Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Too marvelous to be understood

Mysteries, Yes
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
~ Mary Oliver ~

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Be Empty



There is an unseen sweetness
in the stomach's emptiness.

We are lutes.
When the soundbox is filled,
no music can come forth.

When the brain and the belly
are burning from fasting,
every moment a new song rises
out of the fire.

The mists clear,
and a new vitality makes you
spring up the steps before you.

Be empty and cry as a reed instrument.
Be empty and write secrets with a reed pen.

When satiated by food and drink,
an unsightly metal statue
is seated where your spirit should be.

When fasting, good habits gather like
helpful friends.

Fasting is Solomon's ring.
Don't give in to illusion
and lose your power.

But even when all will and control
have been lost,
they will return when you fast,
like soldiers appearing out of the ground,
or pennants flying in the breeze.

A table descends to your tents,
the Lord's table.
Anticipate seeing it when fasting,
this table spread with a different food,
far better than the broth of cabbages.

Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
Castle Books, 1997

"Better than Cabbage Soup"

What sweetness lies in an empty stomach!
Man is like a lute: no more, no less.
If the lute is full
it cannot sing a high or low note.

If your mind and stomach
burn with the fire of hunger
it will be like a heavenly song for your heart.
In each moment that fire rages
It will burn away a hundred veils
And carry you a thousand steps
toward your goal.

Be empty
and weep with the fullness of the reed flute.
Be empty
and discover the mysteries of the reed pen.

If your belly is full on the day you are called
pain will come instead of freedom,
worldly cares will come instead of paradise.
When you fast, good qualities will gather round you
like faithful friends and servants.

Don't break the fast
for it is Solomon's Seal.
Don't give the Seal to harmful spirits.
Don't destroy your kingdom with a full belly.

Even in your kingdom falls
and your armies abandon you,
keep the fast.

Soon they will return
with their banners high in the air.
I say, by the prayer of Jesus,
Heaven's Table will come to your fasting tent.

Fast and remember that the abundance
of Heaven's Table will soon be yours -
And I assure you,
the food on that Table
is better than cabbage soup!

Version by Jonathan Star
"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved"
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997

(credit - Khaleelullah Chemnad)

What hidden sweetness is found in this empty stomach!
 Man is like a lute, neither more nor less:
When the lute's stomach is full, it cannot
lament, whether high or low.
If your brain and stomach burn from fasting,
their fire will draw constant lamentation from your breast.
Through that fire you will burn a thousand
veils at every instant--you will ascend a thousand degrees on
the Way and in your aspiration.
Keep your stomach empty! Lament like a flute
and tell your need to God! Keep your stomach empty and
speak of the mysteries like a reed!
If you keep your stomach full, it will bring
Satan to you at the Resurrection instead of your intellect, an
idol instead of the Kaaba.
When you fast, good character traits gather
round you like servants, slaves, and retinue.
Continue your fasting, for it is Solomon's seal:
Give not the seal to the devil, disrupt not your kingdom.
And if your kingdom and army should flee from
you, your army will return, so raise the banner!
The Spread Table has come from heaven to
those who fast, for Jesus son of Mary has called it down with
his prayers*.
Await the Table of Generosity in your fast--the
Table of Generosity is better than cabbage stew!

Translation by William C. Chittick
"The Sufi Path of Love"
SUNY Press, Albany, 1983

* Chapter V of the Koran is named after the "spread table"referred to in these verses: "And when the Apostles said, 'OhJesus, son of Mary, is thy Lord able to send down on us a Spread Table out of heaven? ... Said Jesus son of Mary, 'OhGod, our Lord, send down upon us a Spread Table out of heaven, that shall be for us a festival ... And provide for us;Thou art the best of providers."' (V 112, 114)

(credit - Khaleelullah Chemnad)

What hidden sweetness there is in this emptiness of the belly!
Man is surely like a lute, no more and no less;
For if, for instance, the belly of the lute becomes full, no
lament high or low will arise from that full lute.
If your brain and belly are on fire through fasting, because
of the fire every moment a lament will arise from your breast.
Every moment you will burn a thousand veils by that fire; you
will mount a hundred steps with zeal and endeavor.
Become empty of belly, and weep entreatingly like the reed
pipe; become empty of belly, and tell secrets with the reed pen.
If your belly is full at the time of concourse, it will bring Satan
in place of your reason, an idol in place of the Kaaba.
When you keep the fast, good habits gather together before
you like slaves and servants and retinue.
Keep the fast, for that is Solomon's ring; give not the ring to
the div, destroy not your kingdom.
Even if your kingdom has gone from your head and your army
has fled, your army will rise up, pennants flying above them.
The table arrived from heaven to the tents of the fast, by the
intervention of the prayers of Jesus, son of Mary.
In the fast, be expectant of the table of bounty, for the table
of bounty is better than the broth of cabbages.

Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 2"
The University of Chicago Press, 1991

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The seeker said to himself,
"If I'd known the real meaning of this being with God,
how should I have gone searching for Him?"
But that knowledge depended on this journeying:
that knowing can't be gained by thinking,
no matter how precise."

Mathnawi VI:4183-4184

Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996

Sunday, July 01, 2012

I see your world but not you?

sweetheart i see myself
very close to you
like earth
i welcome your every step
is it fair to call you
my entire world
and yet not
find you around

Translation by Nader Khalili
Rumi, Dancing the Flame
Cal-Earth Press, 2001 

We are bound together.
I am the ground
You are the step.
How unfair is this Love!
I can see Your world
but You, I cannot.

Translation by Azima Melita Kolin and Maryam Mafi
Rumi: Whispers of the Beloved
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1999

Friend, our closeness is this:
Anywhere you put your foot, feel me
in the firmness under you.

How is it with this love,
I see your world and not you?

Version by Coleman Barks
Open Secret
Threshold Books, 1984

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