He learned to read the ancient Persian language.
As a teenager, he and his friends had heard that if you read the poetry of Rumi in the original language that it lifted you into ecstatic states.
He said it worked.
From Another Culture
He was from Pakistan. He was a co-worker of mine who ran the shipping department at a place where I worked many years ago in San Francisco.
He was trained as a lawyer in his country, but his father had a falling out with the government which ended up ruining the careers -- and safety -- of the rest of the family. For that reason, he immigrated to the US.
Reading Rumi in the original ancient Persian made these boys high -- but in a safer way than drugs. My Pakistani friend believed that the wonderful feelings people were seeking through drugs was a natural desire for higher states of awareness. But drugs were the wrong way to go about it.
That all made sense to me. I had similar experiences with the written words of my Eckankar Discourses and the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad. The discourses, especially, are said to be written with a secret, internal rhythm that unfolds the spiritual consciousness.
Some Strange Attraction
At that time, I didn't know much about the 13th century Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi. I had read a little about him in Paul Twitchell's landmark book, The Tiger's Fang.
After my co-workers story, I had a better clue as to why Rumi was the most popular and most read poet in America. However, it wasn't that way until recently.
Until the 1980's his poetry had few English translations, and they were poor at that. Then Coleman Barks, a literature professor from Georgia, starting publishing wonderful English translations of Rumi's poetry.
For centuries, people in other cultures around the world have known of and loved Rumi --- he's just new to us in America. In modern times, his tomb in what is Turkey today is one of the most popular pilgrimage attractions the world over. Rumi is beloved by Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, and Christians, just as Rumi himself embraced all religions.
Rumi didn't just sit down to compose his poems as one might expect. More often, a disciple would follow Rumi around to capture on paper what rolled off his tongue from the incredible, visionary states he lived in.
Then, again, Rumi wasn't always that way.
The Spark That Ignites
Following in the footsteps of his father, Rumi was an orthodox religious leader. He taught law at the university. By most accounts he was a rather dry, stodgy, book-worm.
But then he met someone. Rumi's son Sultan Walad wrote:
After meeting Shams, my father danced all day and sang all night. He had been a scholar -- he became a poet. He had been an ascetic -- he became drunk with love.It was Shams of Tabriz, a renegade dervish of strange and unnerving powers, who accousted Rumi one day on the road.
With this one simple question -- and with the piercing gaze of Shams' eyes -- Rumi's entire view of reality changed.
The question was merely an excuse. Shams' imparting of an inner awakening is what shattered Rumi's world.
The truths and assumptions upon which Rumi based his whole life crumbled. . . . replacing Rumi's book-learned knowledge (and his lofty regard for such knowledge) with divine knowledge and the direct experience of God.
. . . after Shams' question, Rumi looked at Shams with utter amazement, realizing that this was no ordinary dervish, but the Beloved himself in human form. From that moment on, Rumi's life was never again the same.
Shams catalyzed a profound experience for Rumi that transformed him from a dry academic to a mystic drunk with God. Shams enabled Rumi to encounter the divine reality that Rumi yearned for but until then had only known second-hand.
. . . the two men were inseparable; they spent hours a day together, sometimes isolating themselves for long periods to pray and fast in divine communion with God.
Rumi was totally lost in this new found love that his master revealed, and all his great attainments were blossoming through that love.
Excerpts from 'Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved' by Jonathan Star.
I love this story revealing the catalyst behind Rumi's poetry. Can there be any doubt that Shams was the Living ECK Master of those times?
While Coleman Barks, and others, have labored to give us a taste of what Rumi expressed in free verse, there is so much more that we are missing.
I heard Coleman Barks marvel about the amazing rhyming and alliteration in Rumi's poems, which make the sound of the language that is so musical in itself, rival the expansive meanings of the poems. He further regretted the play on words and double meanings that made Rumi's poems so remarkable -- and so impossible to translate in kind. Then there is that mysterious underlying potency that my Pakistani co-worker experienced when he got as close as possible to the authentic expression. What of that?
Yet we love it still.
In spite of the obstacles of language and translations . . .
Rumi's poetry has the magical ability to show us this truth and to unlock love's precious secrets. Within the folds of his words we gain entrance to a hidden chamber; we hear whispers that are ancient, yet intimate; we behold the endless love story between the individual soul and God. Like looking into a polished mirror, or like being in the presence of a holy being, reading Rumi's poetry shows us ourselves and our state, but more than that, it shows us the boundless glory of what we can become.Thanks to my Pakistani friend, I looked for Rumi. And since, I've found other sacred writing that seems to allow the Hand of God to reach out between the lines to touch me.
Beautifully presented by Jonathan Star in 'Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved'
I encourage you to try what I and my Pakistani friend have explored:
Find the most sacred writing you can: the Christian Bible, Rumi, Stranger By the River, etc. Read it outloud, but don't worry about the intellectual meaning so much. Just relax. Let the sound of the words work their magic on you. Let the words be the key to secret worlds within yourself.
Let the words take you where they came from to begin with.
Get high that way.
Since we live where everything is music -- --- Everything is dancing.
~ Jalaluddin Al Din Rumi
Read slowly and concentrate on what you are reading. Let your spirit and the spirit of the author commune, and you will then sense what is between the lines—those great things which words cannot express. —Theron Q. Dumont, The Power of Concentration
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Drunk From a Book