Jalaluddin Rumi is one of the most well know Persian Sufi mystical poets. He is also one I like a lot. He packs a lot of wisdom into few words.
Have had an interest in many kinds of mystical poetry for years and got a lot of information/education about Rumi’s poetry when I was in Turkey about 15 years ago. Met quite a number of Sufi folks there and spent more than a few afternoons over spiced tea and hookah (with flavored tobacco not other stuff) discussing poetry, politics, God and a whole lot of other things. And I am fortunate here in India, where I live there are a lot of Kashmiri and Sufi Muslim folks who also like the poetry and music as well although I don’t have as much time as I’d like to discuss these things.
So just to pick out a few quotes of Rumi’s that seem to accord well with some Buddhist thought I’ll just amble through this post with a little comparative religion so to speak.
Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Note here Rumi is talking of ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing not rightdoing and wrongdoing themselves. This kind of second hand mental action, reaction and cogitation that takes over and separates us from the activity of reality. Here are some words by Sosan Zenji (Seng-Tsan) – the 3rd Zen Patriarch on Faith Mind. Here is another source for the quotes.
If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion…
The Way is perfect like vast space…
Rumi had some sense of humor as well. In describing some seekers of truth he wrote:
He is like a man using a candle to look for the sun
This is reminiscent of the Zen story
It is too clear and so it is hard to see. A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern. Had he known what fire was, He could have cooked his rice much sooner. - Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, p. 176 Translated by Paul Reps
Open Your Own Treasure House
Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: “What do you seek?”
“Enlightenment,” replied Daiju.
“You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?” Baso asked.
Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?”
Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure house.”
Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends: “Open your own tresure house and use those treasures.”
Rumi also wrote:
When you come looking for sugar,
your bag will be examined
to see how much it can hold;
it will be filled accordingly.
Doesn’t this remind you of the words:
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Here’s a little Sufi and other music that may well send you into some sort of ecstasy.
Famous Qawwali (Sufi devotional music) singer Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan performing Allah Hu one of the most well known Sufi songs. It is so joyful I almost cry every time I hear it. Nusrat died in 1997.
The full song is over 20 minutes. Here’s the first half of the live album version again by Nusrat. Some interesting pictures of Mecca and related places as well as images of related verses from the Quran accompany the song. There are also images of Sufi relics and the crypts of Sufi saints which receive a reverence not unlike Catholic relics and the like in popular culture. In India even Hindus are known to go to the resting places of Sufi saints to pray. I’ve been to some of the Chishti resting places inside the Jama Masjid (biggest mosque in India) in Delhi and Ajmer (Rajasthan) and left offerings for the Chishti saints.
And here is a more contemporary version done by Harshdeep Kaur done with Punjabi style music and melody on a television show. Her voice is incredibly powerful. The word ishq means love in a passionate and devoted and all encompassing sense. It is often heard in the phrase ishq samandar which means ocean of love-that’s also the name of a well known Hindi song. She sings some of the lyrics in English as well.
Signal to Noise. Here is Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan with Peter Gabriel from a performance on VH-1.
Face of Love. Nusrat from the soundtrack of the Movie “Dead man walking”. Performed with Eddie Vedder. Lyrics include English so you can get the drift of what Qawwali music is about.
Here are photos of the tomb of a local pir (Sufi holy person) right outside of Mussoorie where I live. On certain occasions in the Muslim calendar people bring offerings including the green coverings to leave at the grave.