Rumi said: If I appear lacking in gratitude and appreciation for the kindness and support you show me, both directly and indirectly, it is not out of arrogance or indifference, nor is it because I don’t know the importance of returning your favor and love. But I am aware from the purity of your efforts that you do these things sincerely for the sake of God, so I leave it to God to thank you. If I concerned myself with thanking you, granting you verbal honor and praising you, it would be as if some part of the treasure that God has set aside for you was already given, some part of your reward had already been paid.
Humble attitudes, offering thanks and applause – these are worldly pleasures. But when you have gone to worldly pains such as the sacrifice of wealth and position, how can worldly pleasure be a satisfactory return? Therefore, I do not offer thanks since that reward should come entirely from God.
No one can eat wealth. Wealth is sought for what it brings, not what it is. With wealth people purchase horses, servant-girls and slaves. Then they display these riches so that others will praise and applaud them. Therefore, it is the world itself that is held up so high, and it is this world that is praised and applauded.
Sheik Nassaj of Bukhara was an honored, spiritual man. Learned and great people came to visit him and knelt at his feet. The Sheik was unlettered, but they loved to hear him expounding on the Koran and Traditions of the Prophet. He would say, “I do not know Arabic. Translate a verse from the Koran so I can tell you its meaning.” They would translate the verse. Then he would begin to explain and reveal the truth in it. He would say, “The Prophet was in such and such a situation when he uttered this verse. The circumstances took place like this…” And he would describe in detail the spiritual level of that situation, the ways leading up to it, and how the Prophet gained that state.
One day a descendant of Ali was praising a certain judge while standing next to the judge, saying, “There is no judge like this man anywhere in the world. He does not take bribes. He dispenses justice amongst others without partiality or favor, purely and sincerely for the sake of God.” When Sheik Nassaj heard this he replied, “To say that he doesn’t take bribes is certainly a lie. You, an honored descendant of Ali, praise and applaud him to his face, saying that he does not take bribes. Isn’t that a bribe? What could be a better bribe than that?”
Sheik Tirmidhi once said, “Saiyid Burhan al-Din expounds truths so well because he has studied the books, secret writings and treatises of the masters.” A Sufi answered, “But you study them as well. Why don’t you speak like he does?” Tirmidhi replied, “Well, Burhan al-Din has also made great spiritual efforts and accomplishments.” The Sufi said, “Why didn’t you say that in the first place? You only know how to repeat what you have read; that is the difference. But we are now speaking of something greater than books – you too can speak of that!”
Few care about the other world at all. They have fixed their hearts upon this world entirely. Some seek these teachings to eat the bread of God, some only to inspect the bread. They want to learn these words just to sell them. These words are like a beautiful bride; if a beautiful maiden is bought to be sold again, how can she love her buyer or fix her heart upon him? Since the pleasure of that merchant comes only in selling, he is as good as impotent. He buys the girl to sell her, not having the manhood and virility to want her for himself.
If a fine Indian sword falls into the hands of an effeminate man, he will take it to sell it. If a mighty Pehlevi bow falls into his hands, he will also sell it since he does not have the strength of arm to draw the bow. He desires that bow for the value of the string, he has no capacity for the string, itself. He is in love merely with what it will bring. When such a man sells the bow, he trades it for rouge and indigo. What else should he do? Marvelous! What could he buy better than that?
These words mean nothing except to the initiated! Beware! Do not say, “I have understood.” The more you understand and grasp these words, the farther you will be from understanding them. Their meaning comes in not understanding. All your troubles, misfortunes and disappointments arise from such understanding. This understanding is a chain for you. You must escape it to gain anything at all.
You say, “I filled my sheep-skin in the sea, but the sea was too great to be contained in my sheep-skin.” That is absurd. If you say, “My sheep-skin was lost in the sea,” that is excellent! That is the root of the matter. Reason is fine and useful until it brings you to the door of the King. Once you have reached His door, give up reason, for in that hour reason is a sheer loss to you, a highway robber. When you have reached the King, surrender yourself to Him, you have no use then for the how and wherefore.
For instance, you have an uncut cloth you want made into a tunic or a cloak. Reason brings you to a tailor. Until that moment reason is fine, for it brings the cloth to the tailor. Now in that very moment reason must be forgotten and you must abandon yourself wholly to the direction of the tailor. In the same way, reason is fine when you are sick because it brings you to the physician. After that, reason is of no use to you, since you must surrender yourself to the advice of the physician.
