Jun 24 2009
The Beloved Guest (from The Secret Rose Garden)
by Mahmud Shabistari
English version by Florence Lederer
Cast away your existence entirely,
for it is nothing but weeds and refuse.
Go, clear out your heart’s chamber;
arrange it as the abiding-place of the Beloved.
When you go forth, He will come in,
and to you, with self discarded,
He will unveil His beauty.
— from The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari, Translated by Florence Lederer / Edited by David Fideler
/ Photo by Powderruns /
Again and again the great mystics and saints remind us to “cast away your existence entirely.” This is expressed in many ways in the various world traditions: to die in order to live, to lose yourself in order to be found.
Why all this morbid insistence in every tradition on self-negation? It is important to understand which “self” is being negated. The self that must be “cast away,” “discarded” is the false self, the little self, the ego .
Until the ego self is truly dropped, it rules your perception of reality like a miser. That ego has a secret it desperately must hide from your everyday awareness: it doesn’t really exist. At best you could say the ego is like a tension in the psyche, but it isn’t a real thing in and of itself.
So long as a person believes in the reality of that phantom ego, so long as he or she identifies with that nagging cramp of the “me”-sense, then seeing its inherent unreality is inconceivable, terrifying. The absence of ego is mistakenly assumed to be the death of self. Recoiling in fear, the psyche reflexively limits your perception of everything around you, crippling the consciousness, all in order to perpetuate the illusion of the ego and so protect you against “death.” The result, however, is that the simple truth remains hidden: The ego does not exist, and you are not the ego; you will survive the loss of ego.
The way out of this trap is to — with deep love, infinite patience, elegant balance, and unshakable determination — loosen the ego’s bindings until it falls away naturally.
When you accomplish that, you’ll stand in mute amazement. For, when the ego “you” has left, “when you go forth,” the Divine One “will come in,” and “unveil His beauty” to you. And, although that radiant beauty reveals itself to be everywhere, it is also recognized as contentedly abiding in the “heart’s chamber.”
Mahmud Shabistari lived in Persia (Iran) during the time of the Mongol invasions of the region. It was a time of massacres and religious sectarianism. Yet it is also during this time that the Golden Age of Persian Sufism emerged.
Shabistari’s Secret Rose Garden (the Gulistan-i Raz, which can also be translated as The Rose Garden of Mystery) is considered to be one of the greatest works of Persian Sufism.
In the Secret Rose Garden, Shabistari expresses a viewpoint of Sufi realization similar to the perspective of the great Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi, but expressed through the rich Persian poetic tradition.
The value of Shabistari’s work was recognized almost immediately. Many commentaries on the work by other Sufi mystics soon began to appear. The Secret Rose Garden quickly was regarded as one of the central works of Sufism.