Certain organisms, like the mole for example, are lacking in one or more of the five senses. If the mole were to run about in a room he would know something of its dimensions and would have some sense of the hardness or softness of the objects he contacted. He would be conscious of sounds, and might nibble a piece of cheese, but he could have no idea of the light and beauty of his surroundings. A rainbow in the sky, revealing the beauties of colour, and the smiling spring whispering love-nonsense to the buds, causing them to blossom, would to that mole remain quite unknown. But suppose he developed sight. He would be amazed to see this world of colour and beauty, and might now convene a meeting of other moles, saying to them:
“There is a rainbow in the sky of such exquisite beauty; there are roses, jasmines and marigolds and other things more lovely still”. And the answer would be: “He is drunk or talking nonsense, there can be no such things.”
Such is the case of man. We are proud of our five senses and our faculty of analysis and synthesis, but there is one sense which ordinarily we human beings have not developed, and that is the faculty of perceiving the Inner Light of God in our heart as our Higher Self. Those men to whom God in His mercy grants that vision, not as a result of their good deeds and merits, nor of their prayers and fasting, but by the sheer force of His Compassion, are called Saints.
It is for this that the Creator has sent us as souls to this earth, that we may see our Higher Self, the Light which never diminishes, the Light which sweeps away all ignorance of “meum” and “tuum”, that Light which gives the realisation of immortality. This is the purpose of creation.
The Saint proclaims that man has within his reach the key whereby he can open the portals of all the mysteries of nature. To him the fear of death, the demon which pursues the soul of each and everyone, has no existence. To him no one is a stranger, each is a friend; to him life from beginning to end is a series of joys and blessings. Keeping his heart in God, the Light of Light, he devotes his earthly life to bringing his message to others. Blessed are those who hear him, thrice blessed are those who take the Light from him and seek the Grace of the Creator, to share with others the vision he has given them.
From remotest times Saints have appeared upon the earth and they will continue to enrich it forever. Nor are they confined to any particular religion, race or country. He who knows God becomes a universalist, and when such men walk in the streets of a city, that nation is exalted and changed, just as when the mists disappear, the whole valley is filled with the glory of the rising sun. The world must produce Saints, and the community that can do this has fulfilled its purpose. We do not want Aristotles, we do not want even Goethes and Shakespeares, but we do want men of God-Vision.
It was an aged Moslim who first brought to my notice the great Saint, Jalal Uddin Rumi. Picture a half-bent, thin- bearded figure wrapped in a blanket, sitting in my room, with blessings on his lips and expounding his doctrine out of sheer love of the philosophy.
Rumi was born in Balkh in a.d. 1207 in a noble family claiming descent from Abu Bakr, the most truthful and faithful companion of the Prophet Mohammed. He was also closely connected by blood with the reigning Dynasty of Khwaraz-Maan. His father, fearless and independent and of high moral and political views, had to leave Balkh, having given offence to the reigning Sultan through preaching a political sermon. At Naishapur the fugitive met Attar, the Sufi Saint and author of many spiritual works, including the Conference of the Birds and Pand Namah, Attar saw in the child, Jalal Uddin, the future Saint and Teacher, and presented him with a copy of his work, Asrar Namah—The Poem of Secrets, while saying to his father: “This child will one day light the Fire of Divine Love throughout the world”; and it so happened for there is no country where his Masnavi is not read with delight and where hearts do not melt before the Fire of Love revealed in his verse.
The family wandered through many countries, the child Rumi receiving the impressions which he was one day to convert into his immortal poems. Eventually they settled at Qonia (the Iconium of Saint Paul) and Jalal Uddin became tutor to the sons of the Sultan of Rum. It was here that Rumi first met his Pir or Guru, as he sat one day in the courtyard of the Mosque with the Princes near by and the manuscripts of Plato and Aristotle spread before him. A man unshaven and half-clad, muttering something inaudible, came up and took his seat near the scholar, and suddenly seizing the manuscripts, threw them into the pond of water where worshippers perform their ablutions before joining in the prayers in the Mosque. At this Rumi became angry, and the stranger remarked:
“You, a great scholar, allow yourself to be ruffled over such an insignificant occurrence !” and thrusting his hand into the pool, he drew out the manuscripts, which were so dry that, when they were shaken, grains of sand fell from them. Thereupon the stranger disappeared”. ‘
It is indeed true that men are chosen by God and not they who choose Him. The event was a great shock to Rumi. He went home and revealed what had happened to his wife, who exclaimed: “You have lost a great opportunity. Why did you leave such a perfect man?”
