Esoteric Teachings of Rumi
“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.
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
“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.
If you are wise, choose Not-being—self-effacement—
For Being may be displayed in that Not-being.
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)
“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.’
‘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 Sind those of Sind.
I am not purified by their praises,
It is they who become pure and shining thereby.
I regard the inside and the state of heart.
Though the words may be the reverse of humble.
Accidents are only a means, substance is the final cause.
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.
They whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.
As tax and tithe are levied on a ruined village.
If a martyr be stained with blood, wash it not away.
This fault is better than a thousand correct forms.
And divers have no need of shoes.’” — Ibid
“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.
After many minutes had passed, Hamid said with feeling, “But I am not worthy.”
“There is prayer and there is prayer my friend,” said Ayushya, and then repeated these couplets from the Masnavi;
And divers have no need of shoes.’
Kindle in thy heart the flame of love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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
“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
“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