The Amir said to Rumi: “Before you arrived just now, your eldest son, Baha al-Din, excused himself to me, saying, ‘My father said that he doesn’t want to put you to any trouble when you come to visit him. He says, “I am subject to various states of consciousness. In one state I speak, and in another I do not. In one state I attend to the affairs of others, and in another state I withdraw and go into retreat, while in yet another state I am utterly absorbed and beyond this world. I do not wish the Amir to come when I’m in a state of being that is disagreeable, when I am unable to counsel and converse with him. Therefore, it is better that when I am free and able to attend
to my friends and do them some good, that I should go out and visit them.”’”
The Amir went on: “I answered Baha al-Din, saying, ‘I do not come here so that our Master should attend to me and converse with me. My purpose in coming is to have the honor of being amongst the company of his servants.’ For example, just now you were preoccupied and did not show yourself until you had kept me waiting for a long time. This was so I would realize how difficult and disagreeable it is if I keep others waiting when they come to my door and I do not readily admit them. You have made me taste the bitterness of that and have given me a lesson so that I will not act like that with others.”
Rumi answered: That’s not true. On the contrary, my keeping you waiting is an expression of utmost loving-kindness. Just as God declares, “O my child, I would answer your smallest petition and slightest complaint without delay, if it weren’t that the voice of your complaint is so sweet to my ears. My answer lingers unspoken in hopes that you might complain again and again, for the sound of your voice is so sweet to me.”
For example, two beggars come to the door of a certain person. One is highly loved and sought after, while the other is disliked. The owner of the house says to a slave, “Give that hated one a piece of bread quickly and without delay, so he will leave right away.” To the other beloved beggar the owner makes promises, saying, “The bread is not yet baked. Wait patiently until the bread is properly cooked and baked.”
My greater desire is to see my friends, to gaze my fill upon them and they on me. For when friends see deeply into one another here, below, and they are raised into the other world after become very familiar here, they quickly recognize one another there. Knowing how closely they were together in the world of mortality, their reuniting brings great joy.
For all too quickly we lose our friends. Do you not see how in this mortal world you become the friend and darling of some person, and they become the very Joseph of beauty in your eyes. Then, on account of a single shameful act they vanish from your sight, and you lose them completely? That Joseph-like form is changed into a wolf. This very same one you once saw as Joseph you now see as a wolf. Yet, their actual form has not changed, but is still the same as it always was. By that one accidental act you lost them. Tomorrow, when this present essence is changed into another essence, since you never really knew that person deeply, and never penetrated thoroughly into their essence, how are you going to recognize them?
The lesson to be learned from this is that we must see one another very well indeed. We must pass beyond the good and bad qualities that are present temporarily in everyone, and must enter into the other’s very essence. We must see with exceptional clarity that these qualities people observe in one another are not their original qualities.
The story is told of a man, who said, “I know that fellow very well. I will give his distinguishing mark.” His friends said, “Please do.” The man answered, “He was a muleteer of mine. He had two black cows.” People talk in this same way. “I consider So-and-so my friend. I know them.” Yet every distinguishing mark they give is just like the two black cows. Those are not distinguishing marks. Those marks are of no use whatever.
So, we must pass beyond the good and evil in others and enter into their essence to see what they really are. That is truly seeing and knowing.
It astonishes me how some people say, “How do saints and lovers of God find love in the eternal world beyond form, space and time? How can they gain strength and help? How are they affected by things without body or shape?”
Is not all life, night and day, engaged with these very things? One person loves another person and derives help through that love. They find care and grace, kindness and knowledge, happiness and sorrow. All these belong to that formless world. Moment by moment they receive benefits from these abstractions and are affected by them. However, this doesn’t surprise the doubters. Yet they are amazed that saints can find love in the invisible worlds, and derive help without form.
Once there was a philosopher who denied this reality. One day he became so sick he could not leave his bed, and his illness dragged on a long time. A certain theologian went to visit him.
“What are you seeking?” the theologian asked.
“Health,” said the philosopher.
“Tell me how this health is shaped, so that I may find it for you.”
“It has no shape,” said the philosopher. “It is indescribable.”
“If it is indescribable, then how can you look for it?” the theologian demanded.
“All I know,” answered the philosopher, “is that when health arrives I grow in strength. I become plump, fresh and alive.”
“From illness we learn of health,” said the theologian. “From what is describable we learn of what is indescribable. Now abandon your doubting ways and I will return you to your vital self.”
Though spiritual truth is inscrutable, still we all benefit from it through the embodiment of form. Just as you see the changes brought by the stars, moon and sun turning in the sky, the rain from clouds in due season, summer and winter, and all the transformations of time. You see all these things happen, and know that it is right and in accordance with wisdom. But how does that distant cloud know it is necessary to rain at its appointed time? Or how does this earth, when it receives a seed, know to return it tenfold? Well, Someone does this. Behold that Someone through the embodiment of this world, and find nourishment. Just as you use the body of another person to contact their essence, use the embodiment of this world to touch That reality.
