Reason is powerless
in the expression of Love.
Love alone is capable of revealing
the truth of Love and being a
The way of our prophets is
the way of Truth.
If you want to live,
die in Love; die in Love if you
want to remain alive.
Unsu...Wed, July 4, 2007 - 3:08 AMIt's funny how different the meaning the word 'Love' has in our contemporary societies compared to what it means for Rumi. For us it's all about 'being in love' - exhilarated, 'walking on air', exuding happiness and joy, the schmaltzy fairytale of (requited) love that is almost nobody's experience except Hollywood scriptwriters.
For Rumi, to 'die in Love' is to die to everything one thinks one is, everything one believes one possesses, to burn - night after night - in the anguish of separation, to long, to remain true despite every trial that pushes one to the edge of despair. That's why he mentions 'The way of our prophets'. He of course knew well that the beginning of the prophesy for Muhammad meant the beginning of a life that would be nothing but suffering for him and his companions until its end. The Mathnawi is full of such explicit stories showing the suffering and privations of the 'Way of Love'.
The Sufis prized unrequited love as the model for the relationship between lover and Beloved. Layla and Majnun, Yusuf and Zuleikha, Salman and Absal - the great Sufi romances celebrate the lover lying distraught in the dust, hoping - beyond hope - for a mere glance from the object of their affections. Zuleikha grows old and grey, but she still remains true to her love for Yusuf. For the Sufis, that is the Way of the Lover: no expectations, no conditions, no reservations. In our societies, that is the way of the sad loser - the socially inept person, the stalker.
Why would anyone want to follow this Way? Only if they were completely mad. There is no promise in it, no guarantee about it, except that one will have to give up everything - even one's 'sanity'. And that it will hurt, hurt, hurt. One is drawn to it only because it is in one's nature - just as it is in the nature of the moth to be drawn to the light, which will destroy it.
It's as well to remember in this context Rumi's reply when someone asked him to describe his life. "My life can be described in three words", the master replied. "I was raw, I got cooked, I burned..."
Unsu...Wed, July 4, 2007 - 5:56 AMOf course, the word Rumi uses is 'Ishq - which means 'ardent, passionate desire' rather than our word 'love' (with its connotations of something gentle and sweet). Here is Afzal Iqbal, in his 'The Life and Work of Jalaluddin Rumi' (an invaluable resource for those interested in Rumi):
'Love alone takes us to the Reality. For love, ceaseless effort is necessary. Peace comes only when you identify yourself with the one that stands outside this struggle. An impetus is given to this love by intense, zealous desire; a compelling urge and a wish devoutful. Decadent Sufism had created useless drones and hypocrites. Such passive life is no use to Rumi. In his world there is no scope for parasites. Rumi's lover cannot afford to be static and ascetic. He is constantly at war - at war with his own baser self, at war with those elements in the world which hinder or prevent his ascent. It is the very fate of man to struggle.'
Afzal Iqbal, 'The Life and Work of Jalaluddin Rumi', London: Octagon Press, 1983, pp. 280-281.
Thu, July 5, 2007 - 12:56 PMthanks, James .. a well thought and well said post
as one who has come to know Rumi through Barks and Bly, i should note, that i've *never* associated "love" as expressed so often there as merely the sexual kind .. while i can understand and empathize with your concerns of the cheapening of the message, perhaps it is just another door of perception for those who cannot see beyond the sexual expression of love at some particular moment in their lives .. for that, i can find no fault .. just an opening to a deeper understanding
thanks again for a terrific amplification on the subject
Unsu...Thu, July 5, 2007 - 5:20 PMActually, Ron, I don't think the sexual association is the problem here. Although the anonymous - and rather prudish - author of the wikipedia entry on 'Ishq' (the - originally Arabic - word in Rumi that is frequently translated as 'love') says that it is 'love with no lust', I don't think that is correct. The online version of Steingass, the classical Persian-English dictionary, gives the meaning of ishq as "intensity of the passion and a blindness to the failings of the object loved; being sick or dying for love;" which, in the true sense of the word, is inherently erotic.
