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Rumi Is The Man

August 13, 2009

“Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

– Rumi

If you are looking for some recommended reading on the awakened state of existence then Rumi is your guy. His poetry -beautiful, terrifying, and mysterious – is some of the best work ever created on the awakened being, the enlightened state, and the grand irony of existence. I have found no better description of the irony of our condition in the world than these words from Rumi:

“What strange beings we are that sitting in hell at the bottom of the dark, we’re afraid of our own immortality.”

– Rumi

Know this about Rumi. He did not just happen upon the awakened state on some whim. It didn’t happen one morning because of mantras, prayer beads, or salutations. It came about after complete and utter breakdown, literally and figuratively.

In his mid-twenties, Rumi was already considered one the great scholars of his day. He had, at the age of 25 and following the death of his father, become the head of a religious school, garnered a large following of students, and was able to wax philosophically about religion, poetry, and other subjects befitting a man in his position. He was at the top of the religious game per se. But it is said he found little solace in his holy books and felt spiritually unfulfilled. And then he met a man, Shams i Tabriz who shattered the illusions of his life, challenging every notion he had about God, the soul, and awakening.

Shams was a wandering Dervish, traveling from town to town in search of someone, anyone, that could teach him about God, love, the soul, the truth. He found many that could espouse doctrine and quote scripture, but none that spoke from the heart of the experience of God. Shams wanted to go beyond the books, further and directly into the heart of God through the heart of man. And then he encountered Rumi.

What happened at their first encounter is not fully known. Whether Shams quizzed Rumi and destroyed his preconceived notions about God, or performed a miracle and blew Rumi’s mind, or just bought him a cup of tea and talked, what seems to be clear from the stories surrounding the event is that Rumi, the great religious scholar, fell to his knees in front of the bedraggled traveler, overcome and shattered by a man that challenged everything he thought he knew.

Rumi and Shams became inseparable. It is said that they locked themselves in a room for 40 days, and when they reappeared in the world, Rumi, the respected teacher, family man, devout religious follower, was forever changed, a man wholly awakened to the truth of the Beloved, to the directly known and lived experience of God. Everything he was in the world before was broken down, destroyed, obliterated by the light, through the destruction unleashed on him by Shams i Tabriz. And what was left was the creator of some of the most direct, powerful, and revealing poetry about this whole process that the world has, or ever will see.

Gamble everything for love,

If you’re a true human being.

If not, leave this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty.

You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping

for long periods at meanspirited roadhouses.

Don’t wait any longer.

Dive in the ocean, leave and let the sea be you.

Silent, absent, walking an empty road, all praise.

– Rumi

His is the story of the return to the Beloved and his poetry is the chronicle and description of that love affair. Dive into his work. Consume it. Devour it. And take it seriously, knowing that this process is painful and will cost you everything. Gamble it all, as Rumi says.

Whatever possessions and objects of its desires the lower self

may obtain, it hangs on to them, refusing to let them go out of

greed for more, or out of fear of poverty and need.

– Rumi

His poetry is from the perspective of the awakened and enlightened state, offering insights into the ego (lower self) to help us understand it, what feeds it and makes it tick. And he also helps us understand the process of deconstruction we must go through to awaken:

Your task is not to seek for love,

but merely to seek and find all the barriers

within yourself that you have built against it.

– Rumi

His work is an invaluable resource, an encouragement to us as we struggle, stall, and awaken.

In fact, I  am such a fan of Rumi  that I included one of his poems in my wedding invitations:

“The minute I heard my first love story,

I started looking for you not knowing how

Blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,

They’re in each other all along.

– Rumi

And trust me, my wedding invitations are not something I would take lightly.

And if you decide to read Rumi, you shouldn’t take it lightly either.


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