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The bestselling poet in America today, thirteenth-century Sufi mystic Jalalu'ddin Rumi has inspired and enlightened thousands with his playful, passionate work celebrating the sacred in everyday life. Now the spiritual wealth of Rumi's stories and poetry in translation are accompanied by rare and wonderful art in the Sufi tradition. This fresh rendering brings new life to these incomparable parables, which have transcended time, place, culture, and religion to speak directly to the hearts and souls of ...
The bestselling poet in America today, thirteenth-century Sufi mystic Jalalu'ddin Rumi has inspired and enlightened thousands with his playful, passionate work celebrating the sacred in everyday life. Now the spiritual wealth of Rumi's stories and poetry in translation are accompanied by rare and wonderful art in the Sufi tradition. This fresh rendering brings new life to these incomparable parables, which have transcended time, place, culture, and religion to speak directly to the hearts and souls of contemporary readers. With a foreword by Huston Smith, these selections of the inimitable mystic's prose and poetry have been taken from all of the master's works.
Each parable, such as The King and the Handmaiden, The Grocer and the Parrot, The Ugly Old Woman, and The Man Who Was Always Being Swindled, is related as Rumi might have presented it to his fascinated audiences, as he whirled in meditation and trance. But each story also has a spiritual message, a holy essence that applies across all faiths, uttered from the heart of Islam. Each of these messages is provided here in a modern rendering that keeps the flavor of this unique period of history, of culture, and of inspired, passionate beauty.
Talalu'ddin Rumi was born in the year 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan, during the Persian Empire. As a child, he and his family escaped Afghanistan to Konya in Turkey, as the Mongol armies invaded. Bahauddin Walad, Rumi's father, was a theologian and jurist who worked at the university of Konya. As a great religious teacher, he wrote texts of his ecstatic visions, entitled Maarif, that are still read today. Bahauddin took charge of Rumi's spiritual education through the boy's childhood, but upon his death he entrusted his close friend, Sayyid Burhaneddin of Balkh, with his son's further training. Rumi was twenty-four when his father died, and he continued with Sayyid Burhaneddin as his teacher for some nine years. During this time he learned about fasting and meditation, and he traveled to Aleppo and Damascus, centers of learning where he studied with the most renowned teachers.
As the years passed, Rumi became an excellent scholar himself, learned in the knowledge of the sacred texts of Sufism and in his own experience of the divine. Burhaneddin eventually sought the sanctuary of a secluded life and told Rumi as he departed, "You are now ready, my son. You have no equal in any of the branches of learning. You have become a lion of knowledge. I am such a lion myself and we are notneeded here and that is why I want to go.Furthermore, a great friend will come to you, and you will be each other's mirror. He will lead you to the innermost parts of thespiritual world, just as you will lead him. Each of you will complete the other, andyou will be the greatest friends in the entire world." Burhaneddin had foreseen the intimate and fundamental relationship that Rumi would enter with theSufi master Shams of Tabriz much later in his life.
After his years of study with Burhaneddin, Rumi took over his father's position as sheikh in the dervish learning community of Konya: teaching, meditating, fasting, and helping people in the community.
The dervish communities of Persia, Turkey, and their neighboring countries were centers of learning and of the practice of Sufism, the mystical current of Islam. Today, Sufism claims global interest and curiosity among non-Muslims, ofpartly because so many are inspired and awakened by the powerful tales and poetry of one of its most beautiful voices, that of Jalalu'ddín Rumi. This interest is also sparked by the accessibility and appeal of the inward aspects of Sufism, the rose at the center of the mystery the pure heart of divine love and gnosis.
Derived from the Arabic word tasawwuf, the root of the word Sufism is linked to the suffa, or veranda, of the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, home to several of his greatest Companions; to suf, meaning wool, the traditional garment worn by the mystics of Islam; to safa, purity; and to the Greek sophia, wisdom. Each of these derivations indicates important aspects of what Sufism is. As a scientific and spiritual way of self-purification and self-realization, Sufism represents the initiate path (tariqa), the inner reality of Islam (haqiqa) that complements its law (shari 'a) and deepens the awareness of its profound understanding. The central doctrine of Sufism is that of Divine Unity: La ilaha illa 'Llah, there is no God but God, who is One. The practice of Sufism is the seeking of truth through love and devotion to God; a Sufi is a lover of Truth, of the perfection are of the absolute. Rumi explains how far we are from the attainment of unity with this wonderful tale of The Elephant in the Dark House.
There was an elephant in a dark house, brought by some Hindus for exhibition. Many people went to see it and bad to enter the dark stable to do so. Because it was so dark they could not make out the form of the elephant at all and bad to work with theirbands to identify its being, each person using his palm to find the shape. The band of one fell on the creature's trunk and he said, "This is a water pipe." The band of another touched the ear and found a fan. Another bandied the elephant's leg and found a pillar, while another touched the back and discovered a throne. There were those who beard descriptions from these folk and made their own identifications, and there were still others who interpreted one shape as against another, all very diverse and contrary.
Like the elephant, existence, according to Sufi cosmology, is like an unimaginably vast tapestry woven from divine qualities. Only by distancing ourselves from the surface immediately before us can we hope to find its meaning and our own place in the tapestry. Each moment God manifests Himself to us in creation. In order to see the truth, a Sufi must see with his inner being, in harmony with divine nature. Through devotion to and selfless remembrance of God, dhikr Allah, the Sufi disciple's attention to the self falls away, and in turning to God, his heart and soul are transformed by God's divine attributes. In this spiritual state of the self-having-passed-away-in-God, or fan´, a Sufi existentially realizes the Truth. This Divine Unity is the aim of Sufism.
The years of intense study, meditation, fasting, spiritual exercises, teaching, and absorbing the sacred scriptures of Islam had ripened Rumi's soul for a powerful spiritual awakening. The ground of being was fertile and ready to be sown: Rumi had become an eminent professor of religion in Konya and a highly attained mystic.
At the age of thirty-seven, Jalalu'ddín Rumi met Shams of Tabriz, a wandering mystic of great spiritual power. This meeting, which has been much chronicled, was like the spark that ignites the flame. It set two souls on fire with God's essence and produced in Rumi a poet and a lover of humanity like few before or since. It is said that Shams had been wandering from country to country, from community to community, in search of a vessel, a being that would receive his burning knowledge of God, and when he finally met Rumi his spiritual thirst was satiated. The two spent days and nights conversing about God and the mysteries, and their first encounter was as brief as it was powerful. Rumi was intoxicated both with Shams and with God, inebriated by a love few could understand, and this caused disturbance in his religious community. Sensing that trouble could come from Rumi's students, Shams suddenly vanished, leaving Rumi in a vacuum of unbearable loss. It was then perhaps, to fill the void, that he began to recite poetry; it is told that he would go to the mosque and there, holding onto a pillar and whirling around it, he chanted verse upon verse of praise for God, an expression of gratefulness for having been awakened by Shams. Rumi sent his son, Sultan Veled, in search of Shams, and the boy eventually found him in Damascus and brought him back home to his father. This time, Shams stayed...