Rumi said: These words are for the sake of those who need words to understand. But as for those who understand without words, what use have they for speech? The heavens and earth are words to them, sent forth themselves from the Word of God. Whoever hears a whisper, what need have they for shouting and screaming?
An Arabic speaking poet once came into the presence of a king. Now the king was a Turk, and did not even know Persian. The poet had composed in his honor some brilliant verses in Arabic, and had brought these with him. When the king had taken his seat on the throne and the courtiers were all present and duly stationed, commanders and ministers each in their place, the poet rose to his feet and began to recite his poem. At every passage deserving applause the king nodded his head, while at every passage provoking astonishment he looked amazed. Similarly, he responded to every passage expressing submission. The courtiers were astounded.
“Our king did not know a word of Arabic,” they murmured amongst themselves. “How is it that he nodded his head so correctly? He must have known Arabic all these years and kept it hidden from us. If we have ever uttered incivilities in Arabic, then woe is us!”
Now the king had a favorite slave. So the courtiers assembled together and gave the slave a horse, a mule, and a sum of money, and they promised to give him this much again. “Just find out whether or not the king knows Arabic,” they said to him. “If he does not, how was it that he nodded just at the right places? Was it a miracle? Was it divine inspiration?”
Finally one day the slave found his opportunity. The king was out hunting, and the slave perceived that he was in a good mood, since the hunt had gone well. So he asked the king point blank. The king burst out laughing.
“By Allah, I don’t know Arabic,” he said. “As for nodding and applauding, I knew of course what the poet’s object was in composing that poem, and so I nodded and applauded.”
So it was realized that the root of the matter was the purpose desired; the poem itself was merely the branch of that purpose. If it had not been for that purpose, the poet would never have composed that poem.
If our real purpose is kept in view, duality vanishes. Duality shows the branches, but the root is one. It is the same with Sufi sheikhs. Although to outward appearance they have various styles of teaching and differ widely in their social standing, even in their action and words, yet from the standpoint of their purpose they all have one goal, namely the quest for God.
Take the case of the wind. When it blows through a house it lifts the edges of the carpet, and the rugs flap and move about. It whisks sticks and straws into the air, ruffles the surface of the pool until it looks like a coat of mail, sets trees and twigs and leaves a-dancing. All those conditions appear distinct and different, yet from the standpoint of the object, the root and reality, they are one thing – the movement of the wind.
Someone said: “I have neglected that true purpose.”
Rumi replied: When this thought enters a person’s mind and they criticize themself, saying, “What am I about, and why do I do these things?” When this happens, it is a sure proof that God loves them and cares for them. “Love continues so long as reprimands continue,” said the poet. We may reprimand our friends, but we never reprimand a stranger.
Now there are levels of reprimand. When a person is stung by it and sees the truth in it, that is a sign that God loves them and cares for them. But if the reprimand flies by that person without causing any pain at all, then this is no sign of love. When a carpet is beaten to get rid of the dust, intelligent people do not call that a reprimand. But if a woman beats her own darling child, then that is called a reprimand and is a proof of her love. Therefore, as long as you find pain and regret within yourself, that is a proof of God’s love and guidance.
If you find fault in your brother or sister, the fault you see in them is within yourself. The true Sufi is like a mirror where you see your own image, for “The believer is a mirror of their fellow believers.” Get rid of those faults in yourself, because what bothers you in them bothers you in yourself.
An elephant was led to a well to drink. Seeing itself in the water, it shied away. It thought it was shying away from another elephant. It did not realize it was shying away from its own self.
All evil qualities – oppression, hatred, envy, greed, mercilessness, pride – when they are within yourself, they bring no pain. When you see them in another, then you shy away and feel the pain. We feel no disgust at our own scab and abscess. We will dip our infected hand into our food and lick our fingers without turning in the least bit squeamish. But if we see a tiny abscess or half a scratch on another’s hand, we shy away from that person’s food and have no stomach for it whatsoever. Evil qualities are just like scabs and abscesses; when they are within us they cause no pain, but when we see them even to a small degree in another, then we feel pain and disgust.
Just as you shy away from your brother or sister, so you should excuse them for shying away from you. The pain you feel comes from those faults, and they see the same faults. The seeker of truth is a mirror for their neighbors. But those who cannot feel the sting of truth are not mirrors to anyone but themselves.
A certain king was sitting, dejected, on the bank of a river. The generals were nervous and afraid of him. His face would not clear up no matter what they tried. Now he had a jester whom he treated as a great favorite. The generals promised the jester a certain sum of money if he could make the king laugh. So the jester approached the king, but despite all his efforts the king would not so much as look at him. The king kept staring into the river and did not lift his head at all.
