May 16 2014

Yunus Emre – True speech is the fruit of not speaking

Published by at 8:23 am under Poetry

True speech is the fruit of not speaking
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

True speech is the fruit of not speaking.
Too much talking clouds the heart.

If you want to clear the heart,
say this much, the essence of all talking:

Speak truly. God speaks through words truly spoken.
Falsity ends in pain.

Unless you witness all of creation in a single glance,
you’re in sin even with all your religion.

The explanation of the Law is this:
The Law is a ship. Truth is her ocean.

No matter how strong the wood,
the sea can smash the ship.

The secret is this:
A “saint” of religion may in reality be an unbeliever.

We will master this science and read this book of love.
God instructs. Love is His school.

Since the glance of the saints fell on poor Yunus
nothing has been a misfortune.

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


/ Photo by Professor Zeeshan Shah /

Yunus Emre is always such a delight to me! This poem, for example, isn’t it wonderful? It’s difficult not to break into a smile reading it… even when some words sting.

With this song, Yunus Emre gives us a sharply teasing reminder that even if we follow all of the rules of our religious tradition, that’s not the same thing as achieving saintliness or holiness.

The secret is this:
A “saint” of religion may in reality be an unbeliever.

This is something fundamentalists of every religion keep stumbling over: Following your religion’s ritual, rules, and way of life can be a profound pathway, an enriching and challenging spiritual practice; but it is not the goal in itself. The living ocean of truth is the goal.

The explanation of the Law is this:
The Law is a ship. Truth is her ocean.

No matter how strong the wood,
the sea can smash the ship.

The goal must never be lost in the minutia of the rules. A true believer is someone who merges fully with that divine ocean, however that soul manages to reach the water. Even someone who perfectly lives the life of a “saint”, if that person isn’t drenched and blissfully drowning, that person is still an unbeliever…

Mystics have the irritating habit of cutting through religious pretense while restoring its heart:

Unless you witness all of creation in a single glance,
you’re in sin even with all your religion.

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

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Yunus Emre – True speech is the fruit of not speaking”

  1. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 16 May 2014 at 12:24 pm

    “True speech is the fruit of not speaking.”
    The mystics are endless in their praise of silence. How much I want to follow this source of truth. Yunus reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Ryokan–
    He writes after meditating:” Perfect this moment–
    In the vast emptiness, my understanding deepens.”

    Thank you, Ivan, for another introduction to
    a grand mystic.

  2. marrobon 16 May 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Yes, this IS wonderful.

    Thanks for bringing Yunus round on this wet day of green spring,
    and making his meaning a little clearer, a little deeper.

    Now for the REAL work: to ‘see’ all those irritating mystics
    around me…

  3. franon 16 May 2014 at 8:03 pm

    The explanation of the Law is this:
    The Law is a ship. Truth is her ocean.

    No matter how strong the wood,
    the sea can smash the ship.

    -BEAUTIFUL CLARITY… VERY HEALING TO FEEL SEE THAY IMAGE, NAMASTE

  4. Mikeon 20 May 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Been a favourite of mine for a long time. A great truth conveyed in simple words producing a powerful resonance. Less really does mean more, and truth always takes the most direct route. That’s why it can hurt, as well as astound us.

    Thanks Ivan.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply