Feb 26 2014

Yunus Emre – The drink sent down from Truth

Published by at 10:02 am under Poetry

The drink sent down from Truth
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

The drink sent down from Truth,
we drank it, glory be to God.
And we sailed over the Ocean of Power,
glory be to God.

Beyond those hills and oak woods,
beyond those vineyards and gardens,
we passed in health and joy, glory be to God.

We were dry, but we moistened.
We grew wings and became birds,
we married one another and flew,
glory be to God.

To whatever lands we came,
in whatever hearts, in all humanity,
we planted the meanings Taptuk taught us,
glory be to God.

Come here, let’s make peace,
let’s not be strangers to one another.
We have saddled the horse
and trained it, glory be to God.

We became a trickle that grew into a river.
We took flight and drove into the sea,
and then we overflowed, glory be to God.

We became servants at Taptuk’s door.
Poor Yunus, raw and tasteless,
finally got cooked, glory be to God.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Photo by That-Bassoonist /

A Sufi song of initiation…

The drink sent down from Truth,
we drank it, glory be to God.

Amrita, nectar, honey, dew, wine. Many mystical traditions describe the experience of drinking a celestial substance in states of deep communion. This is more than mere poetry. A flowing, liquid-like substance is felt descending, as if from heaven (“sent down from Truth”), ever so sweet on the palette, running down the throat, and warming the heart, leaving the wine drinker filled with a giddy bliss and expansive love for all.

This is the drink of initiation. Drink it and be consumed by wonder.

We were dry, but we moistened.

…What a perfect, succinct evocation of that moment of spiritual revivification.

We grew wings and became birds,
we married one another and flew,
glory be to God.

Birds have been used in several Sufi poems to suggest the soul. We can read these lines to say he has discovered what his soul really is and how it is its nature to soar. And to “marry one another” implies a union between self, God, and all things. Union is found and the true self soars.

We have saddled the horse
and trained it, glory be to God.

The horse referred to here can be understood as the mind, specifically the sensory mind. It is that part of the awareness that knows the world through the senses. For most of us, that horse is wild, racing in all directions, running toward pleasure and away from discomforts. When it does that, it pulls the rest of our awareness after it, preventing progress towards a clear goal.

As we mature, that horse may be partially tamed or, at least, it tugs us with less strength. But the spiritual aspirant seeks to saddle and train the sensory mind so it can be guided by a more focused aspect of our awareness. Notice that the sensory mind is not chained up, nor is the horse slaughtered. This is not about the absolute starvation of the senses. Rather, the sense mind is “trained” and self-directed so it is no longer enamored or frightened by each successive sensory experience. Awareness of both pleasure and pain is integrated and used intelligently, but does not distract us from our true path. And notice too that that same sensory mind, when trained, becomes the source of our power and speed, allowing us to travel great distances on the path. In other words, the sensory mind is not to be abandoned; it is trained and utilized.

We became a trickle that grew into a river.
We took flight and drove into the sea,
and then we overflowed, glory be to God.

I love these lines!

Poor Yunus, raw and tasteless,
finally got cooked, glory be to God.

That alchemical cooking process, it can be intense, make us sweat, convince us we are dying, but it separates out the dross, refines us, completes us, gives us flavor. We become worthy food for the Divine, a savory offering. If we want to be an accepted on the altar, we have to put up with the process that unlocks our flavor. All of life conspires to cook us. The question is, do we help or hinder our own preparation?

The drink from heaven, moistening, sprouting, growing wings and flying, saddling and riding a horse, flooding to the sea, being cooked — all ways of describing the mystic’s transformations when passing the ecstatic threshold of union.






Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Yunus Emre is considered by many to be one of the most important Turkish poets. Little can be said for certain of his life other than that he was a Sufi dervish of Anatolia. The love people have for his liberating poetry is reflected in the fact that many villages claim to be his birthplace, and many others claim to hold his tomb. He probably lived in the Karaman area.

His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism and humanism and love for God.

He was a contemporary of Rumi, who lived in the same region. Rumi composed his collection of stories and songs for a well-educated urban circle of Sufis, writing primarily in the literary language of Persian. Yunus Emre, on the other hand, traveled and taught among the rural poor, singing his songs in the Turkish language of the common people.

A story is told of a meeting between the two great souls: Rumi asked Yunus Emre what he thought of his great work the Mathnawi. Yunus Emre said, “Excellent, excellent! But I would have done it differently.” Surprised, Rumi asked how. Yunus replied, “I would have written, ‘I came from the eternal, clothed myself in flesh, and took the name Yunus.'” That story perfectly illustrates Yunus Emre’s simple, direct approach that has made him so beloved.

More poetry by Yunus Emre

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Yunus Emre – The drink sent down from Truth”

  1. marrobon 26 Feb 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but get intuitive ‘bops on the head’ of the
    the warning Yunus Emre & the Sufis ‘know’ of the narcissistic traps of
    illusion the soul can fall into.

    The image of the saddled horse, at once free & disciplined
    and Ivan’s commentary help to clarify this.

    For those ‘glimpses of clarity’ , I give thanks.

  2. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 27 Feb 2014 at 8:07 am

    I like your comment, Ivan: all of life conspires to cook us; do we help or hinder our own preparation?
    So good to meet another Sufi in Yunus Emre. How enriching to hear their insights. Thank you so much.
    Namaste, Therese

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply