a community of lovers
Selections presented at the Waterloo Festival – June 8th, 2019
Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the Ocean.
Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor,
and in the arms of the Sea be secure.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop!
In God’s name, in God’s name, sell and buy at once!
Give a drop, and take this Sea full of pearls.
[Mathnawi IV, 2619-2622, Jewels of Remembrance, trans. Kabir & Camille Helminski]
This Body is a Rose (excerpt)
From the moment you came into this manifest world,
a ladder was offered for your escape.
From mineral substance you became a living plant,
and later a roving animal. Is this a secret?
Afterwards, as a human being,
you developed reason, consciousness, faith.
See how this body has risen from the dust like a rose?
When you have surpassed the human state,
your angelic nature will unfold
in a world beyond this world.
Surpass the angels then and enter the sea.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 1926, Love Is a Stranger, trans. Kabir Helminski & Ahmad Rezwani]
It Is Thou
A certain man came and knocked at a friend’s door.
His friend asked him, “Who is there?”
He answered, “It’s me.”
The friend said, “Go away, it’s not the time.
There is no place for the raw at this table.”
What will cook the raw one
except for the fire of absence and separation?
What will deliver him from hypocrisy?
The wretched man went away,
and for a year he traveled—in separation
from his friend he burned with sparks of fire.
That burned one was slowly cooked,
until he returned and again paced back and forth
before the house of his friend.
With mindful shyness he knocked at the door,
so no word of disrespect might escape from his lips.
“Who is at the door?” his friend called,
“It is Thou, O charmer of hearts,” he answered.
“Now,” said the friend, “since thou art I, come in, O myself:
there was never room in this house for two I’s.
[Mathnawi I: 3056-3063, The Rumi Daybook, trans. Kabir & Camille Helminski]
Whether it’s sugar or poison, how sweet is selflessness!
You grab a hat, you have no head. How sweet is selflessness!
When you fall into its trap, and try to get out but find no escape . . .
when you take just a sip of its wine, how sweet is selflessness!
Face your fear and be a man; you’re alive, so be in motion.
Abandon gold for a heart of gold. How sweet is selflessness!
You spread yourself like freezing rain. Experience the miracle of melting.
Don’t be sad about this material world. How sweet is selflessness!
Don’t complain that you’re trapped, that your cup of life is full to the brim.
Find new life even in old age. How sweet is selflessness!
How can you stay sober in this ocean of wine!
Surrender your skepticism! How sweet is selflessness!
When those black curls of Hers appear, ambergris seems less than worthless,
but what musk, what fragrant ambergris is this sweet selflessness!
Come on to the rose garden, friend, join the gathering of the drunks, a glass in every hand! How sweet is selflessness!
See the Power truly present, witnessing each and every soul,
far beyond even selflessness. How sweet is selflessness!
[Divani Shamsi Tabrizi 2504, Love’s Ripening, trans. Kabir Helminski & Ahmad Rezwani]
Stoking The Fire of Love
The vision of God looks into the heart
to see whether there is some modesty there,
no matter what your words sound like,
because the heart is what matters.
Speech is secondary. The essence is what’s real.
So what is secondary matters less.
How long must I keep telling this story?
I want burning, burning:
become intimate with that burning!
Light up a bonfire of love in your soul,
burn up thought and speech!
O Moses, those who know the “right” way are of one kind,
but they whose souls and spirits burn
are of another sort.
[Mathnawi II: 1760-1764, The Rumi Daybook, trans. Kabir & Camille Helminski]
I Was Dead but I Came to Life
I was dead, but I came to life; I was all tears, I turned into laughter.
The authority of Love arrived, and I became Love’s authority.
My eyes are saturated with all I’ve seen, my soul is brave;
my spirit is like a lion, and so I was made the radiant Venus.
He said: “You’re not out of your mind, nor fit for this house.”
I became so crazy they wanted to put me in chains.
He said: “You’re not drunk enough; go away, you’re not one of us.”
I got really drunk, full of joy.
He said: “You’re neither dead nor glistening with joy.”
I let myself be defenseless and was slain before His life-giving Face.
He said: “You’re so smart, intoxicated with your own imagination and suspicions.”
I turned into an idiot, embarrassed myself, and left everything.
He said: “You’ve become a candle, the qibla to this gathering.”
There is no gathering, no candle; I’m less than wafting smoke.
