Monday, January 8, 2018

From East to West: Rumi

Rumi, the mystic who was born 1207 in Vakhshoutside Balkh in present day Afghanistan, and is arguably the most widely read poet in translation today.RUMI is ranked as America’s best-selling poet,while musical interpretations of Rumi's poetry, composed by Deepak Chopra played in the background. Philip Glass and Robert Wilson have written an opera that includes 114 of Rumi’s poems in the libretto. And back in the 19th century, he was mentioned extensively by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was at one time a Unitarian minister, as well as by the enormously significant German philosopher Hegel.

Any poet from the 13th century who has such unique and lasting credits has to have something going on in his life and work to be taken so seriously. I would like to suggest that he has a lot of relevance to whom and where we are, anytime we begin to take seriously what, if any, our relation to the cosmos should be.

In his poems, Rumi does not talk about himself, his family or his past. This should not come as a surprise. He was first and foremost a deeply spiritual person living life “here and now.”   Rumi’s poetry (like his life) expanses love from something abstract in our prayers and metaphysics into our life and world-encompassing our interpersonal, international and interfaith relations. In this sense,he is universal
Don’t seek me in this or that world
Both worlds have vanished in the world I am.

-- -- Rumi

When I read Rumi's poetry it resonated with the feeling of emptiness and the search for the beloved within me.He was a divine messenger from to invoke the thirst from within us.

Rumi recognized that we can have an instinctive and mystical response to the ordinary events of life. We can have a more joyful daily existence. And he couched that in the faith of Islam, in the language of poetry, and in the joy of the whirling dervish and dance.
When one of his young disciples died, he turned his funeral procession into a whirling dance. For him, joy was primary and joining the kaleidoscopic dance of colors, which made up our lively universe, was the way to feel this transforming joy. For his part, he wrote thousands of ghazals, each a kaleidoscope of moving colors and shapes in its own right.
Oh Beloved,
take me.
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and 

release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
let fire burn me from inside.
Oh Beloved,
take away what I want
Take away what I do.
Take away what I need.
Take away everything
that takes me from you

The mesmerising quality of his words, that moves people and that talks to their inner hearts, is only due to the scent of the Beloved.

I am His cup and His wine jug, I am the dispenser of the scent of His perfume
Come to me so that you could receive the scent of His perfumed quality

What ever you have heard from us, you have heard it from God
Since all that we are saying is His sayings.

Despite his initial portrayal as an all-out mystic and a reluctant poet, Rumi had always enjoyed poetry for the sake of its poetic fun. His master Shams once admonished him for reading too much Arabic love poetry . Rumi loved the genre of ghazal so much that he turned it on its head by re-imagining its most basic conventions. His major poetic composition, the Divan-e Shams, contains over 35,000 lines of lyric poetry. He wrote unconventional ghazals as short as three and as long as fifty lines, abandoned slow meters and reached for meters that echoed whirling, child play, or drunken unruly behavior. More notoriously, he got tired of gazelles, roses, and nightingales and opened the door for donkeys, grasshoppers, flies and camels to re-populate the poetic space. Most ordinary topics made into his ghazals:
It is the rainy season, I dig a canal;
In the hope of union I clap my hands.
The clouds are pregnant with drops from the sea of love;
I am pregnant with those clouds.
Don't say you are not a musician, clap your hands!
Come I will teach you how to become one.
So bright! Will you tell me whose house is that?
I love bright houses so!
Alas! I hide my own water of life
As oil drops cover the surface of water

Nobody can tell you how to interpret RUMI....he himself has not prisoned his poetry in any religous or cultural cages.. neither should you.He belongs to the world and that is why he is so popular all over the world. Rumi integrated in his life the learning of a scholar, the insight of a sage, and literary gem of a poet. 

He is foremost  global citizen and speaks about the human experience and yeraning of love and the emptiness within. Somehow we sense that he belongs to noone and everyone

I will quote only a few verses of this section to give you a taste.

He said, you are not mad enough, you are not suited for this house
I went and became mad, I became bound in shackles

These lines are as intimidating as they are alluring. What is such a love, and why do certain people fall so deeply under its spell?
He said you are not slain, not drenched with joy
Before his life-giving face, I became slain and cast myself down

He said you are a sheikh and headman, you are a leader and guide
I am not a sheikh, I am not a leader, I have become slave to your command

For Rumi, love was a kind of eventful flight, a journey heavenward. But we are not given the nature of the journey nor the location of the heavens. Indeed, the journey could entail discovering an inner seed that swallows the entire universe -- as in this quatrain:

I melted in the sea of purity like salt
belief and infidelity vanished as did certainty and doubt
A star rose in the center of my chest
the seven heavens disappeared in that single star
Hence love declares:
I am Joseph! My proof is my moonlike face
Did anyone ever ask the Sun to prove its presence?
I am a tall cypress, directing you right to your destination
There is nothing more reliable than a guide from heaven.

