The Amir, surprised by an unexpected visit from Rumi, said: “Master, how gracious of you to honor me in this way. I never expected this. It never even entered my mind that I could be worthy of such an honor. By rights I should be standing night and day in the ranks and company of your servants and attendants. I’m not even worthy of that. How gracious this is!”
Rumi said: It is all because of your lofty spiritual aspirations. The higher and greater your rank and the more you become occupied with important, exalted worldly affairs, the more you consider yourself to have fallen short of your spiritual purpose. You are not satisfied with what you have achieved, thinking that you have too many obligations. Since none of these attainments can blind you from that divine attainment, my heart is moved to serving you. And yet for all that, still, I wanted to pay you formal honor as well.
Form too possesses great importance. No, much more than importance – it is of true substance. Just as the body will fail if it lacks a heart, so too it fails without a skin. If you plant a seed with no husk, it cannot grow, but if you bury it in the earth with its shell, then it germinates and becomes a great tree. So, form is a great and necessary principle, and without it our task fails and our purpose is not attained. Yes, this principle is reality in the eyes of those who know reality and have become reality!
A dervish once entered the presence of a king. The king addressed him, “Oh, ascetic.”
“You are the ascetic,” the dervish answered.
“How can I be an ascetic,” the king demanded, “since the whole world belongs to me?”
“Ah, you see things the opposite of what they are,” replied the dervish. “This world and the next and all that there is to possess, these all belong to me. I have seized the whole world. It is you who have become satisfied with a mouthful and a rag.”
Wherever you turn, there is the Face of God. This Face runs and extends infinitely and forever. True spiritual lovers have sacrificed themselves for the sake of that Face, desiring nothing in return. The rest of the human race are like cattle.
Yet, even though they are cattle, still they deserve favor. They may live in the stable, yet they are accepted by the Lord of the stable. If He so desires, He transfers them from this stable into His private pen. So, in the beginning God brought men and women into existence, and then transferred them from the pen of spiritual existence into the world inanimate. Then from the pen of the world inanimate into the vegetable world. Then from vegetable into animal. From animal to human, human to angel, and so on forever. He manifested all these forms so that you would know His pens are many, and that each one is loftier than the next.
God revealed this present world so that you could accept the other stages that lie ahead. He did not reveal it so that you would say, “This is all there is.” The masters of crafts demonstrate their abilities and arts so their apprentices will find faith in them, and will believe in the other arts they have not yet demonstrated. A king bestows robes of honor and lavishes kindness on his subjects because they look forward to receiving other gifts from him, and hang hopefully upon future purses of gold. He does not grant these things for them to say, “This is all there is. The king will not give out any other blessings,” and so make do with that amount. If the king knows any subjects are going to say that, and take such gifts for granted, he will never bestow any blessings whatsoever upon them.
The ascetic is one who sees the hereafter, while the worldling sees only the stable. But the chosen ones of God, who have true knowledge, see neither the hereafter nor the stable. Their eyes are fixed on the first principle, the source of all things. When the chosen one sows wheat they know that wheat will grow, because they see the end from the beginning. So it is with barley and rice and all things – seeing the beginning, their eyes are not fixed on the end. They know the conclusion from the start. Such men and women are rare.
It is pain that guides us in every enterprise. Until there is an ache within, a passion and a yearning for that thing arising within us, we will never strive to attain it. Without pain it remains beyond our reach, whether it is success in this world or salvation in the next, whether we aim at becoming a merchant or a king, a scientist or an astronomer. It was not until the pains of birth manifested in Mary that she made for the tree. Those pangs drove her to the tree, and the tree that was withered became fruitful.
We are like that story of Mary in the Koran. Every one of us has a Jesus within, but until the pangs manifest, our Jesus is not born. If the pangs never come, then our child rejoins its origin by the same secret path through which it came, leaving us empty, without the birth of our true self.
Your inward soul is hungry.
Your outward flesh is over fed.
The devil has gorged to sickness.
The king begs even for bread.
The cure is found while Jesus is here on earth!
But once he returns to heaven,
all hope will have fled.