He said: “You’re a shaykh, an authority, a celebrity, a boss.”
I am not a shaykh, nor a celebrity; I’m just a servant of Your command.
He said: “You have your wings and fancy feathers; I offer you neither.”
Wishing for true wings and feathers, I stripped away my own plumage.
The new Dominion told me: “Don’t try so hard, don’t trouble yourself;
Since by My favor and abundance I am coming to you Myself.”
The ancient Love told me: “Do not separate from me!”
I said: “Of course I won’t.” And settled down permanently.
You are the fountain of the rising sun; I am the shade of the willow.
You struck me on the head; I became humble and melted.
My heart found radiance from the soul; it opened up and cleaved.
My heart wove new satin, and I became aloof to this ragged garb.
This physical form that covers my soul keeps talking nonsense at dawn:
“I was a slave and a donkey driver; I became a soverign and a lord.”
Your paper wrapper is thankful of Your abundant candy, saying,
“When it came to my bosom, I became one and the same with it.”
My fortress of dirt is thankful for my circling heavens.
Because He turned His attention toward me, I can receive light.
The revolving heaven is thankful to the King, the sovereign, and the angels,
“By His bounty and generosity, I’ve become forgiving and illumined.”
God’s mystic is thankful to everyone and learns from everyone;
within the seven heavens I have become a shining sun.”
I was the evening star; I became a moon, turning into a hundred-layered sphere.
I was Joseph; from now on I’ll beget many Josephs.
I belong to You, O celebrated Moon; look at Yourself and see me!
Because of Your welcoming smile, I’ve become a smiling rose garden.
Be silent as a game of chess, let the moves speak for themselves.
Didn’t the face of that King of the world, Shams, finish the game?
[Divani Shamsi Tabrizi 1393, Love’s Ripening, trans. Kabir Helminski & Ahmad Rezwani]
Selections presented at the Bradford event – April 20th, 2013
Come close… closer… even closer!
How long will this hindrance last?
If you are me and I am you,
What is this separation between you and me?
We are the light of God, we are God‛s mirror.
So why do we struggle with ourselves and with one another?
Why does one light escape from another?
Come, release yourself from this ego.
Live in harmony with everyone;
Be friendly with everyone.
If you are by yourself,
You are only one drop, one speck;
Whereas when you bond and unite with everyone,
You are an ocean, you are an ore.
There are many languages but all are the same meaning.
Water in different cups becomes one when the cups are
broken and they run as one.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 3020]
Didn’t I say, don’t sit with sad companions?
Don’t sit with anyone but those whose hearts are glad.
Since you are in the garden, don’t go to thorns.
Sit amidst the roses, jonquils, and jasmine.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 1518, translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski, The Rumi Daybook]
We stood together hand in hand in primordial time;
now at last, we are one again.
We are all of one soul struggling along one path,
and all drunk with the same wine.
From among the two worlds we chose Love alone
except for that Love there is nothing we adore.
What bitterness did our souls suffer from separation!
At long last, we are free from separation.
A ray from the sun came in through an opening
and raised us up in dignity, however low we were.
O Sunlight! Don’t withhold Your loving radiance from us!
Aren’t we sitting in the robes of Your radiance?
By Your radiance we are transformed into rubies,
it is because of You that we exist.
Dancing like particles before You;
in our yearning for You, we abandon all our chains.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 1761, translated by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani, Love’s Ripening]
Surely there is a window from heart to heart:
they are not separate or far from each other.
Though two earthenware lamps are not joined,
their light mingles.
No lover seeks union without the beloved also seeking,
but the love of lovers makes the body
thin as a bowstring,
while the love of loved ones
makes them shapely and pleasing.
When the lightning of love for the beloved
has shot into this heart,
know that there is love in that heart.
When love for God has been doubled in your heart,
there is no doubt that God has love for you.
No sound of clapping comes forth
from only one hand.
The thirsty man is moaning, “O delicious water!”
The water is calling,
“Where is the one who will drink me?”
This thirst in our souls is the magnetism of the Water:
we are Its, and It is ours.
Divine wisdom decreed us lovers of each other;
all the particles in the world
are fated to be in love with their mates,
just as amber attracts straw.
Heaven says to earth, “Welcome,
we are magnetised to each other.”
To the intellect Heaven is masculine, Earth is feminine;
whatever Heaven sends down,
it is the earth’s to nurture.
