You Went Away but Remained in Me

by Mansur al- Hallaj

English version by Mahmood Jamal
Original Language Arabic

You went away but remained in me
And thus became my peace and happiness.

In separation, separation left me
And I witnessed the Unknown.

You were the hidden secret of my longing,
Hidden deep within my conscience deeper than a dream.

You were my true friend in the day
And in darkness my companion.

-- from Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi, Translated by Mahmood Jamal

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

You went away but remained in me
And thus became my peace and happiness.


A short meditation on separation -- and separation as the doorway to union.

That sounds like another word game, doesn't it? But many mystics will teasingly use language like this:

In separation, separation left me
And I witnessed the Unknown.


That sense of separation -- separation from God, separation from Source, separation from Self -- is the fundamental pain of the soul. Every moment of suffering, when we really trace its tendrils, reaches down to that root pain. Every hunger, every craving, is an attempt to spread a thin layer of pleasure over that pain. Every self-inflicted hurt is an attempt to overpower that great ache with the sharp intensity of the moment. Most actions, when carefully dissected, are an attempt to distract ourselves from that terrible emptiness.

You can see that so much of our life force is spent in avoidance, avoidance of confronting that gulf between the individual and the Eternal.

Most people look away, spend all their life running from that canyon. But the mystic sits on the cliff edge and, though frightened, stares endlessly into the great space… until suddenly an amazing thing happens -- in a flash the emptiness is seen to be not a distance but a connection, a joining. The gulf is itself the bridge spanning the distance, and we discover that we can walk upon it, that there was, in fact, never any separation or distance.

You were the hidden secret of my longing,
Hidden deep within my conscience deeper than a dream.


That void in the secret space of the soul is not the absence of union, it is the dawning awareness of union. Allow yourself to feel it. Let it burn like a great thirst in your gut. Patiently, with balance and skill, grow used to the feeling. Let that charged space spark inside you and flash.

You were my true friend in the day
And in darkness my companion.


We light up like vacuum bulbs. Even in darkness we see, and we see we are not alone.



Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology
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