In these difficult times of confinement, fear and sadness, it is advisable to revise our present values and beliefs for the changes which will undoubtably affect all of us in the coming years. One of the ways of doing this is to read some of the great poets and philosophers which have shaped our times and will help us to rethink our attitude towards our lifestyles and value systems. One of these poets and thinkers could be Rumi.
Imagine the historical and social backdrop of his time. It is the 13th century and the Persian Empire is in chaos. Division, rife and corruption is common amongst the ruling classes. The Mogul armies of Gengis Khan are moving westward, pillaging country after country. People are living in fear and disbelief, having lost faith in their political and religious leaders. Soon the Persians will witness some of the worst massacres at the hands of the invaders.
Mowlana Jallaledin Mohamad Rumi was born in 1207 on the edge of the Persian Empire in Balkh in what is now modern-day Afghanistan. His father was a well-known religious leader from a long line of theologians, teachers and scholars. Fearing the oncoming Mogul invasion ,he gathered his family, followers and friends and left his homeland, eventually arriving in Konya in Turkey. Konya was a centre of many cultures and nationalities . It was also rich in science, literature and learning and in this atmosphere, Rumi grew up. In 1244, now 36, and an established scholar and religious leader, he meets Shams of Tabriz who is to have a profound influence on his life.
Shams is a kind of ‘wandering mystic’ and highly advanced Sufi walking the spiritual path of Love. Both of them spend hours secluded from others immersed in meditation and spiritual talk. Rumi discarded many of his previously-held beliefs and refused to see and teach many of his followers. After several years together, Shams suddenly disappeared but his influence on Rumi was such that he never really swayed from Shams essential teachings. Rumi was to become the great mystic poet that we know today.
Rumi often said that much of his work was Shams’s writing through him. His lifework is entitled “Mathnawi”, a six-volume masterpiece that he managed to complete before his death in December 1273.
Here is one of his poems:
THE SEED MARKET
Can you find another market like this?
With your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
for one seed
you get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
the divine wind?
You’ve been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer had the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not repenting.
It’s a deep honouring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover, marry, at once, quickly,
for God’s sake.
Don’t postpone it.
Existence has no better gift.
No amount of searching
will find this.
A perfect falcon, for no reason
has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.
Happy English learning!!