Instead, I think the problem lies - and it's not just a Barks issue - with our wish to have an 'All you need is Love...' reading of Ishq. When in fact it denotes the side of love that we often seem to try to ignore: the pain, the longing, the relentless unfulfilled desire, the nights of tossing and turning in frenzy and anguish. Rumi's poems and stories teem with this restlessness of Ishq, which - like hunger - is a drive, a pain, an emptiness, rather than a destination, a relief or a fulfilment.
Rumi is, actually, quite a sexual writer. Some of the stories in the Mathnawi that Nicholson prudishly translated into Latin are very racy indeed. The one of the woman who is accidentally killed having intercourse with a donkey comes most immediately to mind. The thing is that Rumi is sexual in a different way to Barks. These stories - which show an author clearly familiar with the whole range of human sexuality - are all used to make other points. And the sexuality is almost just an incidental, something that provides an example, a metaphor, for something else. Rumi just doesn't seem greatly interested in sex for its own sake. Barks, on the other hand, takes verses where Rumi isn't talking about human relationships - where the ardent, passionate love that is ishq is love for a Divine Beloved - and sexualises them. Rumi is only interested in talking about the relationship with God, even when he is using the example of Qalandars sodomising beardless youths. Barks seems to want do the opposite: to take Rumi's divine love and put it into the bedroom.
But I don't want to go on and on about Barks. It's been much more interesting talking about Rumi... ;-)
Unsu...Thu, July 5, 2007 - 5:59 PMAnd here is the story of the maidservant and the ass, from Afzal Iqbal's 'The Life and Times of Jalaluddin Rumi', which I mentioned before. (All the material Nicholson translates into Latin is translated by Iqbal into English from the Persian).
"A passionate, pleasure-loving maidservant had trained an ass to perform the sexual functions of a man. The crafty woman had a gourd which answered the measurement of the male, so that at the time of intercourse only half of it could penetrate. Had the whole member gone into her, her womb and intestines would have been in utter ruin.
[Iqbal paraphrases the next part]
"The ass was becoming lean, and his mistress was worried, but no ailment could be discerned in him. She began to investigate in earnest until one day, through a crack in the door, 'she saw the little narcissus sleeping under the ass'. The ass was treating the maidservant in the same manner as a man takes a woman.
"The mistress became envious and said: 'Since this is possible, then I have the best right, for the ass is my property.' The ass had been perfectly trained and instructed and the mistress decided to take advantage of him. Feigning to have seen nothing, she knocked at the door. The maid with a broom in her hand opened the door. The mistress treated her like an innocent person. Later one day she sent her away on an errand. The crafty maid, whilst she went on her errand, knew exactly why she was being sent away. She was saying to herself: 'Ah, mistress, you have sent away the expert. You will set to work without the expert and will foolishly hazard your life. You have stolen from me an imperfect knowledge and you are ashamed to ask me about the trap."
[Iqbal resumes his translation]
"She was happy at the (anticipation) of the pleasurable passion. She closed the door behind her and said (to herself): 'Now I can shout my thanks! Now I am free from all worries (I have perfectly uninterrupted privacy).' Out of pleasure her vagina was (singing like) a nightingale. She was impatient for the flame of passion. Having reached the height of excitement it was no wonder she was already feeling dizzy.
"Lustful desire, goes on Rumi, makes the heart deaf and blind, so that an ass seems like Joseph, fire like light. Cupidity causes foul things to appear fair. Sensuality has disgraced a hundred thousand good names. Its spell made dung seem honey to you, it caused an ass to appear like Joseph. And then we are allowed a peep intop the room where the mistress is now closeted with the ass, and of course it is Latin again:
[Persial original follows, followed by translation again]
"That woman closed the door and dragged the ass and undoubtedly she enjoyed herself. Slowly she pulled him into the house ans slept below the big ass. In order to achieve her end she stood on the same chair as she had seen the maidservant use. She raised her legs and the ass penetrated her. From his member he set her on fire. The ass politely pressed the lady up to his testicles until she was dead. The member of the ass burst her liver and tore apart the intestines. She did not utter a word and laid down her life. The chair fell on one side and the woman on the other. The courtyard of the house was smeared with blood, the woman lay prostrate. Without doubt the calamity had come. Such a bad end, o reader; have you ever seen a martyr to the member of an ass!
[Iqbal comments again]
"Immediately after this scene the moral follows:
"Hear from the Qur'an (what is) 'the torment of disgrace': do not sacrifice your life in such a shameful cause.
"Know that the male ass is this bestial soul: to be under it is more shameful than that (woman's behaviour).
"If you die in egoism in the way of the fleshly soul, know for certain that you are like that woman."
"When the maid returned she found that her worst fears had come true. Addressing the dead mistress she says:
"You only saw the member which appeared so tempting and sweet to you, but in your greed you omitted to see the gourd. Or else you were so absorbed in your love for the ass that the gourd remained hidden from your sight.
"The Master of domesticated animals cut off the head of the fools and invited the wise ones to his assembly to eat them. Their fles alone is useful while the wise ones (have many uses such as) humble prayer and sincere supplication. The maidservant then came in fro the little creek of the door and saw the lady dead below the ass. 'O stupid lady!' she said, 'what is this? Did your teacher ever provide you with the proper picture? You saw only the appearance and the secret remained hidden from you. You simply opened a shop without mastering the tricks of the trade!"
And, for me, this story demonstrates Rumi at his best - starting off a story leading the reader with one set of expectations (that the maidservant would be punished by her mistress), switching from one character to another (from the maidservant to the mistress), giving a false trail as to what kind of moral he is going to draw (how lust makes us see the foul as the fair) then making this extraordinary, jaw-dropping, analogy between the the ass and the ego, the 'commanding self'. But even this doesn't wrap the story up, because he then goes on to draw a further conclusion which makes the maidservant, far from a sinner, into the image of the Sufi who has both the secret and the appearance. The sex and bestiality of the story - which gives it its 'spice' and 'savour' (its attention grabbing capacity) - is really just a hanger for this extraordinary series of observations which, in themselves, have nothing to do with sex actually.
And it is that clever 'bluff' and 'counter bluff' manipulation of the story form, that layering of meanings, and the sheer sublimity of the messages Rumi draws out of what seem at first like mere fables (or, in this case, salacious stories) that I love about Rumi.
Wed, July 4, 2007 - 8:25 AMFor us it's all about 'being in love' - exhilarated, 'walking on air', exuding happiness and joy, the schmaltzy fairytale of (requited) love that is almost nobody's experience except Hollywood scriptwriters.
Found your words interesting "for love can be exuding happiness and joy....."ful for love in my experience is lovehate (rather lovenolove) at times great pain, until one learns to let go and let love be as it may be without expectations, judgements or desires...Love is one word that covers so many emotions and it a wide range of experiences....."die in love" means so much more that "happiness" for when one (self, ego) loves it dies and is no more.
thank you for your sharing and knowningness to the words and meaning of RUMI and "Hollywood scriptwriters."
Unsu...Sun, July 8, 2007 - 6:00 PM
In the Beginning....
There is only NOW.
Thought splits diamond perfection
and separation is born.
Mind has found many stories
but something is mourned.
Something starts to eat me away -
Unstoppable - like wildfire!
It burns through me, burning me -
it sets me upon a funeral pyre.
This yearning to be Here
I feel in my heart.
This burning to be NOW
tears me exquisitely apart.
To die into Love
I intensely long!
To end this "I" is now this song.
Hopeless, there is nothing I can do
to find this Heart.
No effort I can make
to return to the Start.
Helpless......It all Stops,
and there is Only, Absolutely, Beautifully,