“What do you see in the water?” the jester asked the king.
“I see the husband of an unfaithful wife,” the king replied.
“King of the world,” the jester said, “your slave is also not blind.”
So it is in your own case. If you see something in your fellow that pains you, after all they also are not blind. They see exactly what you see.
In God’s presence two I’s cannot exist. You cannot know your self and God’s Self; either die before God, or God will die before you so that duality will not remain. But as for God’s dying, that is both impossible and inconceivable, for God is the Living, the Immortal. So gracious is He that if it were at all possible He would die for your sake. Since that is not possible, then you must die so that God can reveal Itself to you, and duality can vanish.
Tie two birds together, and despite their familiarity and the fact that their two wings have been changed to four, they will not fly. That is because duality exists. But let one bird give up its life and the other – even though tied to the first – will fly, because duality has vanished.
Shams-i-Tabriz was a servant of God who had the power to sacrifice himself for the sake of a friend. He prayed to God for that friend, but God did not accept his petition. “I do not want you to help him,” came a voice. Shams, that son of the Sun [Shams-i-Tabriz means literally Sun of Tabriz,] persisted and would not cease his requests, saying, “O God, you have implanted this desire for him, and it will not leave me.” Finally a voice came saying, “Do you desire that this should come to pass? Then sacrifice your self, and become nothing. Do not wait, and leave this world behind.” “Lord,” Shams answered, “I am content.” So he did; he gambled away his life for the sake of that Friend, and his desire was accomplished. [The friend in this story is Rumi himself. Shams was chased away by jealous followers of Rumi, but Rumi sent for Shams and Shams eventually returned. It is said that those jealous followers, including one of Rumi’s own sons, later murdered Shams. Rumi’s search for the missing Shams, only to find the One he sought for within himself, is the source of many of Rumi’s poems.]
If a servant of God can possess such grace as to sacrifice his life, of which one day’s portion is worth the life of all the world from first to last, does not the Source of that grace also possess this love? It would be absurd to think otherwise. But since it is not possible for God to pass away, at least you can.
A fool came and sat in a seat above one of the great saints. What difference does it make to the saints whether such a person is above or below the lamp? If the lamp wants to be on high, it does not desire that for its own sake. Its purpose is for the benefit of others, so they can enjoy their share of the light. Wherever the lamp may be, whether below or above, it is still the lamp of the Eternal Sun. If the saint seeks worldly rank and office, it is for this purpose: They desire to snare those worldlings, who do not have the vision to see their true elevation, with a trap of worldly rank. Through this they may find their way to the higher worlds, and fall into the trap of divine grace.
In this same way, the Prophet, Mohammed did not conquer Mecca and the surrounding lands because he was in need of them. He conquered in order to give life and grant light to all people. “This is a hand accustomed to give, it is not accustomed to take.” The saints beguile people in order to bestow gifts on them, not to take anything away.
When someone lays a trap and catches little birds to eat and sell, that is called cunning. But if a king lays a trap to capture an untutored and worthless hawk, having no knowledge of its own true nature, to train it to his own forearm so that it may become ennobled, that is not called cunning. Though to outward appearance it is cunning, yet it is known to be the very acme of caring and generosity, restoring the dead to life, converting the base stone into a ruby, and far more than that. If the hawk knew for what reason the king wanted to capture it, it would not require any bait. It would search for the trap with soul and heart, and would fly to the king’s hand.
People only listen to the outward significance of the saints’ words. They say, “We’ve heard plenty of this. Our hearts are stuffed full of words of this kind.” God says, “God forbid that you should be full of them! You are full of your own whisperings and vain conceits. You are full of illusion and greed. Nay, you are full of cursing.”
If only they were empty of such ravings! Then they would be open to receive these words. But they are not open to receive them. God has set a seal upon their ears and eyes and hearts. Their eyes see things the opposite of what they are; they hear wisdom as gibberish and raving. Their hearts have been transformed into a home of self-love and vanity. A winter’s tangle of dark shapes and pride has possessed them. Their hearts are hardened with ice and frost.
“God has set a seal on their hearts
And their hearing,
And on their eyes is a covering.”
How likely is it that such people could be full of these true words? They have never caught so much as a whiff of them. They have never tasted a drop in all their lives – neither they nor those they worship, nor their miserable household. God shows a pitcher to everyone. To some It shows the pitcher full of water, and they drink until they are sated. But to some God shows it empty. What thanks can someone give for an empty pitcher? Only those, whom God shows the pitcher full, find thanks for this gift.