baptist, Matthew 3:11.

“The wine is from that world, the vessels from this;
The vessels are seen, but the wine is hidden!
Hidden indeed from the sight of the carnal,
But open and manifest to the spiritual!
O God, our eyes are blinded!
O pardon us, our sins are a heavy burden!”
— The Masnavi, trans. Whinfield

G. I. Gurdjieff had a reputation as being a great spiritual teacher, but once when he was hired to give a talk to a large group of spiritual seekers  he staggered on to the stage, obviously drunk, and stood teetering before them. Of course, they were shocked and appalled.

After looking out at the audience for a moment he said, his words slurred, “There is a difference between the wine and the glass that holds the wine.”  But then, in a split second, his demeanor totally changed and with lucid sobriety he said, “Never mistake the one for the other,” and he turned and walked off the stage.

“O God, who hast no peer, bestow Thy favor upon me;
Since Thou hast with this discourse put a ring in my ear,
Take me by the ear, and draw me into that holy assembly
Where Thy saints in ecstasy drink of Thy pure wine!
Now that Thou hast caused me to smell its perfume,
Withhold not from me that musky wine.”
— The Masnavi, trans. Whinfield

“Owing as much to the extent of his inner treasure as to his external wealth he was called the King of the Entire World and would regularly share his bounty with others. Every day he gave away gold — one day to the sick, on another to the destitute, on others to widows, orphans, even businessmen, lawyers, and priests.

“The King of the World would give freely to all, with the one stipulation that all recipients must receive their gifts in silence.

“Now there was a certain man, a lawyer, who could not restrain himself from appealing vocally to the King and so he was rebuffed. But the man did not give up his efforts and appeared the very next day before the King in the guise of an invalid. Of course, the King was All-knowing and was not fooled. The man was again turned away.

“This went on for some days more, the man appearing in different disguises, being found out, and then turned away. Finally, the man struck a bargain with an undertaker to wrap him in a burial shroud and place him in the path of the King. This was done and when the King passed by he dropped a gold piece upon the shroud.

“The man grabbed it immediately and could not restrain himself from telling the King, “You denied me your bounty, but see how I have tricked you!”
To this the King smiled and replied, “Man must die before he dies and by your trick you have died before you died and so have gained the treasure.”
— Ibid


Hamid sighed deeply and said to his friend. “I am an old man; I have no interest in gold or things of this world.”

Ah,” replied his friend, “the stories of Rumi are very deep, very deep. Our King is no ordinary King, His gold is no ordinary gold, and the death before dying of which He speaks is devoid of dust, decay, or resurrection.

That is the death my soul longs for!” said Hamid with feeling.

To have such a death is a gift; in no other way can that real death, that Final Fana, be attained.”

And how can I become worthy of such a gift?” Hamid said and shook his head.

If it was a question of worthiness, then few would attain it. One must be either totally empty or totally forgetful. Of the two, forgetfulness is the better option.”

Forgetfulness?” asked Hamid with another sigh. His friend took a sip of tea and said,


“There was once a man who wished to see the King. And so he set out walking, but hadn’t gone very far at all when he was approached by a friend who said, ‘I hear you are going to the King; please take this message to him for me.’ The man agreed and stuffed the message into his pocket. ‘Now don’t forget,’ implored the friend. ‘I will not forget,’ the man assured his friend.

“The man continued on but soon was stopped again, and again he was given a message and asked to take it to the King, and again he stuffed it into his pocket and promised he would not forget.

“The man was stopped many times along the way and given many messages so that by the time he arrived at the palace of the King his pockets were stuffed to overflowing, but when he entered the great room of the palace and saw the King resplendent in all His Divine majesty and glory he became totally overwhelmed and fell unconscious on the floor.

“The King said to His attendants. “Look at that man. He has lost all consciousness in the sight of Me. Come, let us see.” And the King rose from His throne and went to the man and kneeled before him. “Look at this,” He said to His attendants, and began to withdraw, one at a time, all of the notes that were stuffed in the man’s pockets; and each message he opened, and read, and attended to, with perfect attention in His own invisible and perfect way.”
— Rumi

                                                                                                © copyright Kovitz 2001

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