Rumi on Hard Times

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Photo of Shaikh Kabir HelminskiBismillahi Rahmani Raheem

We send you our warmest greetings, just a few days after the end of Ramadan and Mevlana’s birthday (September 30th). The Wednesday night before (9/24), in the midst of the current financial crisis, we were gathered to read Mevlana’s Mathnawi, III, 1721. . . The reasons Pharaoh’s magicians had the courage to suffer the amputation of their hands and feet. It’s interesting how Mevlana addresses worldly concerns from the perspective of the deepest spiritual understanding. Pharaoh is, of course, the archetype or symbol of the blind, worldly power that tries to strike fear into everyone’s hearts, while the magicians are those who have developed a high degree of spiritual perception and realization. Here is the reading:

Isn’t it a fact that the accursed Pharaoh threatened punishment on the earth,
Saying, I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides
and hang you upside down.
You will not be spared punishment.
He thought that they were in the same state of imagination, terror, distraction, and doubt,
Trembling in fear at these threats of the worldly ego.
He didn’t know that they were emancipated,
sitting at the window of the heart,
That they could tell the difference
between the shadow and their real selves,
That they were quick and alert, happy and alive.
Even if the mortar of Fortune should pound them into pieces in this material world,
Since they had seen the ever-present Origin,
They did not fear the Derivatives of Imagination. . .
The Prophet said that this apparently substantial world
Is but a sleeper’s dream. Some merely believe in these words,
But the mystic travelers have perceived it themselves,
Even without the Prophet’s words
Many are asleep in the daytime. Don’t think otherwise.
Your life may be as insubstantial
as a shadow cast by moonlight.
What you think is sleep and what you think is waking
Are both happening in your sleep.
What does it matter if a potter breaks a pot? He’ll make another one.
A blind man walking a road has a thousand fears,
But someone who can see knows the dangers and obstacles
Bring it on, Pharaoh!
We won’t be scared by the cries of ghouls!
Rend the fabric. We know who will re-sew it,
Or, if not, it’s better to be naked to embrace the Beloved,
Nothing is sweeter than to be stripped of physicality and personality.

Pharaoh and his like live in a reality dominated by imagination, terror, distraction, and doubt. He expects to control people through their fears. But the magicians, or in other words, those whose faith is based in direct spiritual perception, are so emancipated, sitting at the window of the heart, that they could tell the difference between the shadow and their real selves, that they were quick and alert, happy and alive. Not only are they not drawn into confusion and doubt, they are living with joy and vitality because they live from their real selves.

Next, quoting Muhammad, peace be upon him, Mevlana reminds us that this life is a sleeper’s dream, as insubstantial as a shadow in moonlight. Even what we call waking and sleeping are both aspects of a sleeping state for most human beings. We dream that we go to sleep and we dream that we wake up, and in that state we are drawn deeper and deeper into the melodrama of the dream, drifting further and further away from our true being and the Divine Being that sustains us.

Our spiritual training does not deny our physicality and personality, but allows us to experience what is beyond it: Everything is fundamentally the self-manifestation of a vast Love, and we are essentially eternal beings coming to know the real qualities of this Love through all its temporal manifestations. There is really nothing to fear when we live in the full band-width of our own being.

During the last few days, while the news has been dominated by various crises, we have been in a recording studio, singing the songs inspired by Mevlana’s words, living in the reality of that Beauty and Love. We are deeply grateful that this opportunity to record a CD with our dear and talented friends, Lisa Ferraro and Erika Luckett, had come during these most auspicious days. It was such clear evidence of the fact that if we do the work and focus on the positive, we can be alert, happy and alive.

I know there are times we feel rather helpless and unable to affect the course of outer events. The blessing in this is the possibility of surrendering the false self that is all caught-up in events, and the awakening of the real self that sits at the window of the heart.

People often ask me to suggest practices they can do: a zhikr, a meditation, a spiritual exercise. A blind man walking a road has a thousand fears, but someone who can see knows the dangers and obstacles. That kind of seeing is to always look at this world through the eyes of the Divine and to feel an Infinite Goodness welling up within the heart. This is how we must see and this is what we are . With this awareness we will ourselves become and reflect to others the hope and the light.

With all my love,
Kabir

2017-01-29T15:56:34+00:00