Posts Tagged ‘ Love ’

Awakening With Rumi

By Kabir Helminski for Medium

I have always imagined the quatrain above as being part of an intimate conversation between Rumi and his legendary friend, Shams of Tabriz. We live at a time when those “sweet words” are needed to rain down more than ever upon the soil of our universe.

Those who have discovered the heart-penetrating words of Rumi sense their beauty and urgency. And yet we may struggle to express, let alone explain, their importance. Poetry can be the language of the soul, communicating through image and metaphor something beyond tangible realities. It can lead us to where our footprints disappear into the Sea.

We are starting a collaborative blog, Awakening with Rumi, to share the incomparable richness and universality of Rumi’s legacy. This is not meant to be a scholarly project, but a platform for a living tradition of spiritual exploration. Our approach will be to write about our everyday life experience, incorporating, when appropriate, selections from Rumi that guide and illuminate our experience. We are students on the way, humbly attempting to understand and embody the spiritual truths Mevlana, “Our Master,” lived by.

Rumi belongs to the honored category of wisdom teachers that would include: Plato, Ecclesiastes, Lao Tzu, the author of the Gospel of Thomas, Meister Eckhart, Shakespeare, Goethe, and in America, Whitman and Emerson. He can stand with any of them in terms of his intellectual contribution, and possibly beyond any of them in spiritual depth. Once, when the great German scholar Anne Marie Schimmel was asked to compare Goethe and Rumi, she responded: “The great Goethe is like an immense, majestic mountain; but Rumi, ah… Rumi is like the sky itself.” Her words capture the essence of what Rumi offers: an opening to a spiritual Reality even beyond the majesty and beauty of the physical world, a transparency that allows the spiritual Sun to shine upon us.

Rumi is not a self-help guru. He offers more than consolation to our neurotic anxieties. The ecstatic love he extols is not a form of mystical eroticism. He is not an iconoclast, a breaker of tradition, but an inheritor of the wisdom and revelations of the Prophets.

Using all the rich means of literature, and especially poetry, he awakens our imagination to the presence of the Divine. And as we gradually integrate the images, metaphors, and stories, our sense of reality is transformed, our place in the universe is clarified.

Underlying the vast and complex tangle of his vast work is a clear and coherent metaphysical understanding. The Omega point of nature and all existence is the complete human being. All the laws of the physical world are perfectly in balance, proportioned to manifest the heart-consciousness of the human being who has transcended ego limitations and distortions, and has been so humbled in love as to become an expression of the Divinity itself!

However, if we search on the Internet for Rumi quotes, much of what we find will be a mere caricature of the Master. By the time Rumi appears on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms, his profound and nuanced wisdom has sometimes been reduced to one-liners, watered-down clichés, lame truisms, and misleading over-simplifications.

Everything in the universe
is within you. Ask all from yourself.

What this quote, for instance, seems to suggest is that the individual should be his or her own arbiter of truth and not depend on second-hand knowledge, theologies, and dogmas. This sentiment fits well with our postmodern era in which all certainties are dismissed, in which the sacred is just one option among many of equal or no value.

Rumi would never let an assertion like this stand alone without taking us a further step. He says, for instance:

Listen, open a window to God
and begin to delight yourself
by gazing upon Him through the opening.
The business of love is to make that window in the heart,
for the breast is illumined by the beauty of the Beloved.
Gaze incessantly on the face of the Beloved!
Listen, this is in your power, my friend!

[Mathnawi VI, 3095–97]

What must be sought is a portal that can be found within ourselves, but like a window redirects our vision to something beyond ourselves, the Beloved, the Divine Reality. When that window opens, our sense of ourselves is transformed; we see the artificial nature of what we thought was ourselves. This is a great discovery and a great mystery which cannot be contained, or adequately described.

Since the Internet rarely acknowledges who the translator is, I don’t know whose translations I’m commenting on, perhaps even one of my friends, but bear with me for a little bit longer.

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. 
Unfold your own myth.

There is no doubt that Rumi was a master of authenticity, but personality development was not the aim of his teaching, and the word “myth” is not a word to be found in his work. And yet it may have appeal to those creating online identities through social media. Contrast this with the “bitter medicine” that Rumi sometimes hands out:

Unless the seeker is absolutely erased,
in truth, he will not come into union.
Union is not penetrable. It is your annihilation.
Otherwise anyone would become the Truth.

[Quatrains: 800]

Often these “internet quotes” are partial truths that can be misleading if one has little knowledge of the spiritual universe Rumi inhabited.

You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.