If Earth grows cold, Heaven sends warmth;
when Earth gets dry, Heaven pours down rain.
Heaven is almost giddy when it enters the world of time,
Like a husband who goes out to find
Something to bring home to his wife;
And Earth is a good wife:
It gives birth and suckles what it bears.
Heaven and Earth do intelligent work.
Why else would these two nestle like lovers
If they did not taste delight in each other?
The desire in the female for the male
Is so that they might perfect each other’s work,
And the world is preserved by this union.
[Mathnawi III, 4391–4415, translated by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani, Love’s Ripening]
Money and real estate occupy the body,
but all the heart wants is expanding friendship.
A rose garden without a friend is indeed a prison;
a prison with a friend becomes a rose garden.
If the pleasure of friendship did not exist,
neither men nor women would be here.
A thorn from a friend’s garden is worth more
than a thousand cypresses and lilies.
Love sewed us securely together.
We owe nothing to the needle and thread.
If the house of the world is dark,
Love will find a way to create windows.
If the world is full of arrows and swords,
the Armorer of Love has made us coats of mail.
Love itself describes its own perfection.
Be speechless and listen.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 1926, translated by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani, Love’s Ripening]
Those sweet words we shared between us,
the vault of heaven has concealed in its heart.
One day, they will pour down like rain.
Our secrets will germinate in the soul of this universe.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 1112, translated by Kabir Helminski and Lida Saedian, Love’s Ripening]
Love is reckless, not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.
Yet, in the midst of suffering,
Love proceeds like a millstone,
hard-surfaced and straightforward.
Having died to self interest,
she risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.
Without cause God gave us Being;
without cause, give it back again.
Gambling yourself away is beyond any religion.
Religion seeks grace and favour,
but those who gamble these away are God’s favourites,
for they neither put God to the test
nor knock at the door of gain and loss’
[Mathnawi VI 1967-74, translated by Kabir Helminski, The Pocket Rumi]
With every breath I plant the seeds of devotion
I am a farmer of the heart
day and night I see the face of union
I am the mirror of God
Every moment I shape my destiny with chisel
I am the carpenter of my own soul.
[1183, translated by Jonathan Star, Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved]
The command come against your will
is for the blind follower of religion.
Come willingly is for the sincere.
The former loves God for something else,
while the sincere one has a pure, real love.
The former loves the Nurse,
but for the sake of the milk,
while the other has given his heart
for the sake of the Nurse Herself.
The child is blind to Her beauty—
he just wants milk,
while the other is truly the lover of the Nurse—
single-mindedly, passionately in love.
[Mathnawi III: 4590-4594, translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski, The Rumi Daybook]
There is a place born of silence
A place where the whispers of the heart arise.
There is a place where voices sing your beauty
A place where every breath
carves your image
in my soul.
[465, translated by Jonathan Star, Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved]
Last night I learned how to be a lover of God
To live in this world and call something my own
I looked inward
And the beauty of my own emptiness
Filled me till dawn
It enveloped me like a mine of rubies
Its hue clothed me in red silk
Within the cavern of my soul
I heard the voice of the lover crying
Drink now! Drink now!
I took a sip and saw the vast ocean
wave upon wave caressed my soul
The lovers of God dance around
And the circle of their steps
becomes a ring of fire around my neck
Heaven calls me with its rain and thunder
A hundred thousand cries
Yet I cannot hear
All I hear is the call of my Beloved
[2015. translated by Jonathan Star, Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved]
Don’t go away, come near!
Don’t be faithless, be faithful!
Find the antidote in the venom.
Come to the root of the root of your Self.
Molded of clay, yet kneaded
from the substance of certainty,
a guard at the Treasury of Holy Light –
come, return to the root of the root of your Self.
Once you get hold of selflessness,
you’ll be dragged from your ego
and freed from many traps—
come, return to the root of the root of your Self.
You are born from the children of God’s creation,
but you’ve fixed your sight too low.
How can you be happy?
Come, return to the root of the root of your Self.
Though you are a talisman protecting a treasure,
you are also the mine.
Open your hidden eyes
and come to the root of the root of your Self.
You were born from a ray of God’s majesty
and have the blessings of a good star.
Why suffer at the hands of things that don’t exist?
Come, return to the root of the root of your Self.