Your companions hear your secret cries of love for God. When they come to you, you will know which of them has that true substance – the responsiveness of Soul. In a train of camels, the camel in rut is easily spotted by its eyes, its manner of walking and its breath.
“Their mark is on their faces, the trace of prostration.”
Although it is the roots of a tree that drink, you can see the results of that drinking through its branches, leaves and fruit. The tree that does not drink withers – how can this stay concealed?
You will hear their loud shouts because they understand paragraphs from a single word you speak, and from a single letter they recognize all the overtones. They are like someone who has studied the Koran; As soon as they hear the first word from a Koran commentary, they understand all the root ideas and questions, since they know its source. They will offer observations on that single word as if to say, “Within the depths of this subject I know many things and see many things, for I have worked and studied, turning night into day, and I have found the treasures.”
“Did We not expand your breast out of love for you?”
The expansion of the breast is infinite. Once that expansive truth has been tasted, we understand much from even one hint. But beginners will only understand, from a word, the meaning of that one word. What inner knowledge and ecstasy can they possess?
Words are spoken according to the capacity of the listeners. If beginners do not know how to draw wisdom out, how can it come forth? Once they breathe in, then wisdom will fill their hearts. But they say, “For heaven’s sake, why aren’t the words spoken?” The answer is, “For heaven’s sake, why don’t you draw this wisdom in?” Whoever withholds the power to listen also withholds from the speaker the impulse to speak.
In the time of the Prophet, a certain unbeliever had a Muslim slave who was a man of true substance. One morning the unbeliever ordered his slave, “Fetch basins. I am going to the baths.” On the way they passed by the Prophet praying in the mosque with his companions. The slave said, “Master, for God’s good sake take this bowl for a moment, so that I can make a few genuflections, then I will attend to you.”
Entering the mosque, he prayed. The Prophet came out with his companions. The slave remained alone in the mosque. His master waited for him till mid-morning, then he shouted, “Come out, slave!” The slave answered, “They won’t let me go, as the work has gone beyond bounds.” The master put his head inside the mosque to see who it was that would not let the slave go. Except for a shoe and a shadow he saw no one. Nobody stirred. He said, “Well, who is it that won’t let you come out?” The slave replied, “The same One who will not allow you to come in, the very same One whom you cannot see.”
People always want to see new things that they have not yet seen. Night and day they seek after new experiences. They are slaves of anything they have not yet enjoyed, but become bored and run away from what they have already heard and understood. For this reason the philosophers reject the Vision of God, saying, “If you can become bored with what you see, this cannot be truth.” The Sunni theologians say, “This could occur only if God was single-colored. But in truth He comes forth in a hundred colors, every instant.”
“Every day He is upon a task.”
If God should reveal Itself a hundred thousand times, not one moment would resemble another. Every instant you see God’s display and yet not even one act resembles another. In times of happiness you see one display, in times of weeping you find another. During moments of fear you see one face, during hope another. Since God’s creations and His acts vary infinitely, not one like another, so you can be sure the display of His Essence also varies endlessly. You, too, being a single spark of God’s flame, change a thousand times every instant and never stay the same.
There are certain seekers of God who proceed from the Koran to God. Others more elect come from God, find the Koran here, and know that God has sent it down.
“We have seen the Remembrance,
and We will watch over it.”
Commentators say that this quote refers to the Koran, but it also means, “We have seen in you a substance, a seeking, a yearning. We will watch over that, not letting it go to waste, but will bring it to its rightful place.”
Once you say “God”, then stand firm under all calamities that rain down upon you. A certain person came to the Prophet and said to him, “Truly I love you.” The Prophet said, “Take heed what you say.” The person repeated, “Truly I love you.” Mohammed said, “Take heed what you say.” They said, “Truly I love you.” Mohammed said, “Now stand firm, for with my own hand I will slay you. Woe upon you!”
Another person came to the Prophet and said, “I don’t want this religion. By Allah, take it back. Ever since I entered your religion I’ve had no peace for a single day. My wealth is gone, my spouse has left, my child cannot be found, my respect is destroyed, my strength is sapped, even my lust has disappeared.” Mohammed answered, “What did you expect? Wherever our religion goes it does not return without uprooting that person and sweeping clean their house.”
“None but the purified shall touch God.”