A search was made in every garden and rest-house; and some weeks later when Rumi was in the Mosque, the stranger re-appeared; and after putting Rumi to a great test involving the loss of name and fame, two of the greatest obstacles on the path of spiritual perfection, he gave him the spiritual message.
Before embracing voluntary poverty and serving his spiritual guide, tradition says that Rumi became the teacher of the Sultan himself and received the highest honours and a wealthy position from his royal pupil; but later, the practice of Meditation soon opening the eye of inner understanding and wisdom, the wish arose in Rumi to lead a life in conformity with the Teachings he had received. He resigned his post and for a number of years followed his Guru, by name Shamshuddin-i-Tabriz, the Mystic whom Nicholson, the biographer, describes as
“a weird figure wrapped in coarse black felt, who flits across the stage for a mpment and disappears tragically enough”.
Western scholars have failed to understand this God-intoxicated Guru of Rumi, proclaiming as he does the supreme height of Divine Love.
Here is part of an Ode ascribed to Shamshuddin and translated by Nicholson:
“Lo! for I to myself am unknown, now in God’s Name, what must I do?
I adore not the Cross nor the Crescent, I am not a Giaour nor a Jew.
East nor West, land nor sea, is my home, I have kith nor with angel nor gnome,
I am wrought not of fire nor of foam, I am shaped not of dust nor of dew …
In a place beyond uttermost Place, in a tract without shadow of trace,
Soul and body transcending, I live in the soul of my Loved One anew!”
It was at the request of his Guru that Rumi wrote his great work, the Masnavi, a book of about twenty-six thousand verses. In terseness, simplicity of expression and the power to give the highest truths in the simplest language, the poet has hardly an* equal. He composed many hymns as well as instructive stories for his disciples, and in his compositions was aided by his favourite disciple, Husamuddin, whose love and loyalty are still quoted as an example.
God is conceived of by Rumi as ever renewing all matter and all force. Without His sustaining presence the whole universe would relapse into its original nothingness. It is said in the Vedas that ours is not the first mankind: humanity has come and gone many times. So too, mighty continents have disappeared under the sea, and nothing remains of them.
I am convinced of but few things, and the foremost of them is that no piety, no glory, no worth-while success can come, unless a man enshrines the universal element in his heart, banishing all prejudices and constantly meditating on his Creator.
If we want to live a life of peace, if we are really followers of any religion, then our hearts must be lit by the light of God.
“There is no success, no glory, no profit without universalisation of the heart and mind in the light of the Creator, from Whom the world has come forth, in Whom it stays, and to Whom it finally returns.”
In these few lines we find a moral guide, a philosophy of life, a road charted out for each and every man to travel.
Attempts to build up society and civilisation on a basis of ignorance of God are doomed to perish.
“You have already seen hundreds of resurrections
Occur every moment, from your origin till now:
One from the inorganic state to the vegetative state,
From the vegetative state to the animal state of trial,
Thence again to rationality and good discernment;
And again you will rise from this world of sense and form.”
Rumi was a Sufi. The name ‘Sufi’ was first adopted by Abu Hashim, a Syrian ascetic, who died in 150 a.d. Like other Sufis, Rumi does not believe in the form, and cares only for the Spirit: “Everything of which you can think is subject to destruction some day or other: that which is eternal is God.” This is the trumpet call of the Saint and must be heard from one corner of the earth to the other. Man is a detail in the whole called God, and there is no peace nor joy for him but in his identification with the whole. This process is called Love.
