Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Rubaiyat of Omer Khayam

“Come my dear to the garden. The morning sun has dried the dew and a fragrant breeze warms the soft earth. Come my dear to the garden and we will read and we will speak of wine and love.”

“Awake! For morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts stars to flight:
And lo! The Hunter of the East has caught the sultan’s turret in a noose of light.”

“Dreaming when dawn’s left hand was in the sky I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,
‘Awake, awake, my little ones, and fill your cups before life’s liquor runs dry.’”

“Grandfather, did you write those lines?”

“No my dear, those lines were written nine hundred years ago by Omar, the astronomer-poet of Persia.”

“He was a master?”

“He was a Sufi master and his Rubaiyat is not what most people take it to be.”

“Wine, women, and song?”

“Yes, it is not about that—though it is about that.”

“Grandfather, now you are confusing me.”

“It is about wine, but not the wine of earthly grapes. The wine of which Omar speaks is the wine of love—the wine of Divine love. It is spoken of in the Gospels when John the Baptist said that he baptized with water, but the One who would come after him would baptize with wine. My dear, the teaching here is that truth takes many forms. The lowest form is stone. When stone is carved it cannot be changed. This is the truth of the idol; it is the truth of the literalist.

The literalist is incapable of understanding truth in a higher form—truth in the form of water. Water is higher than stone because water can poured into any vessel—any form—any shape—and still retain its nature as water. Those whose consciousness is transformed into the truth of water can find that truth in all forms, the Gospels, the Gita, and even the words of a madman. Let those with eyes to see and ears to hear see and hear that same eternal truth.

“But the truth of wine is higher still. Like water it can be poured into any shape, but only wine has the power to intoxicate—to change one’s state—to produce what the Gospels call metanoia—change of mind to another level of functioning. But tell me my dear, why do you appear so sad?”

“Grandfather, I am sad because I am a little girl and I am forbidden to drink wine.”

“No my dear, this wine is Divine, this wine is God’s love; anyone who is thirsty can drink this wine.”

“Come fill the cup, and in the fire of spring the winter garment of repentance fling: The bird of time has but little way to fly—and lo! the bird is on the wing.”


“Look to the Rose that blows about us—‘Lo, laughing,’ she says, ‘into the world I blow: At once the silken Tassel of my purse tear, and its treasure on the garden throw.’”

“Grandfather, of all the flowers I love roses the most, and of all the roses, it is the red rose that steals my heart.”

“Yes my dear, the red rose of which you speak is beautiful, but Old Omar’s Rose is something altogether different.”

“Oh Grandfather, hearing that is no surprise to me, for in this garden nothing is as it seems. Please tell me the meaning of Old Omar’s verse.”

“My dear, the earthly rose is but a symbol of the Divine Rose that is the Ancient One, the Highest of the High, the Messiah, the Avatar. Out of love for His creation the Avatar comes into the world again and again and takes root in the garden of His lover’s heart. We enter the garden and the fragrance of the Rose attracts us. We come closer, seeing its blushing red color, the dewdrop on its cheek. ‘Come closer still,’ it whispers, ‘fear not my thorns whose pricks reveal the secret of our Oneness—for are not the drops of blood and my blushing color not the same? And tear the silken tassel of my purse, I suffer that for you—it is why I come—for the gift that I bring will prosper in your garden long after my form has dropped—if you tend it with love.”

And those who stood before the door cried ‘open up! You know our time is short—and lo, once departed, we may not pass this way again.’”


“Think, in this battered caravansary whose doorways are alternate night and day, how sultan after sultan with his pomp abode his hour or two, and went his way.”


“Ah my Beloved, fill the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears—tomorrow—why tomorrow I may be myself with yesterday’s seven thousand years.”

“Grandfather, it is a curiosity to me that people become so distraught when death takes their friends and family, for as you often remind me, is not ‘death a camel that lies down at every door’?”

“Because at birth they drank from the cup of forgetfulness, but you my dear, your cries were not for that cup; you remembered, and silently called for wine.”

“Why, all the saints and sages discussed of the two worlds so learnedly are thrust like foolish prophets forth; their words to scorn are scattered, and their mouths are stopped with dust.”