We are gazing at the heavenly beauty of Prophet Joseph as he merges with the Sun and the Moon descending from there to the earthly greenness in the upright figure of a cypress tree. So we discover the dazzling poetic vista he has opened before us, Rumi appeals to our sense of play:

O, flowers on flowerbeds! Where is your proof of your existence?
And the flowers answer: "Our delicious scent in your head! Our beautiful colors in your eyes!"
We are now in the field of flowers: colorful, fragrant, self-aware and able to voice their thoughts. Just in case our intellect disbelieves the sentience of the flowers or any other part of the story.

I desire you more than food or drink
My body, my senses, my mind,
Hunger for your taste
I can sense your presence in my heart
Although you belong to all the world
I wait with silent passion for one gesture,
One glance from you…

Rumi reminds us of the confusion of the intellect in the domain of love. With rationality disarmed, love in control and beauty all around us, comes another kaleidoscopic scene:

You wish to have proof of a world beyond this one?
See how the old leaves and makes room for the new
A new day, a new night, a new garden, even a new trap to fall into
A new thought in each breath. Newness is a wonder. It surely is a treasure.
Did you ever wonder where the new comes from?
Where the old disappears to?
If beyond what the eyes see there are not endless universes.
The world is a flowing stream, it looks enclosed and unchanging
But the old flows away and the new arrives. God knows where from

In this poem, we are standing on the edge of the stream that is life, our heads giddy with the colors and scents all around us. What will be the next images moving through our kaleidoscope?

Rumi will not limit our imagination by listing the wonders to come. Poetry is action. We will know only by becoming one with that which we wish to know.

Here comes the next scene, an encounter, an opportunity for action! Rumi is standing on the stage:

Love is calling me every moment from every direction
I am heading for the heavens. Anybody wants to watch?
We have all been there before, with angles on our side
I say let us go back where we belong.
Indeed we are higher than the heavens, and much more than angels
Why not transcend these two to reach our home in God's magnificence.

The moon that embodied Joseph's beauty is now cleft asunder giddy with fragrant breeze coming from the abode of Prophet Mohammad. Now turn your kaleidoscope toward the heart to gaze at your personal moon! We are seabirds born in the ocean of the soul. 

Rumi appeals because, as he believed, each one of us carries a memory (no matter how faint) of our Divine home and each one of us (no matter how often) hears echoes of the celestial bird’s song hidden in the garden of our heart.
He isn't just a Sufi poet.
He is a poet of the world.

The wave from pre-eternity came and built our bodies into a ship [able to sale on its waves] / When the ship breaks, it is time for the joy of unio
It is time for the joy of union, it is time for coming to life, for living forever
it is the season of kindness and generosity, the sea is brimming with pure waves

And from this point on, the poem, like the sea itself, brims with wave after wave of joy as brilliant images 
emerge from its waves culminating in the ultimate brightness, God's light:

The jewel box of generosity has opened, the roaring sea has arrived the
dawn of happiness has broken. What morning? It is God's light

Rumi died on 17 December 1273, aged 67. People from diverse religions and ethnicities -- Muslims, Christians, Jews, Persians, Turks, Arabs and Greek, the rich, the poor, the elite and the illiterate, women and men -- all came to his funeral and mourned the loss of their great sage and poet. Buried in Konya, Rumi's tomb (the Green Dome, called called "Ghobat al-Khidhra," in Arabic and "Yashil Turbe" in Turkish) has become a shrine for thousands of his lovers, tourists and pilgrims each year. 
His poetry is infused with the divine message.As Moulana foretold 800 years ago:

Why is it that the resting place of my body has become the place of worship by people of the world?
Because day and night, everywhere in this place is filled with His presence.

Moulana says:
I am the word of Haqq and subsistent through Him
I am the food of the soul of the soul, and the ruby of purity

I am the light of the sun, fallen upon you

What can I do, Submitters to God? I do not know myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim,
I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
not from existence, not from being.
I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin,
not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan
I am not from the world, not from beyond,
not from heaven and not from hell.
I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan.
My place is placeless, my trace is traceless,
no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls.
I have chased out duality, lived the two worlds as one.
One I seek, one I know, one I see, one I call.
He is the first, he is the last, he is the outer, he is the inner.
Beyond "He" and "He is" I know no other.
I am drunk from the cup of love, the two worlds have escaped me.
I have no concern but carouse and rapture.
If one day in my life I spend a moment without you
from that hour and that time I would repent my life.
If one day I am given a moment in solitude with you
I will trample the two worlds underfoot and dance forever.
O Sun of Tabriz (Shams Tabrizi), I am so tipsy here in this world,
I have no tale to tell but tipsiness and rapture.
The religion of love is separate from all forms of religions
 Lovers are of one nation and one religion - love

       And that is God.

Yet I am not separated from the sun

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