So long as there remains in you a single trace of self-love, God will not show His face to you. You will not be worthy of His presence. You must become wholly indifferent to yourself and the world, so that Friend can show His face. So, whenever our religion lodges in a heart, it will not withdraw its hand until it brings that heart to God and severs from it all that is untrue.
The Prophet went on to say to that person, “You have no peace because sorrow’s purpose is to empty you of previous joys. So long as food fills your stomach, you are not given new food to eat. During elimination, we eat nothing. When we are empty and hungry, then we are given food. Be patient and grieve, for grieving is the emptying of yourself. After you are empty, then joy can enter – a joy with no sorrow, a rose without a thorn, a wine without crop-sickness.”
Why, night and day, do you search for quiet and rest? They cannot be found in this world. But not for one instant do you give up seeking these things. The comfort you find in this world is like a lightning flash that passes but never endures. And what kind of lightning is it? Lightning full of hail, full of rain and snow, full of suffering. For instance, someone sets out for Antalya. They go toward Caesarea hoping to reach Antalya, and never turn back even though it is impossible to reach Antalya by this route. But another who goes by the Antalyan road, though lame and feeble, still they will reach their goal, since that is where the Antalyan road ends.
No task in this world or the next is without suffering. Therefore, devote your suffering to the next world so it will not be wasted. You say, “O Mohammed take away this religion from me, for I can find no rest.” How can our religion let anyone go before it brings them to the goal?
There was a certain teacher who, due to poverty, wore only a single garment of cotton in the middle of winter. By chance, torrents of rain brought down a bear out of the mountains, carrying the bear along with its head hidden in the water. The children, seeing its back, cried, “Teacher, look! A fur coat has fallen into the water, and you are cold. Take it!”
The teacher in dire need and coldness jumped in to catch the fur coat. The bear quickly plunged its claws into the teacher’s back. The bear in the water thus caught the teacher.
“Teacher,” the children shouted, “either grab the fur coat or let it go and come out!”
“I am letting the fur coat go,” answered the teacher, “but the fur coat isn’t letting me go. What should I do?”
How can God’s love let you go? We should be thankful that God does not let us go. When a child is small it knows nothing but milk and its mother. Yet, God does not leave the child there, but leads it on to eat bread and to play, and in this manner draws it on to the stage of reason. So too in this world – which is in its infancy compared with that other world – God does not leave you here, but brings you on so you can realize that this is infancy and nothing at all. I am amazed at the people who must be dragged to Paradise in chains and fetters.
“Take them and fetter them,
then roast them in Paradise,
then roast them in Union,
then roast them in Beauty,
then roast them in Perfection.”
Fishermen do not drag out a fish all at once. Once the hook has entered the fish’s throat they reel it in a little so it will lose strength. Then they let it out, and draw it in again, until it weakens. When the hook of Love falls into our throat, God draws us gradually so those bad attributes will leave us little by little.
“There is no God, but God” – that is what the common folk say. The elect believe “There is no Self, but Self.” Someone sees in a dream that they are a ruler. They are seated on a throne with servants, chamberlains and princes standing by. They say, “I am ruler, and there is no ruler but I.” They say this in their sleep. When they wake up and see no one in the house but themself, they say, “I am, and there is no other than that I Am.” To realize this, one must be fully awake.
Every religion denies every other. One group says, “We are the true ones, revelation belongs to us, all others are false.” All the others say exactly the same. So the two and seventy creeds are in agreement that all others are without revelation. They are all in accord that there is no revelation to any other religion, and that out of the lot of them there is but one true path. So, a believer must have discrimination and wisdom to know which one it is. Such discrimination and wisdom is true faith.
Someone said: “The religions that don’t know are many, and those that know are few. If we are to occupy ourselves with distinguishing all of them it will be a long business.”
Rumi answered: Although there are many who do not know, when you know a few you have known them all. In the same way when you know a single handful of corn, you know all the corn-stacks in the world. If you have tasted sugar once, though halvah is made in a hundred different varieties, still in that halvah you know the sugar.
If these words seem repetitious to you, it is only because you have not yet learned the first lesson, so I must say it every day. There was once a student who was taught for three months, but never went beyond “A is for apple.” The child’s father came and said to the teacher, “I never fail to pay your fees. If I have ever failed a payment, please let me know, and I will pay more.” The teacher answered, “The failure is not yours, but the child doesn’t go beyond this point.” The teacher called the student and said, “Say, A is for apple.” The child said, “Is for apple,” unable to say “A.” The teacher said, “You see? Since the child has not passed the first point, how can I give any more?” The father said, “Praise belongs to God.”
