Monday, June 14, 2010

Last Words

"The vulgar do not see God working, and therefore never rest from toil.
On whichever side the Gracious One may be, go, and for God's sake, for God's sake, may you be also on that side!
And make patience a ladder to climb upward towards the ascending stages: patience is the key to success.
The speech in my heart comes from that auspicious quarter, for there is a window between heart and heart."

Rumi (Vol.6 4883-4915)

Commentary: The last line in the Mathnawi:"there is a window between heart and heart."
Thank you for traveling with Rumi's great heart through his masterpiece. Rumi has been called the "Shakespeare of spirituality". What I am most grateful for is the way he reminds us of "The Gracious One." Reading this poem for the second time (after a 31 year absence) I am newly horrified as to where Rumi believes the life of the spirit develops. He claims it happens in the very midst of human depravity. He uses misogyny, and racism, and pornography, and political intrigue and violence, and the abuse of animals, and the worst kind of religious bigotry as his working materials. (He also refers to springtime gardens, and young lovers, and faithful servants and beautiful jewels: but that is to be expected.)But in the very worst of existence, admitting the worst, he then turns the direction of the reader's attention towards God. For Rumi there is nothing "pretty" about the struggles that go on here. He doesn't portray spirituality as something that only the delicate and the sensitive ought to explore. Whatever your character or circumstances, may you find yourself on the side of the "Gracious One" today, and everyday.
(Personal note: I do plan to do another "spiritual classic" blog next fall...Simone Weil? Thomas Merton? Hafiz? I haven't decided... you can e-mail me at bmerritt@firstunitarian for updates...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The One Who Gives Life, and Takes It Away

"The King wept in mourning for the one that was slain, for the King is all; The King is both the slayer and the next of kin.
The King is both the slayer of humanity, and a mourner for them.
Meanwhile, the pale faced martyr was thanking God that the arrow had killed his body, and had not killed that which is real.
The visible body is doomed to go at last, but that which is real, the pure spirit, shall live rejoicing for ever.
If that punishment were inflicted, yet it fell only on the skin: the lover went unscathed to the Beloved.
Although he laid hold of the mercy of the King's saddle strap, yet in the end he was only admitted to union with his Beloved by the eye of perfection, the eye whose glances kill the mind's self-conceit."

Rumi (Vol.6, 4870-4875)

Commentary: Rumi asks us to imagine that there is something more real than our bodies. Rumi asks us to imagine that there is a "Beloved" who cares for us more than anyone on earth cares for us. Rumi even wants us to believe that the Goodness, (that gave us life), will also take that life from us; and that God not only celebrates our birth, but also mourns our death. (The last quote from the Mathnawi will appear tomorrow, God willing.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wickedness (Close By)

"Assuredly, your wicked carnal mind is a rapacious wolf: why are you laying the blame on every friend and neighbor?
In its misguidedness, the foul, disbelieving, unconscionable, carnal mind is like a hat for concealing the diseased condition of a hundred bald heads.
For this reason, O poor child of God, I am always saying, "Do not remove the collar from the neck of the cur."
Even if this cur should become a teacher, it is a cur still: be the one whose carnal mind is abased, for its nature is towards evil.
Go around the Saint, and absorb His light...
In order that the Saint may redeem you from the vices of your corporeality, and that you may fit the foot of the Beloved like a boot.
From generation to generation, the wickedness of the undisciplined carnal mind was the cause of the world being suddenly set on fire..."

Rumi (Vol. 6, 4856-4864)

Commentary: Even at the close, Rumi offers his truth, without any sugar-coating. This journey was never intended to be easy, and we should never let our guard down, as long as our "carnal minds", (our egotistical, selfish, delusional, controlling minds) are alive and kicking.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The House of Darkness

"How should the sea of the King, to which every water returns, be ignorant of what is contained in the torrent and river?
The King said to himself, "Look how I have dealt with you, in lavishing a precious treasure! Look how you have dealt with Me in your mean-spiritedness!
You have acted disloyally to the King who answers every call for help."
Then the disciple came to himself, and asked pardon of God...
The pain that arises from the dread of losing one's faith - take pity (on the one who is thus afflicted) for this is the irremediable pain.
You are helpless and unable to understand the cause of this helplessness: your helplessness is a reflection of the day of retribution.
Happy is the one whose spiritual food is this helplessness and bewilderment, and who in both worlds is sleeping in the shadow and the protection of the Beloved.
Life depends on dying to the self, and on suffering tribulation: the water of life is in the land of darkness."

Rumi (Vol.6 4771-4830)

Commentary: In the last 5 pages of the Mathnavi, Rumi admits that God isn't surprised by how often we fall. The ego has to go. Eventually we will learn that the only place to rest is in the palm of the Beloved.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Do Not Despair

"How long will you follow the glittering phantom reflected from another? Strive to make the Divine experience actual for yourself.
So that your words will be prompted by your immediate feelings, and your flight will be made by your own wings and pinions...
I have no hope from any quarter, but that Divine Bounty is saying to me, " Do not despair!"
Our Emperor had made a perpetual feast for us: God is always pulling our ears, drawing us close and saying, "Do not lose hope!"
Although we are in the ditch and overwhelmed by this despair, let us go dancing since He has invited us.
Let us dance along like mettlesome horses, galloping towards a familiar pasture.
Let us toss our feet, though no foot is there; let us drain the cup, though no cup is there.
Because all things there, are spiritual: it is reality, on reality, on reality.
Form is the shadow, reality is the sun."

Rumi (Vol.6, 4664-4747)

Commentary: As the Mathnawi draws to a close, Rumi invites us to dance all the way home. We are invited. We are being pulled. Reality is determined to win us over.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Real Garden

"That seeker felt within his heart a sublime emotion...
Courtyard and wall and mountain woven of stone seemed to split open before him like a laughing and bursting pomegranate.
One by one, the atoms of the universe were momentarily opening their doors to him, like tents, in a hundred diverse ways.
The door would become now a window, now the sunbeams; the earth would become now the wheat, now the bushel.
In human eyes, the heavens are very old, and threadbare; in his eye, there was a new creation every moment.
The flowers that bloom from the earth become faded; the flowers that bloom from the heart-oh, what a joy!
Know that all the delightful sciences known to us are only two or three bunches of flowers from that garden.
We are devoted to these two or three bunches of flowers, because we have shut the Garden door on ourselves."

Rumi (Vol.6 4639-4652)

Commentary: Rumi admits that our small bunches of flowers are beautiful. But he invites us to experience a whole garden full of magnificent flowers, where that beauty never fades. We "shut the garden gate" when we refuse to even consider the possibility that such a wondrous garden exists.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not Just Clay

"The Saint is a hundred thousand human beings, concealed in a single person, a hundred bows and arrows enclosed in a single blow-pipe.
A Saint is a sun, hidden in a mote: suddenly the mote opens its mouth and reveals the sun.
O body, that has become the spirit's dwelling place, this is enough: how long can the Sea abide in a water skin?
O thou, who are a hundred Gabriels in the form of a person: O thou, who are many Messiahs inside the donkey of Jesus,
O thou, who are a thousand Ka'bas concealed in a church.
They ask, "How should I pay homage to this clay? How should I bestow on a mere form, a title signifying my obedience and adoration?"
The Saint is not the form in which he appears; rub your eyes well, that you may behold the Saint in the radiance of the light of Divine Glory!
Here is the mystery: to behold the Seven Heavens in a handful of clay."

Rumi (Vol.6, 4577-4589)

Commentary: Perhaps we are all, much more than our current form, and the clay of this material body. The mystics teach us that the "seven heavens" are within everyone.