Sorrow looted this heart

by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Sorrow looted this heart,
and Your Love threw it to the winds.
This is how the secret which saints and seers were denied
was whispered to me.

-- from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Why does Abu-Said open this poem with such a gloomy line about sorrow?

Sorrow and loss have an important role in sacred traditions. When we lose something or someone important to us, it is natural to grieve. But there is more going on there -- a painful sort of awakening is occurring.

When things or people become important to us, when we think of them as being necessary to our daily lives, that is a sign that we have begun to identify with them. We see ourselves in those people, things, experiences.

Yet, because we have identified with them, come to believe they are essential to our ongoing existence, their loss is seen by the confused ego as a form of self-death.

In loss, there is an opportunity: We get to witness our own "death." And, over a lifetime, loss naturally happens again and again. Yet, when we start to really pay attention, we are surprised by our continuing life in the midst of that loss. Over time, if we approach loss with heart and attention, we stop identifying with the naturally shifting world around us. This doesn't mean we stop loving the people in our lives, nor do we need to stop valuing important objects and experiences in our lives -- it just means that when they recede from our lives at the proper time, it is no longer a life and death crisis for the ego.

Ultimately, the only sorrow that is real is the burning desire for return to unity with the Divine. This is what Abu-Said is talking about when he opens this poem with the line, "Sorrow looted my heart." But when we finally stop identifying with the endless parade of externals, we discover that we have never been in any way separated from that unity.

Through complete willingness, through utter surrender to the natural process of change and loss, we slowly (at times, painfully) lose false identification with what was not truly ourself. Through sorrow, possessiveness is slowly lost or, as he says, "looted." We become completely emptied of all false identification and petty yearnings.

It is at that moment of freedom that the point of identity settles properly within our true nature, seeing itself as everywhere and formless. We are flooded with an indescribable joy and love, and it is as if the heart has been expanded incomprehensibly by that love and thrown "to the [formless, everywhere present] winds."

Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Mystics of Islam
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Sorrow looted this