We do not say, “Praise belongs to God” after a meal because there was a shortage of bread. Bread and blessings are without limit, but the appetite is gone and the guests are sated. That is why we say, “Praise belongs to God.”
The bread of revelation is very different from this worldly bread, because even with no appetite you can force yourself to eat as much worldly bread as you want. And since it is inanimate, you can drag it wherever you like. It does not have the spirit to withhold itself from those who are not worthy. But Divine bread is a living wisdom and a living blessing. As long as you desire nothing else, it comes towards you and becomes your food. But should your desire fail, you will not be able to eat it, even by force. It hides behind the veil and will not show you its face.
(Rumi was telling about the miracles of the saints. He said:) For someone to fly from here to the Kaaba in an instant is not so wonderful, even though there are such stories of saints having done so. But a true miracle is this: that God should bring you from a lowly estate to a high estate, that you should travel from ignorance to reason, from the inanimate to life. Just as at first you were earth and mineral, God brought you to the vegetable world. Then you journeyed from the vegetable world to the animal world, from the animal world to the world of humanity.
These are the true miracles. Through these stations and forms you journeyed, never once thinking or imagining where you would arrive, by which road you would be taken, or how you would be brought. Even so, you will be brought on to a hundred other worlds. Do not doubt it, and if you are told such stories, believe them.
A bowl of poison was brought as a present to Umar. “Of what use is this?” he asked.
They said, “When it is not publicly advisable to kill someone openly, you can give them a little of this. Then they will die secretly. If it is an enemy who cannot be slain with the sword, with a little of this they can be killed clandestinely.”
“You have brought me a very good thing,” he said. “Give it to me to drink, for within me is a mighty enemy whom the sword cannot reach. I have no greater enemy in the world than he.”
“There is no need to drink it all up in one gulp,” they told him. “Just one sip is enough. This bowl is sufficient for a hundred thousand people.”
“My enemy, too, is not one person,” said Umar. “He is a thousand strong, and has overthrown a hundred thousand.”
He then seized the cup and drank it all in one draught. At once the assembled multitude all became believers, crying, “Your religion is true!”
“You have all become believers,” said Umar, “and yet this infidel within me has not yet become a believer.”
What Umar desired was not the faith of the common people. He had that faith and more – indeed, he had the faith of the veracious. He was seeking the faith of the Prophets in absolute certainty. That was what he hoped for.
The report of a lion spread abroad through all parts of the world. It was said this lion had a special quality: Anyone who approached him boldly, and rubbed their hands upon him lovingly, would be unharmed, but if they were afraid and timorous the lion would be enraged against them. Sometimes he even attacked, as if to say, “What is this bad opinion you have of me?”
A certain person, marveling at the rumor, traveled from far away to see the lion. For a year this person endured the rigors of the road, and traveled from town to town. After finally arriving at the thicket and spying the lion from afar, this lion seeker stood still and could advance no closer.
The people said to this person, “You set forth on a long road out of love for this lion. For this creature you have struggled on for a year. Now that you have come so close, why do you stand still? Advance one more step!”
But none of them had the courage to take a further step. They all said, “The steps we took up to here were all easy. Yet this one step we cannot make.”
What Umar desired was that step, to take one step in the presence of the lion towards the lion. That step is a great and rare matter, the concern of only the chosen and intimate of God. Yet this is the true step – the rest are mere footprints. Such faith comes only to prophets who have washed their hands of their own life.
A lover is a wonderful thing. We derive strength, life and growth from even the thought of our beloved. Why is this surprising? Laila’s spirit gave strength to Majnun and became his food. If her image had such power and influence over Majnun, then why should you marvel at the thought of God giving strength to Umar? That was not a mere thought. That was the very soul of all realities! It is just such a thought that maintains this world.
You say “reality” is what you can see and perceive with your senses, otherwise you call it “imagination.” The opposite it true! This world is what is imagined. Out of reality springs a hundred worlds like this that will rot one day and disappear. Then a new world springs forth, even better than the last. Reality does not become old or new. These are but temporary expressions of what is Real.
An architect sees a building in their thoughts. They picture it to be so tall, so long, its floor angles this way, its courtyard is shaped like this. People do not call this “imagination.” But when someone, who knows nothing about building, talks about such details, certainly that is different. As people say, “They are just imagining things.”