We begin in the name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful, and we ask His help. As it says in the beginning of the Maqalat, this talk was gathered from the words of the beloved Mevlana Shamsuddin Tabrizi, the Sultan of those who have attained. May God not deprive us of his abundant blessings.
We are deeply grateful for the opportunity that we have had to spend time in the companionship with Shams during the journey of preparing the book Rumi’s Sun, The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz, selections from his Maqalat, and the generosity of Dr. Refik Algan whose inspiration it was to begin a translation of the Maqalat into English. One of the gifts of that journey has been to feel Shams’ constant encouragement of those to whom he speaks to become “people of paradise” now, here. So, in this moment, we wish to share with you some of that encouragement.
We are living in the midst of very challenging times. Shams and Mevlana also lived in the midst of very challenging times, yet what a possibility opened with the example of being they unveiled. They invite us into the garden of seeing God’s beauty and abundance in the midst of everything, seeing the Unity, and encouraging souls to be people of Paradise now, here.
In the Maqalat, the “Conversations” of Shams-i Tabriz, Shams tells us,
People say that there is no path, or they say that the path is very long. Yes, the way is long, but once one sets out to walk, with great exuberance and joy, the distance of the way disappears. Just as it was said, “Paradise is surrounded by things we dislike” (hadith). All around the garden of Paradise are thorns, but when the fragrance of Paradise reaches our nose, bringing news of the beloved to the lover, then that place of thorns becomes very pleasant. The thorns that surround Hell always seem to be roses and basil, but the unpleasant odor of fire comes to us from them.
If I were to try to explain about the beauty of this path, it wouldn’t be appropriate.
In this world the opposites play out their dance of light and dark, of difficulty and ease, and in the midst of it, we have the work of being rightful caretakers, khalifas of the Divine, here, acting as servants (‘abd Allah) to establish the mizan, the balance and good measure in this world.