Saturday, February 21, 2015

Too Vast for Partnership

Will it be better for us when we
dissolve into the ground, or worse?

Let's learn now what will happen.

This is lovers' work, to break through and become this earth,
 to die before we die. 
Don't think of pairing up somehow with God! 
That claim is a religious self-indulgence. 
You know it by the smell:
smoke coming off dried dung is different from that of aloe wood! 
The presence that one second is soil, then water, fire,
smoke, woof, warp, a friend, a shame, a modesty, 
is too vast and intimate for partnership!
Observers watch as presence takes thousands of forms.

But inside your eyes the presence doesn't brighten or dim;
it just lives there. 
A saint or a prophet,
one like Muhammad can see the trees of heaven,
the fruit hanging so close he could reach and pick one for his friend. 
But it's not time for that.

They melt and flow away from sight.

  Ghazal (Ode) 941
Version by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin
"The Glance"
Viking-Penguin, 1999

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A World with No Boundaries

With every breath the sound
of love surrounds us,
and we are bound for the depths
of space, without distraction.

We've been in orbit before
and know the angels there.
Let's go there again, Master,
for that is our land.

Yet we are beyond all of that
and more than angels.
Out beyond duality,
we have a home, and it is Majesty.
That pure substance is
different from this dusty world.
What kind of place is this?
We once came down; soon we'll return.
A new happiness befriends us
as we work at offering our lives.

Muhammad, the jewel of the world,
is our caravan's chosen guide.
The sweetness we breathe on the wind
is from the scent of his hair,
and the radiance of our thought
is from the light of his day.

His face once caused
the moon to split in two.
She couldn't endure the sight of him.
Yet how lucky she was,
she who humbly received him.
Look into your heart and see
the splitting moon within each breath.
Having seen that vision,
how can you still dream?

When the wave of "Am I not?" struck,
it wrecked the body's ship;
when the ship wrecks again,
it will be the time of union.

The Human Being, like a bird of the sea,
emerged from the ocean of the soul.
Earth is not the final place of rest
for a bird born from the sea.

No, we are pearls of that ocean;
all of us live in it;
and if it weren't so, why would
wave upon wave arrive?

This is the time of union,
the time of eternal beauty.
It is the time of luck and kindness;
it is the ocean of purity.
The wave of bestowal has come.

The roar of the sea is here.
The morning of happiness has dawned.
No, it is the light of God.

Whose face is pictured here?
Who is this shah or prince?
Who is this ancient intelligence?
They are all masks . . .
and the only remedy is
this boiling ecstasy of the soul.

A fountain of refreshment
is in the head and the eyes -
not this bodily head
but another pure spiritual one.

Many a pure head has been spilled
in the dust. Know the one from the other!
Our original head is hidden,
while this other is visible.
Beyond this world is a world
that has no boundaries.

Put your water skin away, brother,
and draw some wine from our cask!
The clay jug of perception
has such a narrow spout.
The sun appeared from the direction of Tabriz,
and I said, "This light is at once joined
with all things, and yet apart from everything."

Ghazal (Ode) 363
Version by Kabir Helminski
"Love is a Stranger"
Threshold Books, 1993

Sunday, February 01, 2015

This cutting away

come and see me
today i am away
out of this world

hidden away
from me and i

i grabbed a dagger
made slices of
me from myself
since i belong
not to me
not to anyone

i am so sorry
for not having done
this cutting away before
it was my soul's mind
and not mine

i have no idea
how my inner fire
is burning today
my tongue
is on a different flame

i see myself
with a hundred faces
and to each one
i swear it is me

surely i must have
a hundred faces
i confess none is mine
i have no face

Ghazal 1519
Translation by Nader Khalili
"Rumi, Fountain of Fire"
Burning Gate Press, 1984

Saturday, January 31, 2015

In the Book

In The Book

A hand appears.
It writes on the wall.
Just a hand moving in the air,
and writing on the wall.

A voice comes and says the words,
"You have been weighed,
you have been judged,
and have failed."

The hand disappears, the voice
fades away into silence.
And a spirit stirs and fills
and room, all space, all things.

All this in The Book
asks, "What have you done wrong?"
But The Spirit says,
"Come to me, who need comfort."

And the hand, the wall, the voice
are gone, but The Spirit is everywhere.
The story ends inside the book,
but outside, wherever you are --

It goes on.

~ William Stafford ~
(The Way It Is)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

This is Love

This is love –-- to fly upward
toward the endless heavens.
To rend a hundred veils at every moment.
At the first breath, to give up for life;
At the final step, to go without feet.
To see the world as a dream
and not as it appears.

I said, O heart
What a blessing it is
To join the circle of lovers,
To see beyond sight,
To know the secrets within every breast.

I said, O soul
From where comes your life
And the power of your spirit?
Tell me, speak in the language of birds,
And I will understand.

My soul said to me:
They brought me to God's workshop
Where all things take form – and I flew.
Before this form of mine
was even shaped – I flew and flew.

And when I could fly no longer
They dragged me into this form,
and locked me into this house
of water and clay.

Version by Jonathan Star
"A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi,"
Jonathan Star and Shahram Shiva
Bantam Books, 1992

This is Love: to fly heavenward,
To rend, every instant, a hundred veils*.
The first moment, to renounce life*;
The last step, to fare without feet.
To regard this world as invisible*,
Not to see what appears to one's self*.
"O heart," I said, "may it bless thee
To have entered the circle of lovers,
To look beyond the range of the eye,
To penetrate the windings of the bosom*!
Whence did this breath come to thee, O my soul,
Whence this throbbing, O my heart?
O bird*, speak the language of birds*:
I can understand thy hidden meaning."
The soul answered: "I was in the (divine) Factory*
While the house of water and clay* was a-baking*.
I was flying away from the (material) workshop
While the workshop* was being created*.
When I could resist no more, they dragged me
To mould me into shape like a ball*."

