Jalaluddin Rumi
  by Richard Lang

The following quotations are from all from Rumi:

There is none dwelling in the house but God.

When a man is awakened he melts and perishes.

Dissolve your whole body into Vision: become seeing, seeing, seeing!

I am free from head.

Everyone likes a mirror, while not knowing the true nature of his face. After all, how long does a reflection remain in view? Make a practice of contemplating the origin of the reflection. This cheek and mole go back to the source thereof.

His form has passed away, he has become a mirror: naught is there but the image of another's face.

He that beholds his own Face - his light is greater than the light of the creatures. Though he die, his sight is everlasting, because his sight is the sight of the Creator.

Man is in appearance a derivative of the world, but intrinsically the origin of the world.

The Qutb (Pole) is he who turns round himself; round him is the revolution of the heavenly spheres.


Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) was born in what is now Afghanistan, but when he was five, with the threat of the Mongul invasion growing, his father fled with his family, finally arriving in Konya, Turkey, in 1220. In 1226 Rumi married and subsequently had a son, Sultan Veled.

Following closely in the footsteps of his father, a renowned theologian, Rumi took up the study of religion. After his father's death (1230) he continued his religious studies, guided for some years by a friend of his father's. He also studied with some of the greatest religious minds of the time in Aleppo and Damascus.

By a young age Rumi had become a well respected religious teacher like his father before him. But everything changed in 1244 when he encountered Shams of Tabriz, a wild-looking dervish (Sufi) who appeared one day out of the blue. Shams had the profoundest influence on Rumi - right from the start they were practically inseparable from one another. What Shams awoke in Rumi was direct awareness of the Beloved within. In other words, with the help of Shams, Rumi awoke to who he really was. He moved from studying texts about the One to seeing the One - in fact to realising that in the depths of his being he was the One.

But Rumi's disciples were jealous of Shams. They drove him away - Shams fled to Damascus. Rumi had his son fetch him back. But the disciples' jealousy remained. Shams disappeared again, this time once and for all, and in mysterious circumstances. Some say Rumi's disciples murdered him.

But something profound had now happened in Rumi. He had awoken to his true nature - the profoundest change possible in life. Following on from this Awakening, Rumi began composing poetry - it poured from him in almost any and every situation. (His disciples took to writing down these spontaneous outpourings.) He also initiated what is the now famous whirling dervish dance. By the time of his death Rumi had become the most prolific and greatest poet of Islam. He still retains this title.

But let's go back to Rumi's meeting with Shams of Tabriz - the turning point in Rumi's life. What happened between them? We cannot know the details of their relationship - the conversations, the feelings, the laughter, the tears. This is hidden from us, just as much of it would probably have been hidden from Rumi's disciples. But the essence of their relationship need not be hidden from us - the Oneness they experienced. For this Oneness is at the heart of everyone's being, and is as available to us now as it was to them then.

Who we all really are is the Source, the endlessly creative fountainhead from which everything flows - not just Rumi's vast output of mystical poetry but all things. Mysteriously, in the depth of our souls each of is the Beloved. None dwells in the heart but God.

No wonder Rumi valued Shams' friendship. Shams had shared with him, indeed awoken in him, the most precious thing in the world - the presence of the Beloved within. Like Rumi, we have all been brought up to think of ourselves as this or that person. We look in the mirror and see there our reflection. Everyone around us reflects back to us our unique (and precious) human identity. The overwhelming weight of opinion is that this is who we are.

But imagine being Rumi, faced with this wild-eyed, energetic, warm-hearted, iconclastic Shams. Imagine Shams pointing out the simplest thing in the world - that you cannot see your own face. Look in the mirror - there is your face. But over here, in the place you are looking out of, is no-face. Look back and you will see the absence of your cheek: here nothing is visible. Nothing but Emptiness, the Origin of the world.

Seeing that he had no face of his own, Rumi would simultaneously see that Shams' face was his own. He was not actually face to face with Shams, but face to 'no-face'. Rumi had Shams' face, and Shams had Rumi's. How obvious! Yet this simple truth is the foundation of love, for there is no profounder intimacy than this - to disappear in favour of one's friend. Seeing this, we shift from identifying primarily with appearances, (the image in the mirror, or the image in one's own or other people's minds), to experiencing and identifying with one's central reality, which is imageless. Imageless - and simultaneously room for others, room for the world.

What joy it must have been for those two to be awake to this simplest but profoundest of truths.

After Shams' disappearance Rumi went on to create the whirling dervish dance, to the sound of the reed flute and drum. What was this dance really about? Well, if you yourself experiment, turning round and round on the spot, you may find that it is the world that moves whilst you remain still. (See the experiment Spinning the World http://www.headless.org). Here in one's centre forever abides Stillness. As Rumi turned and turned he would see the trees, the ground, his disciples, the sun and moon and stars - all moving by. He would see his body, his outstretched arms, his feet - all in motion. But nearer than this was Stillness, Silence, Peace. As he turned and turned - as he relaxed into letting the world turn - his sense of union with the Source would deepen. The profundity and marvel and mystery of Stillness would engulf him, washing over him wave upon wave. In that Ocean of Love he drowned, dissolving till only the Ocean remained. Whilst at the centre of the whirling world was Stillness, neither coming nor going, a Rock ever present and reliable, all around flowed the joy, the ecstasy of the dance. In the midst of the blurred, spinning world he had surrendered, drunk with the beauty and wisdom and love of the Beloved.

Rumi had become an intensely passionate poet and mystic. By good fortune he had found the Beloved, awakened to his innermost identity by the wild Shams. But more profoundly, as his poetry makes clear, it was the Beloved within which had called out to him, again and again beckoning him Home. In fact, at the deepest level it was the Beloved stumbling upon Itself through him - God re-discovering His own wonderful, inexplicable Being in the midst of this extraordinary, wild, unexpected, living cosmos.

May each of us hear the call of the Beloved.



To the fires of non-existence,
you, like a moth to the candle's flame,
were drawn. Your eyes,
as the eyes on wings, became light
and in that light were one.

Your face was the Sun of Tabriz.
Like Icarus you flew
but you had nowhere to fall.
Your ocean was the ocean of invisibility;
you plucked there a wealth of sea-roses
and gave each one the name of love.

O Rumi, without ears you held
the notes of the reed-flute within you;
bodiless, you were all your spinning dancers.
With no tonge you spoke
and poems leapt like porpoises
from the waters of your being.

Beheaded, you were the light
that is the heart of your Beloved.
Utterly poor, you found His world
to be your own. For you
there could be no 'I' and 'thou'.

by Colin Oliver.

(from 'Stepping Into Brilliant Air' - a collection of poems available from The Shollond Trust, http://www.headless.org)

Richard Lang
Feedback welcome

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