Discourse 51

Discourse 51

Rumi said:

Until you see, how can you find?
This is true for all but Lovers:

For how can they seek the Beloved,
Being blind,
Until they have discovered?

The human quest consists of seeking for what has not yet been found. Night and day people are searching for that. But the quest that begins after our desire has been found and attained, that is a strange quest indeed, beyond our imagination and comprehension. The worldly quest is searching for something new, something not yet experienced, but this other quest begins with what we have already found and then desire. This is God’s quest, for God is the Finder.

O friend, so long as you thirst for what is created in time, you are far from your goal. But, once your quest passes away into God’s quest and Its Quest overrides your own, then you have been found. Then you can truly seek.

A student said: “There is no way to prove who is a friend of God and who has attained union with God. Neither words, nor deeds, nor miracles, nor anything else can offer proof. For words can be mimicked, with practice. As for deeds and miracles, there are those who can read a person’s inmost thoughts, and display many wonders through magic.”

Rumi asked: Do you believe in anyone or not?

The student answered: “Yes, by Allah. I both believe and love.”

Rumi said: Is this belief of yours, in that person, founded on proof and token? Or did you simply shut your eyes and take up that person?

The student said: “God forbid that my belief should be without proof and token.”

Rumi said: Then why do you say there is no proof or token leading to belief? You have contradicted yourself.

Another person said: “Every saint and great mystic has said, ‘I enjoy a nearness with God and Divine favor that no one else has known before.’”

Rumi answered: Who made this statement – a saint, or someone else? If it was a saint, then they knew that every saint has had this belief, so how could a saint believe they are the only recipient of Divine favor? However, if someone other than a saint made this statement, then in truth that one is the friend and elect of God, for God has kept this experience from all the saints but has not hidden it from that one.

The same person tried to support their statement with a parable: “Once there was a king with ten concubines. The concubines said, ‘We want to know which of us is dearest to the king.’ The king declared, ‘Tomorrow this ring shall be in the room of whomever I love best.’ Next day the king commanded ten rings to be made identical with that ring, and gave one ring to each maiden.”

Rumi said: The question still stands. This story provides no answer, and changes nothing. The statement, “The king loves me best,” was made by one of the ten maidens, or by someone else. If one of the ten maidens made this statement, and she knew that each of the maidens had been given a ring just like hers, then how could she feel that she was loved best? However, if this statement was made by someone other than those ten maidens, then that person was truly shown the king’s favor and special love.

Someone said: “A true lover must be submissive and abject and long-suffering.” And they listed other qualities.

Rumi said: Should the lover be like that whether the beloved wishes it or not? If the lover is this way against the desire of the beloved, then they are no lover but merely following their own desire. If the lover accepts the desire of the beloved, then when their beloved does not want them to be submissive and abject, how could they be submissive and abject? Therefore, the states affecting the lover are unknown, and we can only know how the beloved wishes us to be.

Jesus said, “I wonder at the living creature that can eat a living creature.” The literalists say that this refers to people eating the flesh of animals. This is an error. Why? Because when people eat flesh, it is not animal any longer, but inanimate. Once the animal is killed, the living spirit is gone from that flesh. The true meaning of this saying is that the Sheikh mysteriously consumes the disciple. I wonder at a process so extraordinary!

Someone asked the following question: “Abraham said to Nimrod, ‘My God brings the dead to life and turns the living into the dead.’ Nimrod said, ‘When I banish people, it is the same as causing them to die, and when I appoint someone to a post it is as if I brought them to life.’ Then Abraham gave up this argument, being compelled to yield to Nimrod’s point. He then embarked on another line of reasoning, saying, ‘My God brings the sun up from the east and sends it down in the west. Do the opposite of that!’ Isn’t this argument at odds with the other?”

Rumi answered: God forbid that Abraham could have been silenced by Nimrod and left without any answer! The truth is that Abraham used his second statement to show how God brings life out of the womb of the east, and sends it back to death in the tomb of the west. Abraham’s argument was presented with perfect consistency. God creates us anew every moment, bringing something perfectly fresh into our inner heart. God’s first moment is nothing like His second, neither is His second moment like the third. Yet people, being unconscious of themselves, do not see this birth and death.

Sultan Mahmud was given a fine horse, with an exquisite shape. Next festival day he rode that horse, and all the people sat on their rooftops to see him and enjoy the spectacle. But one drunken fellow wouldn’t move from his apartment. By force, they carried him up to the roof, saying, “Come and look at the Sultan’s horse!” He said, “I am busy with my own affairs. I don’t want to see it.” But he could not escape. So he sat there on the edge of the roof, extremely drunk, as the Sultan passed by.

When the drunken fellow saw the Sultan on the horse he cried out, “What do I care about this horse? Why, this very moment if that horse were mine and a minstrel sang even one song, I would give it to him.” Hearing this, the Sultan became extremely angry and had the man thrown into prison. A week passed. Then the man sent a message to the Sultan, saying, “What is my crime? What sin did I commit? Let the King of the World state the case so his servant can be informed.”

The Sultan ordered the man to be brought into his presence. He said, “You insolent rogue, how could you utter such words? How dare you speak so rudely?” The man answered, “King of the World, it was not I who spoke those words. In that moment a drunken manikin was sitting on the edge of the roof and spoke those words. This hour I am not that fellow. I am an intelligent and sensible man.” The Sultan was delighted by his answer and conferred on him a robe of honor and ordered his release.

Whoever joins us and becomes drunk on this wine, no matter where they go, or whoever they visit, in reality their moments are still spent with us. For the coolness of strangers reminds us of our own friends’ gracious company, and mingling with those who do not know this wine stimulates love and desire for those who do.

This is why people prize other fruits above sugar, saying, “We have tasted so much bitterness that we attained the rank of sweetness.” How can you know the delight of sweetness until you have suffered the bitter?