You came here from the presence of that fine Friend,
a little drunk, but gentle, stealing our hearts
with that look so full of fire, so
come, return to the root of the root of your Self.
Our master and host, Shamsi Tabriz,
has put the eternal cup before you.
Glory be to God, what a rare wine!
So come, return to the root of the root of your Self.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 1926, translated by Kabir Helminski, The Pocket Rumi]
If all the world is full of thorns,
The lover’s heart will be a bed of roses.
Even if the sphere of stars stops turning,
The world of lovers keeps going on.
Everybody gets sad sometime,
But the lover’s soul keeps a tender smile.
Give the lover an unlit candle,
And he’ll awaken it with his own light.
Although alone, a lover is never lonely,
Forever with the hidden beloved.
The lover’s wine spills out of their chests;
They give their love in secret ways.
Love will not be satisfied with a 100 promises,
For those who steal your heart away have so many tricks.
If you see a lover feigning sick,
Expect the beloved to soon be at the bedside.
Ride on love and don’t worry about the road!
Because the steed of love has the smoothest ride.
It will take you home in a single thrust,
Even though the road is rough.
You won’t find lovers munching in the pasture.
Lovers sip a rare soul wine.
From Shams of Tabriz you will find
A heart very drunk and truly sober.
[Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi: 662, translated by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani, Love’s Ripening]
Everything except love of the Most
Beautiful, is really agony.
It’s agony to move toward death and not
Drink the water of life.
[Mathnawi I, 3684-3687, translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski, Rumi: Daylight]
The seeds of His love blossom in every heart
The sounds of His flute fill every celebration
Everyone thinks that he sings and dances
He is the only one singing
He is the only one dancing
[681B, translated by Jonathan Star, Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved]
Jesus, upon whom be peace, laughed a lot. John the Baptist, upon whom be peace, wept a lot. John said to Jesus, “You have become mighty secure from God’s subtle traps to laugh so much.”
“You,” replied Jesus, “have become mighty heedless of God’s subtle and mysterious grace and loving-kindness to weep so much!”
One of God’s saints, who was present at this moment, asked God which of the two was of the more exalted station. God answered, “The one who thinks better of me,” that is, “Within my servants conception of me, I am there. Each of My servants has an image or idea of Me. Whatever each of them imagines Me to be, that I am. I am the servant to images within which God lives; I care nothing for any reality where God does not dwell. O My servants, cleanse your thoughts, for they are My dwelling places.
Now make a trial for yourself and see what is more beneficial to you—weeping, laughter, fasting, prayer, or retreat. Choose whichever of these states serves you best and causes you to advance further.”
[Fihi ma Fihi: Discourse 10, translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski, The Rumi Daybook]
Moses and the Shepherd
Moses came upon a shepherd along the way who was talking to himself saying, “O God, who chooses whomever you wish, where are you that I might be your servant and repair your shoes and comb your hair? I can wash your clothes and kill your lice and bring you milk. I can kiss your small hand and rub your small foot, and at bedtime I can sweep your little room. I will sacrifice all my goats to you, and all my cries of sadness and exclamation shall be to you.”
The Shepherd spoke these tender intimate words in this way and so Moses said to him, “Whom are you talking to?” and the shepherd replied, “The one who created us and who created our power to see earth and sky.”
“You idiot,” Moses said, “you’re not a Muslim but an infidel. What babble are you talking, what blasphemy and raving, stuff cotton wool into your mouth! The stench of your blasphemy has made everything stink. It’s turned a silk robe into a sow’s ear. You talk of shoes and socks – these are things that you might wear, but not He who is the sun. If you don’t shut up, a fire will consume everyone, and if not it has already burned your soul to blackness and caused your spirit to be rejected by God. If you know that God is the judge, how can you imagine this sort of familiar talk is right?”
And the shepherd said, “O Moses, you’ve closed my mouth and burned my soul with repentance.” And he tore his clothes and heaved many a great sigh, hastily turning his head toward the desert and running away.
That same day Moses had a revelation that God came to him and said:
You send away my servant – Did you come to unite or to separate? The thing you should avoid most is separation. I hate divorce. I have given everyone the power to act in special ways, with their own particular forms of expression. The way the shepherd talked is worth of praise, while the way you talked is worthy of blame. With regard to him, honey. With regard to you, poison.
