Seems for most of my adult life, Rumi’s poetry was always there, gracing beautiful leather bound journals, appearing in a calligrapher’s hand, shared among friends whenever there was a need for comfort, inspiration, or spiritual guidance.
I remember seeing a PBS special about well-known Rumi translator, Coleman Barks, a long time ago. I ran out immediately and bought a couple of Rumi volumes, and from time to time, I go through them and marvel anew at all the wisdom, beauty, insight, and passion contained in his words.
I admit I don’t know much about Rumi’s life, just that he was born in Afghanistan and lived in Turkey. He left academia to write poetry after meeting wandering Dervish, Shams. It was their three and a half year mystical relationship that unearthed Rumi’s latent spirituality and fueled his intense devotion.
In Shams, Rumi saw a divine presence.
When Shams was murdered in 1248, Rumi’s grief and devotion manifested itself in an outpouring of music, dance, and lyrical poems — a huge body of work that today transcends and defies regional, religious, social, and ethnic boundaries.
According to Professor Majid M. Naini, Rumi’s life and transformation provide true testimony and proof that people of all religions and backgrounds can live together in peace and harmony. Rumi’s visions, words, and life teach us how to reach inner peace and happiness so we can finally stop the continual stream of hostility and hatred and achieve true, global peace and harmony.*
The primary theme in Rumi’s poetry is longing, which is basic to human existence. No matter what manner of spiritual practice we employ to alleviate this longing, we mortal beings will always seek communion and union with a higher power.
Poetry is one pathway we have towards spiritual growth and enlightenment. When we encounter a poem we truly love, we often say it “slayed us.” In the presence of truth, the ego dies, a part of us has fallen away. We feel uplifted, changed, renewed, sometimes validated and understood. The place where a poem is true is the place where soul and spiritual growth merges with form.
In Sufi circles they say, ‘There’s prayer, and a step up from that is meditation, and a step up from that is sohbet, or conversation.’ The Friendship of Rumi and Shams became a continuous conversation, in silence and words, presence talking to absence, existence to non-existence, periphery to center.**
Sohbet is receptivity, a profound listening, and the dignity of a reply. Also true, to some degree, of Poetry Friday.
Here is one of my favorite poems by Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273). I love the power of his inclusiveness — uniting each to each, and each of us with our own deepest spiritual selves:
SAY I AM YOU
I am dust particles in sunlight.
I am the round sun.
To the bits of dust I say, Stay.
To the sun, Keep moving.
I am morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am wind in the top of a grove,
and surf on the cliff.
Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on.
I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.
Silence, thought, and voice.
The musical air coming through a flute,
a spark off a stone, a flickering in metal.
Both candle and the moth crazy around it.
Rose and nightingale lost in the fragrance.
I am all orders of being,
the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence,
the lift and the falling away.
What is and what isn’t. You
who know Jelaluddin. You
the One in all, say who
I am. Say I am You.
~ translated from the Persian by John Moyne and Coleman Barks, in SAY I AM YOU: RUMI (Maypop, 1994).
Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Wild Rose Reader.
**from the Moyne and Barks Introduction