The Most Important Questions

Bind yourself to these questions:
Who am I and what is my essence? Why have I come here and where am I going?
Where is my origin?
What am I involved in right now and towards what must I turn my face?

The Mirror

Even if you prostrate yourself a hundred times in front of a mirror, it won’t flatter you. If any ugliness begins to appear on the mirror, know that it’s your own; don’t blame the mirror. If you say to it, “Hide that defect on his face from him, because he is my friend,” it says, “Impossible.”

He said, “Now, friend, you say, ‘Put the mirror into my hand so that I may look!’ I can’t find a reason not to; I can’t deny your request.”

Yet in his heart he is thinking, “Let me find some excuse not to give you the mirror, because if it says that there is something wrong with your face, perhaps you won’t be able to bear it, and if you then say it’s the mirror that’s defective, it will only be worse for you.”

But again love doesn’t allow me to find any excuse. I say, “Okay, let me give you the mirror, but if you see some fault on its face, don’t blame the mirror. Find the fault with that which is reflected on the mirror, know that it has appeared there from your own image; find the fault within yourself! The only condition by which I agree to offer the mirror is that you don’t find fault with the mirror. And if you are unable to find the fault within yourself, then put the burden on me, as I am the owner of the mirror. Don’t say the mirror is defective.”

“I accept the condition. I promise. Give me the mirror, I can’t wait any longer!” he said.

Again, his heart hesitates: “Let me find some pretext to avoid this situation. The work of the mirror is subtle.” But still, Love didn’t allow us any excuse. “Okay, let’s remember the condition once again,” the mirror-owner said, and gave the following advice: “The condition and the agreement is that no matter what defect you see, you will not throw the mirror on the ground; you won’t destroy its jewel-essence, even though its jewel-essence is unbreakable.”

“God forbid,” the person said, “I would never intend or even think of such a thing. Now let me have the mirror so that I can prove to you my good manners, and you can witness my fidelity.”

“But if you break it, its essence is this great . . . , and its cost is this much . . . ,” and he brought witnesses and evidence for its value.

Then, after all these words, when the person was given the mirror, the mirror-owner ran away. Then, that person said to himself, “If this mirror were so valuable, why did he leave it and run away? Has it begun to break?”

When he held it in front of his face, what he saw was ugliness. He wanted to throw the mirror to the ground, crying, “Such agony because of this!”1 But he recalled his agreement, the bill of sale, the witnesses, and the money he would have to pay for the crime of destroying the mirror. He said, “I wish there had been no conditions, no witnesses, no money involved, so that I could cool my heart and do what needs to be done.”

While he was saying this, the mirror was rebuking him with the tongue of its state: “You see? What did I do to you, and what are you doing to me? You love yourself and are finding fault with the mirror, because the one who loves himself respects only his nafs; while the one who loves the mirror, renounces both.”

This mirror is Reality, Itself; he thinks the mirror is something other than himself. Even so, just as he is inclined toward the mirror, the mirror is inclined toward him. Because he is inclined towards the mirror, the mirror is inclined towards him. If he had broken the mirror, he would have broken me, too. Wasn’t it said, “I am with those who have been broken.”2

In short, it’s impossible for the mirror to incline towards itself. It is like a touchstone or a balance-scale; it always inclines towards the Truth. If you try to tell it, “O scale, weigh this less as more!” still, it will only show the Truth, even if you were to coddle it or prostrate yourself in front of it for two hundred years.3

Be Honest

Mevlana (Jalaluddin Rumi) expressed such gratitude to you. Just listening to him and receiving his generosity and kindness, when we went there together, pleased us so much that we didn’t want to leave.

Remember that people are easily pleased when even hypocritically you flatter them; and when you pay attention to them, even just by listening to what they have to say, it pleases them. Otherwise, they quickly get bored with the conversation.

But even if people don’t get along well with us, we have to be honest. Always to behave with honesty is right for the human being. As God said to His prophet, “Be honest, as you have been commanded to be!4 You are honest; stay honest. Demonstrate honesty!

No matter how much I call something crooked “straight,”
it won’t change it.

Dervish Words

“The One” is one of the pure attributes of the Glorious and Powerful God, one of His happy names. Who are you and what is your word?5 These are the words spoken by the Truth, full of wisdom. Others are indications of the great ones. Yes, they are, but come, which one—which “word”—is yours?

Be a Person of Heart

One should not be a person of bodily instincts, but a person of heart. Seek the heart, not instincts! Where is the place of the heart? The heart is hidden.

He is a companion of God, but out of jealousy, they call him “a man of heart.” The moment the bright light of the Truth reflects upon the heart, the heart becomes joyful. Then in a moment, that light disappears, but many times it happens like this so that the heart might become a heart. It burns, and many times the heart gets broken, until it melts and only God remains.

He indicated this to the Prophet David. David asked God, “Where will I look for you?” He said, “My heavens and my earth cannot encompass me, only the heart of My faithful servant can encompass Me.” He also said, “I am with those whose hearts have been broken on My way.” When you say, “a person of heart,” say “those whose hearts have been broken,” because brokenness of heart is necessary. When you reach the Truth, you will see the divine light of His Exaltedness from within the divine light of the Truth Itself, because “No one knows them but I.”6

Beyond the Lote Tree

Mevlana said, “I see trees, vineyards, and gardens in the palm of your hand. I see a clear and vast ocean of life-giving water. The trees aren’t such that their roots descend low, and their branches pass beyond the Lote Tree (Sidratul-Muntaha) of the Seventh Heaven. Their shade and greenness is exceedingly beautiful.” But no one sees this.

There is a secret and joy in love that those who are fond of lust are seeking. There are also lovers who are already absorbed within that secret. God says: “If people had known how I am, they would turn to Me from all directions, speak about Me, listen to Me, and be pleased with Me.”

O you who have attained to faith! Remember God with unceasing remembrance,
and extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.
He it is who bestows His blessings upon you, with His angels [echoing Him],
so that He might take you out of the depths of darkness into the light.
And, indeed, a bestower of Merciful Grace is He/She unto the faithful.
Their greeting on the Day they meet Him/Her will be, “Peace!”;
and He/She has prepared for them a generous recompense.
O Prophet, truly, We have sent you as a witness, a bearer of joyful tidings, and a warner,
and as one who, by permission, invites to Divine Reality,
and as a sun radiating Light.

[Surah al-Ahzab 33:41-46]

~ Excerpts for the New Year from Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz, translated by Refik Algan and Camille Helminski

  1. Literally, “My lungs have filled with blood,” indicating the intensity of advanced tuberculosis with which someone is on the verge of death.
  2. It is repeated that God said to one of His Prophets, “I am with those whose hearts are broken for Me.”
  3. Shams echoes the hadith “The faithful are mirrors for the faithful.” The saint is the clearest of mirrors, and the purest of saints, the reflector of Reality Itself.
  4. See Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s Mathnawi I:3153-3227 for the story of the Prophet Joseph and the mirror which is another reflection of this story.
  5. “The beautiful face is in love with the mirror: it is a polisher of the soul and a kindler of the fear of God in hearts. . . .”
  6. See Surah Hud, 11:112 and Surah Shura, 42:15.
  7. Each human being is a “word” spoken by God, each with a different quality: Be, and it is. [Surah Ya Sin, 36:83].
  8. Hadith qudsi: My saints are under My dome—no one knows them but I.