Jan 28 2010

The Celestial Drink 2: Thirst

Published by at 11:16 am under Celestial Drink,Poetry

/ Photo by sergis blog /

Before the Celestial Drink can be tasted, there must first be thirst…

As long as I live I will eat and drink
The grief of loving You.
I will never give it up to anyone
Even when I am dead.

At the Resurrection
I will walk forward with this violent thirst
Still storming my head.

– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani (1098 – 1131)

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom
by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut

What is this thirst and what does it have to do with spirituality?

The mystic’s thirst is, of course, a thirst for God, and for the bliss-filled Celestial Drink that often accompanies the experience of divine union. Thirst is a passionate longing for the direct experience of the Real, the Eternal, a longing so intense that it is felt in every level of being.


The parched know —

real thirst
draws rainwater
from an empty sky.

– Ivan M. Granger

This thirst must be acknowledged, cultivated, nurtured until it is a pain so sharp it clears the mind and orients the soul where every action and thought naturally leads to the Drink’s source — the wine cellar, the tavern… When the thirst is strong enough, the draw is so strong that rainwater falls from an empty sky.

O soaring eagle! darling lamb!
O glowing spark! Set me on fire!
How long must I endure this thirst?
One hour is already too long,
A day is as a thousand years
When Thou art absent!

Should this continue for eight days
I would rather go down to Hell —
(Where indeed I already am!)
Than that God should hide Himself
From the loving soul;
For that were anguish greater than human death,
Pain beyond all pain.
The nightingale must ever sing
Because its nature is love;
Whoso would take that from it
Would bring it death.
Ah! Mighty Lord! Look on my need!

– Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207 – 1297)
Of the Voices of the Godhead (excerpt)

German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others
Edited by Karen J. Campbell

The mystic’s thirst becomes so powerful, so “violent” (as Hamadani says in the first poem) that it can be traumatic. It becomes a pain felt on many levels. On one level, it is the “hallowing pain” of relinquishing all to obtain the All…

Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Emily Dickinson

US (1830 – 1886) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Protestant

The hallowing of Pain
Like hallowing of Heaven,
Obtains at corporeal cost –
The Summit is not given

To Him who strives severe
At middle of the Hill –
But He who has achieved the Top –
All – is the price of All –

– Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

Mirabai, Mirabai poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Mirabai

India (1498 – 1565?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

No one knows my invisible life.
and madness for Rama.
Our wedding bed is high up
in the gallows.
Meet him?
If the dark healer comes,
we’ll negotiate the hurt.
I love the man who takes care
of cows. The cowherd.
Cowherd and dancer.
My eyes are drunk,
worn out from making love
with him. We are one.
I am now his dark color.

– Mirabai (1498 – 1565?)

To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light
Translated by Willis Barnstone

Thirst is the sweet pain, the “secret pain” that makes life worth living, that gives meaning to life and direction to the soul.

A pious one with a hundred beads on your rosary,
or a drunkard in a tavern,
any gift you bring the Beloved will be accepted
as long as you come in longing.
It is this most secret pain,
this bleeding separation,
which will guide you to your Heart of Hearts.

– Abu-Said Abil-Kheir (967 – 1049)

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

Why is the pain of this thirst sweet?

The pain experienced is the soul’s perception of itself as being separated from God or the Beloved. But that pain itself is the doorway to reunion. By allowing oneself to become completely vulnerable to the pain, to truly surrender to the feeling of thirst, the mystic finds the pain transformed into the blissful touch of the Beloved.

Your most secret wound
is the doorway.

Another way of saying this is that the thirst is the hollowness we often feel, that empty place that is the 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.

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

If anguish is not delicious meat for you,
It is because you have never tasted this wine.
The Prophets accept all agony and trust it
For the water has never feared the fire.

– Jelaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273)
The Sun Must Come (excerpt)

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom
by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut

Understood this way, the pain is its own cure… when we stop avoiding it.

The universe
is a kaleidoscope:
now hopelessness, now hope
now spring, now fall.
Forget its ups and downs:
do not vex yourself:
The remedy for pain
is the pain.

– Sarmad (d. 1659)

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry
Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady

Thirst is not the absence of union, it is the dawning awareness of union. Thirst is what calls the cupbearer. And the cupbearer dances upon empty space!

This, of course, confounds the mind. The Eternal is very real but, to the object-oriented mind, seemingly intangible. The mind tries and fails to grasp at God, like trying to grasp a liquid. No liquid can be held in the hand, and nothing so formless and immense as the Eternal can be grasped by the limited mind. The only way to hold formless liquid — is to drink it! Drinking, we become a part of it, and it becomes a part of us.

The Sea is Our Essence

We are of the sea, and the sea is our essence;
why then is there this duality between us?
The world is an imaginary line before the sight;
read well that line, for it was inscribed by us.
Whatsoever we possess in both the worlds
in reality, my friend, belongs to God.

His love I keep secretly in my heart;
the less of the pain of His love is our cure.
Companions are we of the cup, comrades of the saki,
lest thou suppose that he is apart from us:
it is the assembly of love, and we are drunk —
who ever enjoyed so royal a party?
So long as Mi’mat Allah is the slave of the Lord,
the king of the world is a beggar at his door.

– Shah Nematollah Vali (1330 – 1431)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty
Edited by Alan Jacobs

So, cherish that thirst. Learn to be at home with it. Feel it ache in your gut and burn in your throat. Let it burn, and let it continue to burn. The dedicated mystic knows that such a scalding thirst clarifies the awareness and draws the Celestial Drink.

Every empty cup is filled.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The Celestial Drink 2: Thirst”

  1. Annaon 29 Jan 2010 at 2:12 am

    I searched for my Self

    until I grew weary,

    but no one, I know now,

    reaches the hidden knowledge

    by means of effort.

    Then, absorbed in “Thou art This,”

    I found the place of Wine.

    There all the jars are filled,

    but no one is left to drink.


  2. Janiceon 29 Jan 2010 at 6:00 pm

    * my thirst *

    so precious is my thirst
    my sincerity , my longing
    it is the jewel
    that leads me
    to the treasure within
    where I become filthy rich

    thirst of my heart
    most valueable gift
    that I was born with
    multiplies my inner wealth
    what glorious endless treasure

    thank you

    ~ Janice Wilson

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