“You bore the hunger and waited for the wine of remembrance. I said to your mother, ‘Your milk is the milk of forgetfulness, but your child longs to remember, that is why she does not drink.’ But your mother was distressed. ‘You can’t give an infant wine; she will sicken and die!’ I told her to mix a drop of wine with her milk and give it to you. Still, you would not have any of it. So I said, ‘mix in more wine’, which she did, but still you would not drink. ‘Mix in more,’ I told her, which she did. Finally you drank, but by then, it was all wine—but for a tiny drop of milk.

“In fact my dear, all who are born into this world require a different formula, a different balance of remembrance and forgetfulness. Those who have returned many times, like you my dear, need just enough milk of the world to sustain your body, but to sustain your journey to the Rose you require more and more wine.”

“One moment in annihilation’s waste, one moment, of the well of life to taste—the stars are setting, and the caravan starts for the dawn of nothing—Oh, make haste!”

“You know, my friends, how long since in my house for a new marriage I did make carouse: Divorced old barren reason from my bed, and took the daughter of the vine to spouse.”

“The mind is a great and wondrous thing, dear Granddaughter, until it brings you to the door of the King, then, like shoes at the threshold of a holy place, it must be removed and left outside the door.”

“And wine, dear Grandfather, intoxicates the mind?”

“No my dear, this wine intoxicates the soul—this wine is love.”

“For ‘is’ and ‘is-not’ though with rule and line and ‘up and down’ without I could define, I yet in all I only cared to know, was never deep in anything but—wine.”

“Love, my dear, makes one forget everything to remember All, and lose everything to gain what was never lost. My dear, the wine shop of love is called the tavern of ruin—make haste for; ‘One moment in annihilation’s waste, one moment of the well of life to taste—the stars are setting, and the caravan starts for the dawn of nothing—Oh, make haste!’”

“And why is it a tavern? Grandfather, what is the meaning of that?”

“In the time of Omar, the tavern was considered a despicable place—and wine—the drinking of wine—my God! was a sacrilege. What the Sufis were saying in their verses—what blessed Omar was saying—was that a time comes, for all who seek—who long for the final Fana—the infinite bliss—union with God—that a time comes when one turns his back on the world, not out of hate, or disappointment, but out of indifference, indifference for the is and is not, the up and the down of the world and all its disputes, its pourings from the empty into the void. One enters the tavern and says,  'To hell with how I am seen or known; I seek only love; I seek only wine.'”

“For in and out, above, about, below,
Tis nothing but a magic shadow-show,
Played in a box whose candle is the sun,
Round which we phantom figures come and go.”

“Grandfather, you said that old Omar was an astronomer, a poet, and a Sufi.”

“Yes dear.”

“And I recall that you once told me that Attar was a chemist, and that other Sufis were jewellers and carpet makers—they all had occupations.”

“Yes my dear, that is true. Real teachers teach through their occupations. If you wish to learn from them, you must follow in their ways. You see, for worldly people the occupation is the thing. One learns mathematics from the mathematician, music from the musician, astronomy from the astronomer, but if the teacher has knowledge of the invisible, and if the student is ready, then the teacher imparts the knowledge of the invisible through the external form of his occupation. Take for example the science of mathematics. The numbers themselves can reveal miraculous things.”

“Like what Grandfather?”

“Begin with the number zero. It is a closed circle. It suggests no duality, and it represents a state which is neither conscious nor unconscious. Duality begins with the number two, but the number two cannot exist before the number one. The number one represents individuality without consciousness.

“Consciousness begins when the number two asks the number one, ‘who are you?’ and the number one answers by saying, ‘I am—me!’ Me is seen as opposed to you, and hence the beginning of consciousness with duality. Three brings with it the consciousness of them, and with consciousness of them, the whole creation of relativeness is manifest—all numbers from three to nine.

“Nine includes all the other numbers, so with nine comes the consciousness of everything—but this everything is the everything of duality, and this duality is nothing. With nine comes the consciousness of nothing and this nothing is called nirvan.

“In the state of nirvan consciousness is there, but it is neither of nothing nor everything—illusion or reality. When the state of nirvan is reached, the state of conscious zero follows. It is represented by the number ten. Ten is one with zero, individuality with consciousness—the state of I am God.”

“And if the wine you drink, the lip you press,
End in the nothing of all things, end in—yes—
Then fancy while thou art, thou art but what
Thou shalt be—nothing—thou shalt not be less.”