T.267.8 ("Tabriz Edition of the Divani Shamsi Tabriz)
"Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz"
Edited and translated by Reynold A. Nicholson
Cambridge, At the University Press, 1898, 1952

Nicholson's notes:

* "a hundred veils" "a veil' is whatever prevents union with the Deity. "Some one said to Junaid (ob.297 A.H.): 'I find that the shaikhs of Khorasan recognise three species of veils, the first is the human nature, the second is the world, and the third is concupiscence.'
'These,' answered Junaid, 'are veils on the hearts of the vulgar; the elect are veiled otherwise, namely by regarding works, by seeking future recompense for them, and by considering the favour of God'" (Jami, "Nafahatu'l Uns," p. 92).

* "to renounce life" -- to renounce self (fana') and to travel abidingly in God (bagha'), which are the beginning and end of the mystical journey; cf. i.e. transported me out of self. The first stage is fana', return from phenomenal to Absolute Being. In the second stage of his journey (bagha') the pilgrim abides in God and experiences with Him the differentiation of Unity into plurality. "Gulshani Raz," 307 seq.). In the "Baharistan" (p. 10, 1. 16 seq.) faith is defined as "severing and uniting", i.e., to sever the heart from created things and unite it with God.'

* "To regard this world as invisible" -- cf. Look not on the world from outside, for the world is within the eye; When you shut your eyes to the world, the world remains not. (T. 164. 3a)

* "Not to see what appears to one's self" -- this misra' allows of another interpretation, viz, 'not to see your own eye,' whence all objects derive their unreal existence.

* "To penetrate the windings of the bosom" -- introrsum ascendere,  cf. Returning to its ancient nest My restless fluttering soul had rest. (T. 340. 3a)

* "O bird" -- we shall often meet with this comparison of the soul to a bird.
* "speak the language of birds" -- use the language of mystics, speak in parables. The hoopoe "hod hod" which Solomon sent with a letter to Bilqis, queen of Sheba (Koran XXVII. 16: "and Solomon was David's heir, and he said, O people, we have been taught the language of birds.'"
* "I was in the (divine) Factory" "in the presence of, and not yet separated from, the divine artificer. cf. "Then he (Gabriel) approached (the Prophet), and drew nigh, until he was at the distance of two bow-lengths, or nearer' (Koran LIII. 809). But the Sufi's interpret the passage as signifying the approach of Mohammed himself to the divine presence."
* "While the house of water and clay" -- the body. While the house of water and clay was a-baking" -- According to an hadis, "He kneeded the clay of Adam forty days."
* "workshop" -- the phenomenal world.
* "was being created" -- because the soul was reluctant to enter the world, and hated the body in which it was doomed to captivity.
* "like a ball" -- this simile may have been suggested by the words 'chon pai namanad': 'the epithet footless', frequently applied to a ball.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Destruction and restoration

When a tailor cuts the cloth for a garment piece by piece,
does anyone strike him,
saying, "Why have you torn this choice satin?"

Whenever the builders repair an old building,
don't they first ruin the old one?

Likewise the carpenter, the blacksmith, and the butcher—
with them too there is destruction before restoration.

The pounding of the myrobalan
becomes the means of restoring the body to health.

Unless you crush the wheat in the mill,
how will there be bread on your table?
Mathnawi IV:2348-2353
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Sweetest of All Things

Since you are the one who takes life
It is the sweetest of all things to die.
Life is sweet
But merging with you is far sweeter.

Come into the garden!
Join the Friend of the Truth!
In his garden you'll drink the Water of Life,
though it seems like fire to die.

In one moment someone dies,
In the next moment someone is born.
There is a lot of coming and going
no one really dies
nor will I ever die.

Forget the body, become pure spirit.
Dance from here to the other world.
Don't stop Don't try to escape,
even if you are afraid to die.

I swear were it not for His pure nature
The wheel of heaven would turn to dust.
Merge with Him now,
And you'll be sweeter than halva
when it comes time to die.

Why hold on to this life? –
True living comes by giving up this life.
Why cling to one piece of gold? –
it is a mine of gold to die.

Escape from this cage
and breathe the scented air of His garden.
Break this hard shell –
It's like a shining pearl to die.

When God calls and pulls you close,
Going is like paradise –
It's like a heavenly river to die.

Death is only a mirror
And your true nature is reflected there.
See what the mirror is saying –
it's quite a sight to die!

If you are kind and faithful
Your death will also be that way.
If you are cruel and faithless,
that is the way you will die.

If you are like Joseph,
full of goodness,
That's how your mirror will be.
If not, you will see
only fear and torment
when it comes time to die.

These words are sweet,
but they always fade.
Sh . . . The eternal Khezr
and the Water of Life
have no idea what it means to die.

  Version by Jonathan Star
"A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi"
Bantam Books, 1992

Underwater in the Fountain

When you die into the soul, you lift
the lid on the cooking pot. You see

the truth of what you've been doing.
It looks sad and terrible before the

crossover move that lets nine levels
of ascension turn into ordinary ground:

silence, conversation with Khidr, blind
and deaf, underwater in the fountain.

  Version by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin
"The Glance"
Viking-Penguin, 1999
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