Rumi

Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of their heart.

Born in Afghanistan in 1207, at the age of eighteen he traveled with his family to Turkey to avoid the Mongol invasion. There he became a theology professor and taught in a Madrassah. In 1244 he met the wandering dervish Shams al-Din of Tabriz, Iran.   "What I had thought of before as God, I met today in a person."   This meeting transformed him from a religious teacher into a mystical poet with longing and devotion for the Eternal Beloved. According to his disciple Husam: "He never took a pen in hand. He would recite ... I would write." Husam would read it back to Rumi, so Rumi could then revise it.   Rumi's epic poem the Masnavi is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of mystical poetry and has had enormous influence over Islamic literature and thought. After his death in 1273, his followers established a Sufi sect now known as the whirling dervishes.


Rumi's Poetry

- translated by Coleman Barks I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I have been knocking from the inside! - translated by Timothy Freke The inner consciousness of the saint is the true mosque where all should worship, God lives there. - translated by Kabir & Camille Helminski The spiritual path wrecks the body and afterwards restores it to health. It destroys the house to unearth the treasure, and with that treasure builds it better than before. That which God said to the rose, and caused it to laugh in full blown beauty, He said to my heart, and made it a hundred times more beautiful. The core of every fruit is better than its rind: consider the body to be the rind, and its friend, the spirit, to be the core. seek it, inspired by the Divine breath. For lovers, the only teaching is the beauty of the Beloved: their only book and lecture is the Face. Outwardly they are silent, but their penetrating remembrance rises to the high throne of their Friend. Their only lesson is enthusiasm, whirling, and trembling, not the minor details of law. - translated by Coleman Barks In the early morning hour, Just before dawn, lover and beloved wake And take a drink of water. She asks, "Do you love me or yourself more? Really, tell the absolute truth." He says, "There is nothing left of me. I am like a ruby held up to the sunrise. Is it still a stone, or a world Made of redness? It has no resistance to sunlight." This is how Hallaj said, I am God, And told the truth! The ruby and the sunrise are one. I was going to tell you my story but waves of pain drowned my voice. I tried to utter a word but my thoughts became fragile and shattered like glass. Even the largest ship can capsize in the stormy sea of love, let alone my feeble boat which shattered to pieces leaving me nothing but a strip of wood to hold on to. Small and helpless, rising to heaven on one wave of love and falling with the next I donít even know if I am or I am not. When I think I am, I find myself worthless, when I think I am not, I find my value. Like my thoughts, I die and rise again each day so how can I doubt the resurrection? Tired of hunting for love in the world, at last I surrender in the valley of love and become free. For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself from within, I could not decide what to do. Unable to see, I heard my name being called. Then I walked outside. Take someone who does not keep score, who is not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing something, who has not the slightest interest even in his won personality: he is free. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there. Poles apart, I am the color of dying, you are the color of being born. Unless we breathe in each other, there can be no garden. During the day I was singing with you. At night we slept in the same bed. I was not conscious day or night. I thought I knew who I was, but I was you. The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers do not finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along. We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups. That is fine with us. Every morning we glow and in the evening we glow again. They say there is no future for us. They are right. Which is fine with us.

Coleman Barks, a published poet, does not translates from the original Persian, but writes from existing English translations and reworks them. His "The Essential Rumi" (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

the Masnavi

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