Sufism was more of a method than a doctrine, and made Love the key to Heavenly Mysteries.
Love opens the eyes to spiritual Beauty which stands upon the threshold of mystical experience. Rumi addresses Love thus:
“Hail to thee then, O Love, sweet madness!
Thou, who healest all our infirmities!
Who art the physician of our pride and self-conceit,
Who art our Plato and our Galen!
Love exalts our earthly bodies to heaven,
And makes the very hills to dance with joy! . . .
But he who is parted from them that speak his tongue,
Though he possesses a hundred voices, perforce is dumb.
The Beloved is all in all, the Love only veils Him.”
Casting about among sensible objects to find a type of heavenly Love, Rumi finds no better symbol than earthly love, which, if followed unselfishly, is likely to lead to heavenly love.
The devotion of Heloise to the worthless Abelard, the frenzy of Majnun, disclosing to him the hidden beauty in Laila—phenomena such as these were to Rumi appropriate types of the love for God.
Blessed is the man who is possessed by Love. He is a candidate for perfection.
“God said: ‘Call on God’;
So that the Milk of His Love may boil up.”
A Guru, or spiritual guide, is essential to the candidate for perfection, and in him the disciple must have a firm and irrevocable faith. To be safe from internal enemies, we must annihilate our ego and be absorbed in the eternity of God, our Higher Self, even as the fight of the stars is lost in the fight of the noonday sun. For everything other than God is at once preyed upon by others, and itself in its turn preys upon them. To annihilate the ego, the pupil must first merge himself into the Higher Self of the Teacher, then into the Prophet, and ultimately into God. Listen to Rumi’s prayer:
“O Thou, that changest earth into gold,
And out of other earth didst make the father of mankind (Adam),
Thy business is changing things and bestowing favours;
My business is mistakes, forgetfulness and error.
Change my mistakes and forgetfulness to Knowledge;
O Creator of all, make me temperate and meek!”
By means of stories and poems, Rumi pointed out the way of renunciation of the ego to his disciples. A Muslim priest has to go five times a day to the tower, and from there give the call to prayer. Once a priest had such an ugly hoarse voice that the people of the village used to put their fingers to their ears whenever he called, thinking that a hundred crows were cawing or owls were hooting. One day the people said:
“How can we rid ourselves of him ?”
One of them suggested a spiritual method, to which all agreed. One morning a respectable man said to him:
“We people have collected some money for you, and we want you to go on your pilgrimage to Mecca.
” He was very glad and took the money.
When he broke his journey, he found it was proper for him to make a call to prayer, and he made his call at the Mosque.
The people were terrified, and there was great consternation.
A young and pretty Hebrew girl was trying to become a Muslim against the wish of her family.
On hearing the hoarse notes, she exclaimed: “Whatever is that voice?”
The mother replied: “That is the voice of the priest of the religion you are going to adopt”;
upon which the daughter declared: “Mother, I shall never embrace that faith!”
Truth should be presented calmly and with sympathy. It is good to preach, but not good to hurt the hearts of the people. “Those who walk meekly on the earth and who, when the ignorant speak to them, answer: ‘Peace’, shall be rewarded with the highest place in Paradise”, says the Koran. And again: “Fools give honour to the building of the Mosque for its own sake, yet try to injure human beings. There is no mosque except the heart of man, the heart of the men of God.” And another poet says: “That mosque, the heart of the Teacher of Divine Wisdom, is the object of veneration, for God dwells there.”
It is as the poet of Divine Unity that Rumi will be remembered. Caught up in ecstasy, he has written in the Masnavi:
“O give me Thy Cup, Thou, Whom I see not!
Thou art my face; what wonder if I see Thee not!
Extreme nearness acts as an obscuring veil!
Thou art my reason; what wonder if I see Thee not
Through the multitude of intervening obstacles!
Thou art ‘nearer to me than my neck vein’;
How can I call to Thee, Ho!
As if Thou wert afar off?
Nay, but I will mislead some by calling in the desert,
To hide my Beloved from those of whom I am jealous!”