Discourse 21

Discourse 21

Rumi said: Sharif Paysukhta has written:

God dispenses Its grace,

Indifferent to time and space,

Itself, the Spirit of the Whole

Is independent of our soul.

No matter what our ranging thought

Within its compass may be brought,

We find adoration for the Lord,

For It who need not be adored.

These words are shameful; they neither honor God, nor do they honor mankind. Oh poet, what joy does it give you that God should be supremely independent of you? This is not the language of friends; this is the language of enemies. The enemy indeed says, “I am indifferent to you and do not care.”

Now consider the loyal and ardent lover of God who, when in a state of ecstatic joy, addresses that Beloved, “You are independent of me!” They would be like a stoker of the fires at the baths, saying, “The Sultan is indifferent and independent of me, a mere stoker. Indeed, the Sultan is indifferent to all stokers.” What joy would such a miserable stoker feel with the thought that the king was indifferent to them? No, the right words for the stoker to speak would be: “I was on the roof of the baths. The Sultan passed by. I hailed him. He looked well at me and then passed me by, still looking at me.” Such words might well give joy to that stoker. As for saying, “The king is indifferent to stokers,” what sort of praise for the king is that, and what joy can it give the stoker?

No matter what our ranging thought

Within its compass may be brought,

Oh poet, what indeed will pass within the compass of your thought when you find that it is people who are independent of you, they are bored of your thoughts and run away? God’s independence is certain, oh poet, but if you have a spiritual state worth anything at all, He will not be independent of you. God’s closeness to you establishes the degree of your greatness.

Sheikh Mahalla used to say, “First see, then converse. Everyone sees the Sultan, but it is his favorite who enjoys his conversation.” This too is backwards. Moses enjoyed the speech of God. With God’s word he was filled. It was only afterwards he sought to see. Moses’ station was the station of speech; the station of Mohammed was the station of seeing. How then can the Sheikh’s statement be correct?

Someone said to Shams-i-Tabriz, “I have established the existence of God by a categorical proof.” The following morning our Master, Shams, said, “Last night the angels came down and blessed that man, saying, ‘Praise be to God, he has established the existence of our God! God give him long life! He has done no harm to the honor of men and women!’”

Oh poet, God exists. It needs no proof. If you do anything at all, establish yourself in some rank and station before Him. Otherwise, how can you share in His grace?

Nothing exists that does not proclaim His praise.

Lawyers are clever, a hundred per cent competent in their own specialty. But between them and the spiritual world, a wall has been built to preserve their empire of logic and proofs. If that wall did not exist as a veil for them, no one would consult them and their work would disappear.

This is like what Shams said, “The other world is like a sea, and this world is foam from that sea. God desired to keep this foam in order. Therefore, He set certain people with their backs to the sea so this foam would not fall into ruin.”

A tent was pitched for a king, and he kept certain people busy constructing this tent. One says, “If I don’t make the tent-ropes how will the tent stand up?” Another says, “If I don’t make the pegs, where will they tie the ropes?” Still, everybody knows these people are servants of the king. If the weavers gave up weaving and sought to be viziers, the whole world would be naked and bare. So, they were given a joy for their craft. They are content with weaving. Therefore people were created to keep the world of foam in order, and this world was created for the Saint.

God bestows contentment and happiness on everyone in the work that is theirs, so that even if their life should last a hundred thousand years they would still find love for their work. Every day the love for their craft becomes greater, and subtle skills are born to them, which bring them infinite joy and pleasure.

Nothing exists that does not proclaim His praise.

There is one praise for the rope-maker, another for the carpenter who makes the tent-poles, another for the maker of the tent-pins, another for the weaver who weaves the cloth for the tent, another for the saints for whom the tent is made.

Now these seekers who come to us, wanting some time with us, if we say nothing they are disgusted and hurt. Yet if we say something it must be beneficial to their level of attainment. So we approach cautiously, and they leave, criticizing us, saying, “They are holding back what they know. They are hiding from us and running away.”

How should the fire run away from the cook pot? It cannot. The truth is that when we see that the vessel is weak, we draw back some distance to protect it. So, it is really the pot that runs away. Our running away is their running away. We are a mirror. If they move to run away, it appears to them in us. We run away for their sake. In a mirror people see themselves. If they see us as weary, that weariness is theirs and a reflection of their weakness. There is no room here for weariness; what use do we have for weariness?

In the baths, once, I showed great submission to Sheikh Salah al-Din, and Sheikh Salah al-Din showed great submission to me. Confronted by his submission, I protested. I thought to myself, “You are carrying submission too far. Submission is better by degrees: First you kiss the hand, then the foot. Little by little you come to a point where it does not stand out as a display, and in return they are moved by your sincerity. They are not chased away, or forced into matching courtesy with courtesy, when you gradually show your affection.”

We must act this same way with friends and enemies, doing things gradually. For instance, with an enemy, first we offer them our advice, little by little. If they do not listen, we show some force. If they do not heed that, then we drive them away.

The work of the world proceeds in this way. Don’t you see the peace and friendliness of spring? In the beginning it shows us warmth little by little, then it displays its graces more and more. Look at the trees, how little by little they advance. First a smile, then they show their trappings of leaves and fruit, like dervishes and Sufis offering their hearts, giving away all that they possess.

Men and women run away from every goal, whether worldly or spiritual, because they overestimate the initial task. The proper way is a bit at a time. It is the same if someone eats too much; they should diminish it daily by a small bit, gradually. In that way, before a year or two have passed, they will have cut down what they eat by half, reducing it in such a way that their body does not notice. So it is with worship, withdrawing into solitude, attending to the service of God, and prayer. When a person enters upon the Way of God, for a while their prayers will be short. But after that, if they pray with their whole heart, their prayers will go on and on without end.