On Rumi

Monday Musings for Monday September 30, 2013

Volume III, No. 37/131

Rumi Image

The Life and Poetry of

Mowlana Jalal-Al-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Today September 30, is the 806th natal anniversary of Mowlana Jalal-Al-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi, the illustrious Persian poet and saint, author of Divan Masnavi, a colossal book of poetry imparting wisdom with its every word. Rumi’s years were September 30, 1207 to December 17, 1273. Divan Masnavi consists of six books and well over 25,000 lines. Faithful readers of this space recall the essay on power of words suggesting to pay special attention to the first word of books read. Rumi’s imposing Divan’s first word is “Listen”, connoting that listening is an act of love…Other sages including a contemporary of Rumi, Persian poet Sheikh Mosleh-Al-Din Saadi (1210-1290) illustrated the importance of listening “one is given two ears to listen and one tongue to speak. So, one must listen twice as much as one speaks..”

Back to Rumi. Mowlana’s work enjoys worldwide acceptance translated into hundreds of languages.  Like the Bible, Saint Augustine Hippo”s Confessions, it is a perpetual best seller.  One of my major concerns is that literary charlatans, especially the phonies who line their pockets by exploiting Rumi, posing as experts, and not knowing Farsi or the Persian culture. They contaminate the literary medium. Be careful what you are dished out is Rumi.

Rumi was a Sufi. He held love (Farsi, Eshgh) as the supreme power that transforms lives. Eshgh, the pathway to salvation…Eshgh, the gate to the world of knowledge, cognition, learning and transcendence. In the contrary to common belief, Sufi is not a branch of Islam. Looking at the writing of Plato who recorded the teachings of Socrat es, we know that Socrates, the Ostad, himself was a Sufi.The Sermon of the Mount and the five part Gospel of Matthew (just like Pentateuch that has five parts) could not have been written by anyone but a sufi or one who holds Love as the ultimate in human to human and human to God relationships. I will devote a series of “MM” on Sufi and Sufism. Rumi held that the solution to human problems lies within. Not in some creepy Morshed (guru) who preaches to just submit your soul and remit your pocketbook…  Although in the 13th century little was known about chemistry of the brain and neurotransmitters, Rumi strongly suggested to seek solution to our problems within (Farsi, doroon), our thoughts, our bodies, and our inner secrets (Farsi, Asrar).

Rumi was anti-cleric, anti-dogma, anti-exclusion, and anti-religious pretense (hypocrisy). The French Philosoph, as he was called, François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), the well known 18th century thinker and writer, has referred extensively to the intellectual construct of Rumi and Rumi’s treatment of deism, love and toleration.

Today, celebrating the master’s birthday, I am offering a few lines of Rumi’s wisdom translated by a learned scholar, Nader Khalili.

Ghazal 1393

I was dead
I came alive
I was tears
I became laughter

all because of love
when it arrived
my temporal life
from then on
changed to eternal

love said to me
you are not
crazy enough
you don’t
fit this house

I went and
became crazy,
crazy enough
to be in chains

love said
you are not
intoxicated enough
you don’t
fit the group

I went and
got drunk,
drunk enough
to overflow
with light-headedness

love said
you are still
too clever
filled with
imagination and skepticism

I went and
became gullible
and in fright
pulled away
from it all

love said
you are a candle
attracting everyone
gathering every one
around you

I am no more
a candle spreading light
I gather no more crowds
and like smoke
I am all scattered now

love said
you are a teacher
you are a head
and for everyone
you are a leader

I am no more
not a teacher
not a leader
just a servant
to your wishes

love said
you already have
your own wings
I will not give you
more feathers

and then my heart
pulled itself apart
and filled to the brim
with a new light
overflowed with fresh life

now when the heavens
are thankful that
because of love
I have become
the giver of light.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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