I’m not interested in the difference between what’s pure and what’s impure or what’s lazy and what’s not, in terms of how you worship me. I never ordained divine worship for profit but as a kindness to my servants. Every religion has its own particular forms of worship, and none of them sanctify me, but themselves. Each one who worships, sanctifies himself, becoming pure and radiant in the act. I don’t look at the tongue that speaks or the words that are spoken, but the heart, the spirit and the feeling from which it comes.
[From the Mathnawi, translated by Philip Dunn,Manuela Dunn Mascetti and R.A. Nicholson, The Illustrated Rumi]
O my God, our intoxicated eyes have blurred our vision.
Our burdens have become heavy, forgive us.
You are hidden, and yet from East to West You have filled the world with Your radiance.
Your Light is more magnificent than sunrise or sunset,
and You are the inmost ground of consciousness
revealing the secrets we hold.
You are an explosive force causing our damned up rivers to burst forth.
You whose essence is hidden while
Your gifts are manifest,
You are like water and we are like millstones.
You are like wind and we are like dust.
The wind is hidden while the dust is plainly seen.
You are the invisible spring, and we are Your lush garden.
You are the Spirit of life and we are like hand and foot.
Spirit causes the hand to close and open.
You are intelligence; we are Your voice.
Your intelligence causes this tongue to speak.
You are joy and we are laughter,
for we are the result of the blessing of Your joy.
All our movement is really a continual profession of faith,
bearing witness to Your eternal power,
just as the powerful turning of the millstone professes faith in the river’s existence.
Dust settles upon my head and upon my metaphors,
for You are beyond anything we can ever think or say.
And yet, this servant cannot stop trying to express Your beauty,
in every moment, let my soul be Your carpet.
[Mathnawi V: 3307-3319, translated by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani (with Camille Helminski), Love’s Ripening]
On Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses
Following our post from Esin Chelebi describing the love felt for Rumi by not just the Muslim community but also the Christian and Jewish communities, here are four selections that show Mevlana’s love for Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses (peace and blessings upon them) and the Message they brought to mankind.
The companion of the Prophet said,
“Whenever the Prophet recited verses of the Qur’an to us,
at the moment of abundance that chosen Messenger
would ask attentiveness and reverence.”
It’s as when a bird perches on your head,
and your soul trembles for fear of its flitting,
so you don’t dare to stir lest that beautiful bird take to the air;
you dare not breathe, you suppress a cough,
lest that huma should fly away;
and should anyone speak sweet or sour words to you,
you lay a finger to your lips, meaning, “Hush!”
Bewilderment is like that bird: it makes you silent;
it puts the lid on the kettle and fills you with the boiling of love.
A sober-minded man said to Jesus,
“What in this existence is the hardest to bear?”
“O dear soul,” he replied, “the hardest is God’s anger,
from which Hell is trembling as we are.”
“And what is the protection against God’s anger?”
Said Jesus, “To abandon your own anger at once.”
God spoke to Moses by inspiration of the heart,
saying, “O chosen one, I love you.”
Moses said, “O Bountiful One,
tell me what disposition in me is the cause of that,
so that I might increase it.”
God said, “You are like a child in the presence of its mother:
when she reprimands it, it still holds tightly to her.
It doesn’t even know that there is anyone in the world except her:
it is afflicted with sorrow by her
but also intoxicated with joy by her.
If its mother gives it a slap,
still it comes to its mother and clings to her.
It doesn’t seek help from anyone but her:
she is all its evil and its good.
Your heart, likewise, in good or evil straits
never turns away from Me.
In your sight all besides Me are as stones and lumps of earth,
whether they be young or old.”
Just as You do we worship in yearning entreaty,
so in difficulty we ask help of none but You.
If there are a hundred religious books, they are but one chapter:
a hundred different religions seek one place of worship.
All these roads end in one House:
all these thousand ears of corn are from one Seed.
All the hundred thousand sorts of food and drink
are but one thing if one looks to their final cause.
When you are entirely satiated with one kind of food,
fifty other kinds of food become displeasing to your heart.
In hunger, then, you are seeing double,
for you have regarded as more than a hundred thousand
that which is but One.
From Jewels of Remembrance, translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski
“If I told you about a land of love,
friend, would you follow me and come?
In that land are vineyards,
that yield a deadly wine –
no glass can hold it.
Would you swallow it as a remedy?”
― Yunus Emre, The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems