Beloved Ones of God,
This evening I would like to speak on the subject of Rumi, one of the greatest poets of Persia and a great educator on the spiritual path. I do not wish to tell about his life from the beginning; I only wish to point out different characteristics and works of Rumi which have endeared him to all the illuminated souls.
In India, Persia, Egypt, Turkey, Bukhara, Afghanistan, and Baluchistan, every educated person has as a foundation of his education Rumi’s scripture. The wonderful effect that this scripture produces is that, after a person has studied the Masnavi, his principle work, he begins to show, without being taught, humanity–the most valuable and important quality for the beginning and end of education.
The wide pitch of Rumi’s ideas is so vast that once a person becomes interested in his works he begins to feel that all the scriptures of the world are put in one scripture, and that is Rumi’s. When the mysticism of Rumi attracted thousands of seeking souls, those who had education, deep thought, influence, and power, many tried to make Rumi claim to be the Prophet. That is the last thing he would do. He said that he was there to interpret the spirit and the soul of the Prophet, and it is his interpretation that attracted them. But he did not want to take the place of the Prophet. He did not want to proclaim himself something whice was not meant to be.
When people asked Hafiz, the most accepted poet of the East, ”Is Rumi a prophet?”, his answer was subtle, as the mystic’s answer is. In the East the one who gives a book is a prophet, and prophet is a direct word. Hafiz said, ”Not a prophet, but the giver of a book.” When Hafiz, an inspirational poet himself, held Rumi and his work so high, you can imagine what a wonderful work it must be. Do not think that because Rumi was in the country of Muslims he only interpreted the soul of the Prophet Muhammad. If you study Rumi deeply, you will find he has interpreted the soul of Jesus Christ and the soul of Moses.
There are some places where he gives stories in order to explain a certain aspect of life. Stories sometimes explain more than simple words, because a story makes a picture. The other part of his work is direct statement. His work is in verse, and it seems that he never had to stop and think, ”What shall I write next?” It seems that the singer sang and his hand moved to write; as he went on singing so he went on writing. The whole book is written in this way. When you read it, you feel that he never stopped for one moment to think about the poetry he was writing. It is a divine song, not mechanical poetry where the effort of the brain is necessary.
Besides this, Rumi’s life shows a great phenomenon and a lesson at the same time: that an intellectual could be as devotional as he was. Most often there is intellect and devotion is missing, or there is a devotion and intellect is missing. Very often an intellectual person proudly says, ”Well, there is devotion, but among simple ones.” But here in the life of Rumi you see the example of intellect and devotion in the same measure. Rumi was one of the most educated persons of his time.
He was a statesman, a politician, a man of law, and a man of letters, and at the same time so simple that when first he saw Shams-i-Tabriz, the one who was to be his murshid, he said, ”God, whom I have worshipped all through life, today came before me in the guise of man.” That great devotion in an intellectual man! Here a simple dervish comes to him, scantily clad, and the leader of the city, a man of position, with power and authority, listens to him like a simple child, and appreciates him. By his ideal he raised Shams-i-Tabriz to that stage where a really devoted mureed raises his teacher. This shows the ideal and intellect both together.
Now I should like to tell you his teaching about God. His teaching is that God can be best understood not by thinking that He is in heaven, but by recognizing Him in His manifestation. The most prominent manifestation which represents God is the godly. He brings God on earth; in other words, he brings heaven on earth, and he raises earth to heaven. Rumi is the first mystic who does not inflict or impose upon people a forced renunciation or asceticism. He is the first mystic who came forward in the world and said that the essence of spirituality is the quality of heart. No mystic will ever say it as Rumi has: ”Whether you love man or whether you love God, at the end of your destiny you will be brought before the King of love.” It was most daring, especially at that time in the reign of theology, when one could never say such words. But Rumi had the courage to say it. In addition, for Rumi all cold matter is spirit just the same. He says, ”Earth, fire, water, and air, they all are as dead before man; but before God they are living servants, working at His command.” A person may think about this phrase of philosophy every day, and every day he will find a new branch springing from this idea. If one thought of this idea for the whole life one would find a new inspiration coming out of it every day. In this way Rumi made God a reality, and God made him Truth.
As to the life and spirit of the prophet, Rumi’s explanation is that the soul is a flute of reed. One end of this flute is in the mouth of God, and the other end of this flute is in the lips of the prophet. Therefore what the prophets have said is the word of God.
And then he distinguished the prophetic personality. He did not say they perform miracles; he did not say recognize them by their wonders. He said the prophet is a miracle and a wonder himself. He did not say that prophets give light in their words, he said that the prophet was the flame itself. The presence of the prophet for the individual and for the multitude is a source of illumination without words. It is not true that the prophet brings the word of God, but the prophet is the word of God. Rumi says that the personality and the presence of the prophet is the answer to every question.
Question cannot exist, because the answer is present. Furthermore, Rumi said that the prophet was a messenger. He did his work, he went away; the One Who was responsible was God. The prophet had nothing to do with the world: his work was to direct the world to God. Rumi said that men know the law that they make, but the prophet knows the hidden law of life. It is not that wisdom which comes to him, but it is the interpretation of that wisdom which has come to him that he gives in human tongue.
Rumi says the prophet is not only the inspirer but the inspiration of humanity; that the prophet is not the maker of peace, but peace itself. He said that the prophet, whether he is understood by the world or not, will be able to perform his duty just the same; and whether helped by the world or not will be able to fulfill his message, whether directly or indirectly. Because the Message that comes by the prophet is living, it must spread.
When Rumi speaks about the annihilation of the false ego, that is the most uplifting philosophy that one could hear. He first says that your heart is like a mirror. What generally happens is that this mirror becomes dusty. You have to wipe it to take the dust off it. In the esoteric or mystic path, the teacher shows his pupils the way of wiping this mirror so that the reflection may fall more clearly. Then he says that your worst enemy is hiding within yourself, and that enemy is your nafs or false ego. It is very difficult to explain the meaning of the word ”false ego. ” The best I can do is to say that every inclination which springs from disregard of love, harmony, and beauty and which is concerned with oneself and unconcerned with all others is the false ego.
Now I shall explain to you this idea: a thief is thinking of robbing the person with whom he is travelling. That inclination makes him concerned with his own benefit and indifferent to the benefit and the feeling of the other. That inclination is coming from the spirit which the Sufis have called Nafs. I will give you another amusing example: if there are four or five persons at the table, one of them fixes his eyes on the best cake. It is a very mild inclination, but it comes from nafs.
This enemy, Rumi says, develops. The more it is fed, the stronger it becomes to fight with you; and the stronger it becomes, the more it dominates your better self. There comes a day when man is the slave of this enemy which is hidden within himself. The worst position is to have an enemy which one does not know. It is better to have a thousand known enemies before one than to have one within one and not to know it.
There are many meanings ascribed to the custom of the sages in India to have snakes around their necks. One of those meanings is: ”I have the enemy which was within outside on my neck.” In other words, ”I have got it. It is still living, but now I know that it is there and it is my ornament.”
What does this enemy breathe? This enemy breathes ”I.” Its breath is always calling out ”I, separate from you, separate from others, separate from everybody. My interest is mine; it has nothing to do with others. The interest of others is others’ interest; it is not mine. I am a separate being.” Remember that no man is without it. If man was without it, he would never have said ”I,” because it is this enemy hiding within him which is saying ”I.” The day this enemy is found and erased, or shed and crucified, that day the real ”I” is found. But this ”I” is a different ”I.” This ”I” means you and I and everybody; it is all ”I.”
To conclude, I will tell you a little story of a madzhub (a madzhub is a person who shows himself a simpleton in order to keep the crowd away and who is one with the whole universe. His is a cosmic consciousness.) One day this madzhub was moving in the city in the middle of the night, when no one is allowed to move about. A policeman asked, ”Who are you?” He smiled and enjoyed the question. He did not know what he was, because that ”I” was not strongly attached to his own body. Nafs was not there. So he did not answer. The policeman asked, ”Are you a thief?” ”Yes,” he said, because the ego was empty and any name that was given was accepted there. A so-called saint would be very offended to think that he was a thief.
They took him in the police station and he sat there for the whole night, quite happy; as happy as he was in the road, walking about. He felt no insult because he was an empty cup. He put in that empty cup ”thief,” so he was quite glad to receive that title. In the morning the officer came, and he recognized that this man was a highly developed spiritual man. He said, ”I am surprised to find him here. Many respect him.” The policeman said, ”He himself said that he was a thief.” ”But you must have called him a thief. ” The policeman said, ”Yes. ” The officer said, ”That is their consciousness. That ’I’ which holds everything to oneself is crushed and effaced and thrown away. That ’I’ is no longer there. And therefore all names are his name, all forms are his form, and the whole cosmos is his own being.” God Bless You.