Nov 02 2012
Whoever finds love
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi
English version by Coleman Barks
Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises
— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks
/ Photo by MoodyBlue /
I first came across this Rumi poem excerpt several years ago on a wonderful CD called Secret Language: Rumi, A Celebration in Song, by a Ramananda. Even now when I hear these words sung in my inner ear, repeated over and over, a hypnotic man’s voice, a soaring woman’s voice–
Whoever finds love…
Whoever finds looove…
Beneath hurt and grief…
Most of us live our entire lives with a thick veil or filter draped across existence — the ego-mind. Everything we perceive or imagine is colored by that filter. When the ego falls away we “disappear” — the normal sense of self as a separate, isolated entity amazingly fades out. The mind grows quiet. Any movement in the mind is perceived as a minor ripple that does not affect the clarity. As a result, the endless projections of identity, form, and enforced relationships between aspects of reality disappear. Instead, there is only a unified Whole, which includes us. We, like that Wholeness, are now understood to be formless, fluid. In this sense, we are spaciousness in an even vaster spaciousness. This is how we “disappear into emptiness.”
So, the disguises… Being formless, we still participate in the realm of form, because that is all the realm of form understands. Rather than a trap or a fixed identity, it becomes a game. You pretend to be someone, so other someones can relate to you. You wear masks that suit the situation, and then change them as the situation changes. Yet none of them is “you,” and you know this. Being formless, you can assume any form. You have “a thousand new disguises.”
|Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi|
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. Some believe that he was actually kidnapped and murdered, possibly by Rumi’s own sons! Or he may have simply followed his dervish nature and journeyed on, never to return to Konya.
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.