Rumi would never say this either, because he understands that the individual ego cannot undo itself; rather when the false self faces the consequences of its own ignorance and denial, it is the Divine Mercy that offers a solution, a remedy. And sometimes the true “Breaker of Hearts” is offering us a lesson, the bitter medicine that is needed:

The gate of union has been closed to me by the Friend.
My heart has been broken by the sorrow and pain of the Friend.
From now on I and my broken heart will wait at the gate,
for those with a broken heart have the favor of the Friend.

[Quatrains: 245]

But it seems that once a “quote” is elevated to Internet heaven, it gets repeated and repeated, confirming that many people only read him online. Furthermore, some of the most popular are not from Rumi at all, as far as I can tell, and I’ll be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong:

Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the world
today I am wise so I am changing myself.

Who is this? Gandhi perhaps?

Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Actually, this is from The Course in Miracles.

I point these things out, knowing that there are well-meaning people who have found meaning and beauty in Rumi, but have not encountered the true range and depth of his legacy, or have not had the opportunity to experience the living tradition which he represents. And all of us, after all, are students, seekers, incomplete in encompassing the vast universe of spiritual knowledge and human possibilities.

So, if you will allow me to conclude with some words from “our master,” Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, just one of many possible examples that expresses that more comprehensive meaning to be encountered in his work, a vision of the “possible human” from Discourses of Rumi (published as Signs of the Unseen): Discourse 16:

The “person of heart” is the All. When you have seen such a person, you have seen everything. “The whole hunt is in the belly of the wild ass,” as the saying goes. All the people in the world are parts of him, and he (or she) is the Whole.

All good and bad are part of the dervish.
Whoever is not so is not a dervish.¹

Now when you have seen a dervish you have certainly seen the whole world. Anyone you see after that is superfluous. A dervishes’ words are the most complete words of all. When you have heard their words, whatever you may hear afterwards is unneeded.

If you see him at any stage, it is as though
you have seen every person and every place.
O copy of the Divine Book which you are,
O mirror of awesome beauty that you are,
nothing that exists in the world is outside of you.
Seek within yourself whatever you want,
for that you are!²

This is an amazing view of what it means to be a complete human being, and this view is reflected in Rumi’s own work, especially the Mathnawi, encompassing so many aspects of earthly life — saints and sinners, dervishes and the kings, creatures of every sort, humor and metaphysical reflection, humble fables and sublime supplications — all of these revealing the Divine Love and Intelligence at work.

We hope that Awakening with Rumi will likewise reflect the Divine Love and Intelligence at work in our lives, in matter-of-fact and miraculous ways.

It is clear that Rumi did not take up a position outside the context of traditional Islam. His frequent references to the Qur’an and his love of the Prophet Muhammad are evidence of his alignment with the primary sources of Islam. In a future article, however, I hope to explore Rumi’s idea of the “Religion of Love,” to clarify that Rumi’s Islam is not a legalistic program ordained by a judgmental God, but a spiritual path leading to intimacy with the Divine Beloved.

Within the Ka`ba the rule of the qibla does not exist:
what matter if the diver has no snow-shoes?
Do not seek guidance from the drunken:
why do you order those whose garments are torn in pieces to mend them?
The religion of Love is apart from all religions:
for lovers, the religion and creed is — God.
If the ruby has not a seal, it is no harm:
Love in the sea of sorrow is not sorrowful.

[Mathnawi II, 1768–71]

1. The line is from Rumi, Divan, i, ghazal 425, line 4476.
2. A quatrain by Najmuddin Razi, Manarat al-sa’irin, manuscript at Tehran, Malek Library.

I’m Still Here

By Kyle W Butler

I’m still here, waiting for your notice.
I never left you, you have to know this.

I’ve seen you tell my story over and over again;
my legacy that I have left for you to spread.
I’ve heard the lines over and over again;
they’re forever pressed into the depths of my head.

I have seen you laugh and I have felt your tears;
your hopes, your dreams, even your rage, and your fears.

Still, you know what you have to do;
keep my memory and legacy living.
Someone out there still needs you;
love, strength, and support to them you will be giving.

Do not worry about me, for I am doing great up here.
Though it’s hard to fathom my mortality being lost,
you can always be assured, Son, I’m still here.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteThis poem is in honor of Karla Alpert-Munir, the mother of my 10 year old son. She passed away after a very long illness and courageous fight from breast cancer earlier today. May her spirit always guide and look down on him from heaven and may God bless her soul.  Ameen. She was a great mother and a good human being who left this world too soon. Deep down, I know she is still here and always will be with her beloved boy.Manzer Munir

Unending Love By Rabindranath Tagore

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…In life after life, in age after age, forever. My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs, That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age-old pain, It’s ancient tale of being apart or together. As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge, Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time: You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount. At the heart of time, love of one for another. We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you The love of all man’s days both past and forever: Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life. The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours – And the songs of every poet past and forever~ 

– Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize as he won in Literature. He was a de facto Poet Laureate of his day before India’s independence from Britain and this is Pakistanis for Peace’s homage to the man and to the human sentiment of love. 

