Sep 23 2011

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – look at love

Published by at 9:35 am under Poetry

look at love
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Nader Khalili

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don’t get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

— from Rumi: Fountain of Fire, Translated by Nader Khalili

/ Photo by Lenny Montana /

Today is the equinox, when the length of day and night become equal, when summer gives way to fall (or winter to spring, for you southerners). It is a global transition point. A threshold. A time to release the old and welcome the new.

More than any other time of the year, we are reminded to stand centered on this very moment, neither leaning back nor tipping forward, and feel how memory reweaves itself into new possibility. It is during the equinox that a new dream is formed, a new vision of ourself, a new vision of the world. Does a new dream wait inside you?

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

As the equinox joins the past with the future, we have a greater opportunity to see how all things that seem separate, distant, in conflict are really a continual union.

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

Even life and death we imagine to be incompatible opposites, when the two flow naturally together, making them one.

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

It is this recognition of unity everywhere that makes the mystic’s journey possible.

the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

A journey within the known is no journey at all. But a journey entirely in the unknown leads to disorientation and confusion. A mystic learns to recognize that indistinct threshold, where the known and the unknown merge. We start from there, take attentive steps, and discover that the borderland moves with us into new territories. The meeting point becomes internalized until we recognize that every hill and hollow of the unknown is secretly bordering the known, allowing the mystic to continually reorient and journey on.

This teaches us two things: When we feel lost in the unknown, all we must do is stop, grow still, and see once again familiar territory nearby. The other lesson is that when we feel stuck in the known, we don’t need an elaborate escape to exotic corners of the world; wherever we are, we just need to take the unexpected step, and a new path opens up before us.

But no path leads from A to B. A path is not an inconvenient distance that allows us to escape from one place and a rush to another. Every path is ultimately a reminder that A and B are joined. Properly understood, every journey recalls the awareness of union to the heart.

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

Have a wonderful equinox weekend!

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

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

I haven’t yet sketched out a short biography about Rumi. It always feels a bit foolish to try to distill a rich, full life into just a few paragraphs, but it’s especially difficult with Rumi since so much has been written about him and his life.

How about just a few interesting details about Rumi:

Rumi was born in Balkh, Afghanistan. While he was still a child his family moved all the way to Konya in Asia Minor (Turkey). They moved to flee from Mongol invaders who were beginning to sweep into Central Asia. Konya, far to the west of the invaded territories, became one of the major destinations for expatriates to settle, turning the city into a cosmopolitan center of culture, education, and spirituality.

In fact, Rumi wasn’t the only famous Sufi teacher living in Konya at the time. The best known spiritual figure in Konya at the time was not Rumi, but the son-in-law of the greatly respected Sufi philosopher ibn ‘Arabi. The wonderful Sufi poet Fakhruddin Iraqi also lived in Konya at the same time as Rumi.

“Rumi” was not his proper name; it was more of a nickname. Rumi means literally “The Roman.” Why the Roman? Asia Minor (Turkey) was referred to as the land of the Rum, the Romans. The Byzantine Empire, which had only recently fallen, was still thought of as the old Eastern Roman Empire. Rumi was nicknamed the Roman because he lived in what was once the Eastern Roman Empire. …But not everyone calls him Rumi. In Afghanistan, where he was born, they call him Balkhi, “the man from Balkh,” to emphasize his birth in Afghanistan.

Rumi’s father was himself a respected religious authority and spiritual teacher. Rumi was raised and educated to follow in his father’s footsteps. And, in fact, Rumi inherited his father’s religious school. But this was all along very traditional lines. Rumi was already a man with religious position when he first started to experience transcendent states of spiritual ecstasy. This created a radical upheaval, not only in himself, but also within his rather formal spiritual community as everyone tried to adjust to their leader’s transformation.

One more note about Rumi’s father: It was only after his death that some of the father’s private writings were discovered, revealing that he himself was also a profound mystic, though he had kept this part of himself private, apparently even from his son Rumi.

Many of Rumi’s poems make reference to the sun. This always has layered meaning for Rumi since he was deeply devoted to his spiritual teacher Shams of Tabriz… as the name Shams means “the sun.” The sun for Rumi becomes the radiance of God shining through his beloved teacher.

The spiritual bond between Rumi and Shams was profound, but the two individuals were very different. Rumi was a member of the educated elite within the urban expatriate community, while Shams was a poor wandering mystic who rarely stayed in one place long. Shams would often disappear unexpectedly, then return months later. Many of Rumi’s family and students were jealous of Shams, resenting the closeness he shared with their master. Finally, Shams disappeared, never to return. Many believe that he was actually kidnapped and murdered, possibly by Rumi’s own sons!

You’ve heard of “whirling dervishes,” right? Not all Sufis practice that spinning meditative dance. That is specific to the Mevlana Sufis, founded by — yes, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. The story is told that Rumi would circle around a column, while ecstatically reciting his poetry. The spinning is a meditation on many levels. It teaches stillness and centeredness in the midst of movement. One hand is kept raised to receive from heaven, the other hand is kept lowered to the earth, thus the individual becomes a bridge joining heaven and earth.

More poetry by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – look at love”

  1. nasihaon 23 Sep 2011 at 11:53 am

    ah food of the soul….whirling….whirling!
    thanks Ivan.

  2. marrobon 23 Sep 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I’m shaking my head in amazement at how the right
    words just came out of the blue, lifting a dark cloud from my heart. just when I needed
    to hear them. Thank you.

  3. Patriciaon 23 Sep 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Ivan, love that Rumi! We were just reading his
    “the Guest House” in poetry class today. Look
    it up on the web. Love, Patricia xxx

  4. maryann moonon 23 Sep 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Dear Ivan, May yours be a delightfully happy Equinox this day – it’s lovely to realize

    that the length of day and night become equal today, as we move from summer to

    autumn. Let’s be aware of bright new territory with this shift, let’s remember our

    starry origins, feeling along with Rumi all of Heaven’s Light that’s ours for the letting in

    of it. And I’m feeling very Halloween all of a sudden. love maryann

  5. Hemasri Chavaon 24 Sep 2011 at 9:33 am

    Dear Ivan, These are just perfect words I needed to hear every day and remember. Soul touching, heart warming, spirit lifting….can’t express in words. Today morning when I went for my morning hike, it is too early to see the sunrise and I realized sun rise time is at 7AM, then I thought what is sun set time, it is 7PM. Then I thought its 12 hours each just half and half…day and night…day meeting the night and night meeting the day…I came home and saw your peom and the blog…Thank you very much for writing all that and educating us about Equinox.

    I will try to watch as many sun rises as possible…as many Sun sets as possible and same with Moon…There is immense strength that flows to every living thing on earth from Sun….

    God bless you. With warm regards,Hema

  6. G. Les Maloneon 29 Aug 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I heard a stanza from thus quoted in a movie that I happened to encounter flipping television channels. The 2nd time the words were quoted, I googled the line and ended up here. “Look at Love” is quite possibly the most beautiful poem or collection of words that I have ever read. And as things sometimes go, it couldn’t be more apropos and timely for where I’m at right now spiritually! Thanks for posting this.

  7. D. Mbamahon 09 Jun 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Its sad that i cannot share this joy, this certainty, this moment. Not that i lack or stew in wants but this moment, this feelings, this heart dwells in me and me alone. My words are not enough but lets try and look at love may be you will have yours for you and you alone.

  8. […] in the world got married to another one of my very good friends. I had the honor of reading a beautiful poem by Rumi and sharing a blessing over the meal. It was an important day for all of us, and it reminded […]

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