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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