Islam: A Religion of Love

By William C Chittick for The Huffington Post

In the field of religious studies, the word “religion” is commonly understood to designate a worldview along with the various cultural phenomena that embody it, such as doctrine, ritual and art. In this broad sense of the term, everyone has a “religion,” whether acknowledged or not.

By studying the religions of others we can hope to gain a bit of distance from the unquestioned worldviews that underlie our own thinking. Such study is much like learning a new language — we gradually come to see the strengths and weaknesses of our own way of talking and writing. So also each religion, including the atheistic versions, has its own genius and its own limitations.

It seems fairly clear that most thoughtful people nowadays think that we live in interesting times. Some look to other worldviews precisely to gain insight into their own lives. This is a major factor in the great popularity of religious studies in North American universities. The fact that Rumi has become a household name points in the same direction.

Part of Islam’s intellectual heritage is a vast literature exploring and elucidating the nature of love, that most precious of human experiences. Now that I have been offered this forum and told to write about anything I feel like, well, I feel like talking about love. My two previous posts and the responses to them have highlighted the fact that most people have already made up their minds as to the nature of “true Islam.” So let me turn to something that most people, Muslim or not, typically leave out of their understanding of Islam, not least because of their obsession with the world of politics and catastrophes.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya was a famous theologian from Baghdad who died in 1350. Part of his fame lies in the fact that he was the leading disciple of one of the most cantankerous theologians of Islamic history, Ibn Taymiyya, a favorite of Sunni ideologues. Surprisingly for those who think that people of this ilk were narrow-minded bigots, Ibn Qayyim dedicated a large part of his prolific output to love, compassion, forgiveness and other such mild-mannered themes.

In one of his many books, written late in life — Ighathat al-lahfan, “Aid for the Sorrowful” — Ibn Qayyim says that the root of Islam is “love for God, intimacy with Him, and yearning to encounter Him.” He also says, “The revealed books of God, from the first to the last, revolve around the commandment to love.”

Remember that Muslim scholars traditionally spoke of “124,000 prophets,” beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad. What Ibn Qayyim is trying to say is that every true religion — that is, all the religions established by the 124,000 prophets — are founded on love. It makes no difference who these prophets were or where they lived. When Muslims settled down in China, for example, they soon recognized that Confucius had been a prophet.

Claiming that “love” is the heart of Islam or of religion generally is not unusual in the Islamic context. Another example is provided by the major Sunni scholar Rashid al-Din Maybudi, who completed the longest pre-modern Persian commentary on the Quran in 1126. In explaining why the Quran calls itself “a book from God” (verse 2:89), he says that the book deserves to be titled “the eternal love” and that its content is “the story of love and lovers.”

One hundred years after Maybudi and as many years before Ibn Qayyim, Rumi’s famous teacher, Shams-i Tabrizi (who disappeared in the year 1247), said that the Quran is “a book of love,” or “a love letter” from God. He explained that if lawyers, philosophers and theologians fail to see it this way, that is because they are too preoccupied with their own specialties. First, you need to love God rather than law or theology or philosophy (or politics). Then, you should read the book. It is worth noting here that Shams, despite his reputation as an unlearned rascal of spirituality, was a professional Quran-teacher.

No one is surprised to hear that Rumi saw the Quran as a book of love, but most seem to think that Rumi was out of kilter with the Islamic mainstream. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is no accident that his six-volume epic poem in celebration of love, the Mathnawi, has often been called “the Quran in the Persian language.”

Shams al-Din Muhammad, the greatest and most beloved of Persian poets, provides another example. He is known by his chosen pen name, “Hafiz,” a word that designates someone who has memorized the Quran. Anyone familiar with his poetry knows that it is permeated with love and beauty, so much so that native-speakers can become intoxicated simply by listening to it. Hafiz holds that all religion and indeed, all human striving, is rooted in love. One verse will have to suffice:

Everyone, sober or drunk, is seeking a beloved,
everywhere, mosque or synagogue, is the house of love.

Muslim scholars who talk about love as the heart of Islam and of religion generally take the position that God’s love and compassion motivated him to create human beings so that they could love him in return. The goal of creation is to bring lovers into existence, and the goal of lovers — that is, you, me and everyone else — is to escape false loves and return to what we really love. This, for them, is the key message of the Quran, “the story of love and lovers.”

William C. Chittick, is a Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, State University of New York, Stony Brook. For a survey of the role of love in religion generally, including his essay on Islam, see the volume edited by Jeff Levin and Stephen G. Post, Divine Love: Perspectives from the World’s Religious Traditions.

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