One of my favorite poets is Rumi, the great Sufi poet of the thirteenth century. He has become much better known in the West during the last twenty years through the translating efforts of Coleman Barks. Barks himself is a recognized poet in his own right. His sensitive translations of Rumi into modern English are remarkable. Barks has helped to illuminate for us one of the great poets of all time.The two images below were purchased in the old covered market in Istanbul. They are leaves from 19th century books written in Farsi I have been told. I particularly like the first one in which the sufis appear to be dancing right off the page, a depiction of spiritual liberty.
If you are westener like me, i.e. an inheritor of western, European culture, you are likely coming to the end of your patience or tolerance with reference to Islam. Rumi helps me to keep that door open. If Islam had taken Rumi's great path of tolerance and spiritual liberty, it would be a much greater religion and less likely to be spawning bomb-throwers. Rumi's spiritual vision is immediately recognizable as universal and profoundly positive. Personally I can't say the same of the Qu'ran which seems pinched and xenophobic by comparison. Both Muhammad and Rumi wrote in a spontaneous and inspired manner, but in my opinion, Rumi achieves far greater spiritual insight.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
THE MANY WINES
God has given us a dark wine so potent that,
drinking it, we leave the two worlds.
God has put into the form of hashish a power
to deliver the taster from self-consciousness.
God has made sleep so
that it erases every thought.
God made Majnun love Layla so much that
just her dog would cause confusion in him.
There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.
Don't think all ecstasies
are the same!
Jesus was lost in his love for God.
His donkey was drunk with barley.
Drink from the presence of saints,
not from those other jars.
Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.
Be a connoisseur,
and taste with caution.
Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,
the ones unadulterated with fear,
or some urgency about "what's needed."
Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves about when it's been untied,
and is just ambling about.
Where Everything is Music
Where Everything is Music
Don't worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn't matter.
We have fallen into the place
where everything is music
The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world's harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.
So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.
This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.
Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!
from a slow and powerful root
that we can't see.
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.