“And that inverted bowl we call the sky,
Wherunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to it for help—
For it rolls impotently on as thou or I.”

“Grandfather, you spoke of the teachings of numbers, now what of old Omar’s astronomy—what are we to learn from it?”

“My dear, one can learn everything and one can learn nothing, it all depends on you. First let us sit quietly upon this grassy knoll, as quiet as we can, and make our bodies still...”

“Grandfather, I am still now.”

“Not moving?”

“Not moving.”

“And Granddaughter, what is this?”

“It is an orange you have taken from the basket. You have put a mark on it with your pen.”

“My dear, it is the earth, the dot on the side is you. You are stuck on the side of the earth. Why is it that you do not fall off?”

“Because of gravity Grandfather, because the earth is spinning.”

“Yes, the spinning earth pulls everything toward its center. Your up and down, and my up and down, and everyone’s up and down, are always relative to the center of the planet, the spinning planet.”

 “And how fast is it spinning?”

“My dear, that depends on where you are sitting on the planet relative to its axis. At the poles, the earth barely spins, where we are, around 1,000 miles per hour. Now, my dear, the earth is also moving while it’s spinning. Do you know where it’s going?”

“Grandfather, it is going around the sun.”

“Yes, while it is spinning, what we call counter-clockwise, it is also moving counter-clockwise around the sun. It is moving nearly 66,000 miles per hour.”

Grandfather, I’m getting dizzy!”

“And my dear, we have only just begun. For does not the sun also move? And that around which it is moving also moves. My dear, as you sit here without moving, you are moving in seven directions at once, at unimaginable speed, while you are stuck by gravity onto the side of the planet.”

“I’m glad I cannot feel that Grandfather.”

“It is God’s grace, my dear, but tell me, you experience yourself as not moving, yet the fact is that you are. What is the truth, your experience or your knowledge? Some would say that your experience is subjective, while science is objective. But what significance is there in subjective and objective? Is one more true than the other?”

“I don’t know.”

“And consider this too. Even your up and your down are only relative to the center of the planet—above and below you are not the poles. And then what of up and down when considered in relationship to the sun, and the galaxy, and beyond…?”

“Grandfather, it all makes me feel very small, very insignificant.”

“Yet, the masters tell us that the earth, and the sun, and all the stars and starry worlds are within you—come from you—and are your imagination.  Again, what is the truth?”

“Grandfather, I don’t know.”

“Yes my dear, this not knowing is the beginning of knowing. Old Omar’s reality was that he was still, perfectly still, though from within him came the dream of movement.”

“The ball no question makes of yes and no,
But right or left as strikes the player goes;
And He that tossed thee down into the field,
He knows about it all—He knows—He knows!”


“Indeed the idols I have loved so long,
Have done my credit in men's eyes much wrong:
Have drown’d my honor in a shallow cup,
And sold my reputation for a song.”

“And Grandfather, what of music? What are we to learn from music?”

“Ah my dear, yes, music! Of all the arts and sciences music stands the highest because it is closest to silence.”

“But music is made out of sound, how can sound be closest to silence?”

“Silence, my dear, is like the white ray of light; pass the white ray of light through a prism and what do you see?”

“Colors, Grandfather.”

“How many colors?”


“Yes, my dear, when silence passed through God’s whim, it transformed into seven sounds. Each of those original sounds transformed into seven more. Each of those forty-nine sounds transformed into seven more and it went on a total of seven times. All the sounds of the universe are the transformation of the original silence passing through the whim of God to know Himself.

“Now Granddaughter, pay close attention to what I am saying: Sound is vibration; vibration is movement; movement is the definition of creation. Silence is the reality, and sound and silence listen to sound through its creation.”

“Sound listens to sound?”

“Sound creates itself and sound experiences itself through hearing itself.”

“And what of silence?”

“Silence, associating with sound comes to know itself as silence.”

“Like with the numbers? With two comes me and you.”

“Yes, with you, comes the consciousness of me, but until you and me are not we, but One, the journey is not complete.”

“That is what Meher Baba said Grandfather, ‘you and I are not we, but One.’”

“Yes, my dear, the state of the One is silence.”

“Ah love! Could thou and I with fate conspire
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,
Would not shatter it to bits—
And then remould it nearer to the heart’s desire.”

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