When the Prophet was transported out of himself and spoke, he used to say, “God says.” Now, from the standpoint of embodiment, it was his tongue that spoke; but he wasn’t there at all. That speaker was greater than he was. Mohammed, knowing himself to be ignorant and without knowledge of such words, when he heard the wisdom coming through his own lips, he realized that he was no longer what he had been. Something greater moved him. He reported stories about past people and prophets who lived thousands of years before, and he told what would come to pass even to the end of the world. His being was but a thing of years. A mortal being surely can’t describe such things. How can a creature born in time give information about the eternal? And so it became known that it was not he who was speaking. God was speaking.
God is wholly free of form and words. Its speech is beyond letters and voice. Yet, It delivers Its message by any letters and voice and tongue It desires.
People have carved the figures of men, women and birds of stone along the banks of pools on the highways and in the caravansaries, and through the mouths of those statues water pours into the pool. Anyone with any sense knows that this water does not begin in the mouth of a stone bird, it comes from some other source.
If you want to get to know people, engage them in speech. By their words you will know them. If they are imposters, even if someone told them that people can be recognized by their words and they watch their words carefully to avoid being caught, still, in the end you will come to understand who they are.
This is illustrated by the story of the child and her mother. A child in the desert said to her mother, “On dark nights a horrible demon appears to me, and I am terribly afraid.”
“Don’t be afraid,” said her mother. “The next time you see that form, attack it bravely. Then you see clearly that it is nothing but a fantasy.”
“But mother,” said the child, “what if the horrible demon’s mother has given him similar advice? What shall I do if she has taught him, saying, ‘Don’t give in, so she will think you are real and powerful. And don’t say a word, so that you won’t be exposed?’ How shall I recognize him then?”
“Keep silent, yield to his form as it is, and wait with patience,” her mother answered. “Sooner or later some word will leap from his mouth. Or if it does not, from your own heart some words will spring forth unconsciously, or into your mind some thoughts or ideas will spring up, so that out of those thoughts you will know him for what he is. For this is how he has affected you. This is a reflection of his true self and his real feelings that have sprung up inside of you.”
Sheikh Sar-razi was seated one day amongst his disciples. One of the disciples had a longing for some roasted sheep’s head. The Sheikh called to his servant, saying, “Bring him some roasted sheep’s head.”
“How did you know that he wanted roasted sheep’s head?” the disciples asked.
“Because it is now thirty years since such desires have filled me,” the Sheikh answered. “I have cleansed and purified myself of all desires and have become clear as a polished mirror. When the thought of roasted sheep’s head entered my mind, whetted my appetite and became a desire, I knew it belonged to our friend. For a mirror shows no image of itself. Any image it reflects is the image of another.”
A worthy man once shut himself in a cave for forty days discipline, seeking spiritual enlightenment. A voice came to him, saying, “Such a lofty goal will never be attained by forty days discipline. Abandon your cave so the love of a great saint may reach you and your goal can be realized.”
“Where shall I find that great one?” the man asked.
“In the congregational mosque,” came the answer.
“In such a throng of people, how shall I recognize which one he is?” he inquired.
“Go,” said the voice, “he will recognize you and will gaze upon you. The sign that his love has fallen upon you will be when the pitcher drops from your hand and you become unconscious. Then you will know that his gaze has reached you.”
The man acted accordingly. He filled a pitcher with water and went around the congregation in the mosque like a water-carrier. He was wandering between the ranks of the worshippers when suddenly he was seized with ecstasy. He uttered a loud cry, and the pitcher fell from his hand. He remained in a corner of the mosque unconscious. All the people left. When he came to his senses he saw that he was alone. He could not see the spiritual king who had gazed upon him, but he had gained his goal.
There are certain lovers of God, who, because of their great majesty and jealousy for God, do not show themselves openly, but they cause disciples to attain important goals and bestow gifts upon them. Such mighty spiritual saints are rare and precious.
Someone said: “Do the great ones come before you?”
Rumi answered: There is no “before” left to me. It has been a long time since I have had any “before.” If they come, they come before an image they believe to be me. Some people said to Jesus, “We will come to your house.” Jesus replied, “Where is my house in this world, and how could I have a house?”
It is related that Jesus was wandering in the desert when a great rainstorm broke. He went to take shelter in the den of a jackal, in the corner of its cave, until the rain ceased. A revelation came to him, saying, “Get out of the jackal’s den, for the jackal’s little ones cannot rest on account of you.” He cried aloud, “Lord, the jackal’s pups have a shelter, but the son of Mary has no place to call home.”
Although the jackal’s whelp has a cave to live in, still it has no Beloved to drive it out of its home. But you do have such a One driving you out. If you have no home, what does that matter? The loving-kindness of such a Driver, and the grace from such a robe of honor that singles you out to be driven forth, is worth far more, exceeding a hundred thousand heavens and worlds here and beyond.
After the Amir left, Rumi said: The fact that the Amir came and I didn’t show my face at once should not worry him. His purpose in coming was either to pay honor to me or to himself. If it was to pay honor to me, then the longer he sat and waited, the greater the honor he gained. If, on the other hand, his object was to honor himself and to seek a reward, then since he waited and endured the pain of waiting his reward will be all the greater. In either case his object in coming was realized many times over, so he should feel thankful and fortunate.