Back in 2016, I read a book called The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. A historical-fiction novel partially based during the time of Rumi. I have since followed his writings and the quotes that circulate through the internet don’t do his wisdom justice. These are some of my favorite poems or excerpts from the scholar turned poet.
The below all can be found in The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. I think it is worth mentioning the following introductions to two of the chapters.
” Some sufis have seen the beauties of art as something that can slow down soul growth. Art gives the teasing taste of surrender without the full experience.”
“There’s a game that’s remembered in Iran called moshaereh, which means ‘being in company with poetry.’ One person says a line from Rumi, then the next person must begin a Rumi line with the word the first person’s ended with. And so on for hours, I’m told, before television deadened the psyche, a family or a group of friends might continue. Rumi was not the only poet used. It might be Hafiz, or Attar, or others. Poetry wove together the fabric of community and kept it lively. We have nothing comparable, except the nights of trading poems back and forth that sometimes happen in gatherings.
In December of 1273 when Rumi died, representatives of every major religion came to his funeral. In the midst of the crusades and violent sectarian conflict he said, ‘I go into the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church and I see one altar.’ And he made it clear in other places that someone who considers religion or nation an important human category is in danger of severing the heart from its ability to act compassionately. This is a radical idea now, but Rumi held the conviction in the thirteenth century with such deep gentleness that its truth was recognized.“
From A Man and Woman Arguing…
“Spiritual arrogance is the ugliest of all things.”
From Childhood Friends…
“There is nothing worse than thinking you are well enough. More than anything, self complacency blocks the workmanship. Put your vileness up to a mirror and weep. Get that self-satisfaction flowing out of you! Satan thought ‘I am better than Adam,’ and that better than is still strongly in us.”
From Cry Out in Your Weakness…
“Be patient. Respond to every call that excites your spirit. Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back toward disease and death.”
What Jesus Runs Away From
The son of Mary, Jesus, hurries up a slope as though a wild animal were chasing him. Someone following asks, “Where are you going? No one is after you.’ Jesus keeps on, saying nothing, across two more fields. ‘Are you the one who says words over a dead person, so that he wakes up?’ I am. ‘Did you make the clay birds fly?’ Yes. ‘Who then could possibly cause you to run like this?’
I say the Great Name over the deaf and the blind, they are healed. Over a stony mountainside, and it tears its mantle down to the navel. Over non-existence, it comes into existence. But when I speak lovingly for hours, for days, with those who take human warmth and mock it, when I say the Name to them, nothing happens. They remain rock, or turn to sand, where no plants can grow. Other diseases are ways for mercy to enter, but this non-responding breeds violence and coldness toward God. I am fleeing from that. As little by little air steals water, so praise dries up and evaporates with foolish people who refuse to change. Like cold stone you on a cynic steals body heat. He doesn’t feel the sun. Jesus wasn’t running from actual people. He was teaching in a new way.
Craftsmanship and Emptiness
I’ve said before that every craftsman searches for what’s not there to practice his craft. A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water carrier picks the empty pot. A carpenter stops at the house with no door. Workers rush toward some hint of emptiness, which they then start to fill. Their hope, though, is for emptiness, so don’t think
you must avoid it. It contains what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends with the vast nothing inside, why would you always be casting your net
into it, and waiting so patiently? This invisible ocean has given you such abundance, but still you call it “death,” that which provides you sustenance and work. God has allowed some magical reversal to occur, so that you see the scorpion pit as an object of desire, and all the beautiful expanse around it as dangerous and swarming with snakes.
This is how strange your fear of death and emptiness is, and how perverse the attachment to what you want. Now that you’ve heard me on your misapprehensions, dear friend, listen to Attar’s story on the same subject. He strung the pearls of this about King Mahmud, how among the spoils of his Indian campaign there was a Hindu boy, whom he adopted as a son. He educated and provided royally for the boy and later made him vice-regent, seated on a gold throne beside himself. One day he found the young man weeping. “Why are you crying? You’re the companion of an emperor! The entire nation is ranged out before you like stars that you can command!”
The young man replied, “I am remembering my mother and my father, and how they scared me as a child with threats of you! ‘Uh-oh he’s headed for King Mahmud’s court! Nothing could be more hellish!’ Where are they now when they should see me sitting here?”
This incident is about your fear of changing. You are the Hindu boy. Mahmud, which means, Praise to the End, is the spirit’s poverty, or emptiness. The mother and father are your attachment to beliefs and bloodties and desires and comforting habits. Don’t listen to them! They seem to protect, but they imprison. They are your worst enemies.
They make you afraid of living in emptiness.
Some day you’ll weep tears of delight in the court, remembering your mistaken parents! Know that you body nurtures the spirit, helps it grow, and then gives it wrong advice. The body becomes, eventually, like a vest of chainmail in peaceful years, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. But the body’s desires, in another way, are like an unpredictable associate, whom you must be patient with. And that companion is helpful, because patience expands your capacity to love and feel peace.
The patience of a rose close to a thorn keeps it fragrant. It’s patience that gives milk to the male camel still nursing in its third year, and patience is what the prophets show to us. The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt
is the patience it contains. Friendship and loyalty have patience as the strength of their connections. Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates that you haven’t been patient. Be with those who mix with God as honey blends with milk, and say,
“Anything that comes and goes,
rises and sets,
is not what I love.”
Live in the one who created the prophets, else you’ll be like a caravan fire left to flare itself out alone beside the road.
I believe Rumi’s popularity is because he speaks on love and it seems as though virtually everyone not only loves a love song but a love poem. So if there is a love quote to love of Rumi’s let it be this one.
From The Food Sack…
“No one really loves, loves existence.”