‘Jalaludin Rumi’s tomb in Konya, Turkey, now a popular destination for tourists. Rumi's epitpah was, "When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men."'
Jalaludin Rumi’s major work, generally considered to be one of the world’s greatest books, is his Mathnavi-i-Maanavi (Couplets of Inner Meaning). His table-talk (Fihi Ma Fihi), letters (Maktubat), Diwan, and the hagiography Munaqib el-Arifin, all contain important parts of his teachings.
The following selections, from all of these sources, are meditation-themes which can be taken as aphorisms and declarations of dogma, or as pieces of sage advice. Their Sufic usage, however, goes far beyond this.
Rumi, like other Sufi authors, plants his teachings within a framework which as effectively screens its inner meaning as displays it. This technique fulfils the functions of preventing those who are incapable of using the material on a higher level from experimenting effectively with it; allowing those who want poetry to select poetry; giving entertainment to people who want stories; stimulating the intellect in those who prize such experiences.
One of the most revealing of his sentences is the title of his table-talk: ‘In it what is in it’ (‘You get out of it what is in it for you’).
Rumi had the uncomfortable Sufi habit of excelling in literary and poetic ability beyond all his contemporaries, while constantly affirming that such an attainment was a minor one compared with Sufihood.
How Far You Have Come!
Originally, you were clay. From being mineral, you became vegetable. From vegetable, you became animal, and from animal, man. During these periods man did not know where he was going, but he was being taken on a long journey nonetheless. And you have to go through a hundred different worlds yet.
The Way has been marked out.
If you depart from it, you will perish.
If you try to interfere with the signs on the road, you will
be an evil-doer.
The South Men and the Interpreter
Four people were given a piece of money.
The first was a Persian. He said: ‘I will buy with this some angur.’
The second was an Arab. He said: ‘No, because I want inab.’
The third was a Turk. He said: ‘I do not want inab, I want uzüm.’
The fourth was a Greek. He said: ‘I want stafil.’
Because they did not know what lay behind the names of things, these four started to fight. They had information but no knowledge.
One man of wisdom present could have reconciled them all, saying: ‘I can fulfil the needs of all of you, with one and the same piece of money. If you honestly give me your trust, your one coin will become as four; and four at odds will become as one united.’
Such a man would know that each in his own language wanted the same thing, grapes.
I Am the Life of My Beloved
What can I do, Muslims? I do not know myself.
I am no Christian, no Jew, no Magian, no Musulman.
Not of the East, not of the West. Not of the land, not of the sea.
Not of the Mine of Nature, not of the circling heavens,
Not of earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire;
Not of the throne, not of the ground, of existence, of being;
Not of India, China, Bulgaria, Saqseen;
Not of the kingdom of the Iraqs, or of Khorasan;
Not of this world or the next: of heaven or hell;
Not of Adam, Eve, the gardens of Paradise or Eden;
My place placeless, my trace traceless.
Neither body nor soul: all is the life of my Beloved ...
The Owl and the King's Hawk
A royal hawk alighted for a time on the wall of a ruin inhabited by owls. The owls feared him. He said: ‘This may seem a prosperous place to you, but my place is upon the wrist of a king.’
Some of the owls shouted to the others: ‘Do not believe him! He is using guile to steal our home.’
The hidden world has its clouds and rain, but of a different kind.
Its sky and sunshine are of a different kind.
This is made apparent only to the refined ones – those not deceived by the seeming completeness of the ordinary world.
Profiting by Experience
Exalted Truth imposes upon us
Heat and cold, grief and pain,
Terror and weakness of wealth and body
Together, so that the coin of our innermost being
A man may be in an ecstatic state, and another man may try to rouse him. It is considered good to do so. Yet this state may be bad for him, and the awakening may be good for him. Rousing a sleeper is good or bad according to who is doing it. If the rouser is of greater attainment, this will elevate the state of the other person. If he is not, it will deteriorate the consciousness of the other man.
He Was in No Other Place
Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined. He was not on the Cross. I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda. In none of them was there any sign. To the uplands of Herat I went, and to Kandahar. I looked. He was not on the heights or in the lowlands. Resolutely, I went to the summit of the [fabulous] mountain of Kaf. There only was the dwelling of the [legendary] Anqa bird. I went to the Kaaba of Mecca. He was not there. I asked about him from Avicenna the philosopher. He was beyond the range of Avicenna ... I looked into my own heart. In that, his place, I saw him. He was in no other place.
Those Who Know, Cannot Tell
Whenever the Secrets of Perception are taught to anyone
His lips are sewn against speaking of the Consciousness.
Joha and Death
A boy was crying and shouting before his father’s coffin, saying:
‘Father! They are taking you to a place where nothing covers the floors. There is no light, no food; no door nor helpful neighbour...’
Joha, alarmed since the description seemed to fit, called out to his own father:
‘Respected Parent, by Allah, they are taking him to our house!’
Intelligence and Real Perception
Intelligence is the shadow of objective Truth.
How can the shadow vie with sunshine?
Of this there is no academic proof in the world;
For it is hidden, and hidden, and hidden.
The Human Spirit
Go higher – Behold the Human Spirit.
Detachment Brings Perception
O Heart! Until, in this prison of deception,
you can see the difference between This and That,
For an instant detach from this Well of Tyranny; stand outside.
Thou And I
Joyful the moment when we sat in the bower,
Thou and I;
In two forms and with two faces – with one soul,
Thou and I.
The colour of the garden and the song of the birds give the elixir of immortality
The instant we come into the orchard, Thou and I.
The stars of Heaven come out to look upon us –
We shall show the Moon herself to them, Thou and I.
Thou and I, with no ‘Thou’ or ‘I’, shall become one through our tasting;
Happy, safe from idle talking, Thou and I.
The gay parrots of heaven will envy us –
When we shall laugh in such a way, Thou and I.
This is stranger, that Thou and I, in this corner
Are both in one breath in Iraq, and in Khorasan –
Thou and I.
Two reeds drink from one stream. One is hollow, the other is sugarcane.
What Shall I Be
I have again and again grown like grass;
I have experienced seven hundred and seventy moulds.
I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And from vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
Next time I shall die
Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels:
After that soaring higher than angels –
What you cannot imagine. I shall be that.
The Man of God
The Man of God is drunken without wine:
The Man of God is sated without meat.
The Man of God is rapturous, amazed:
The Man of God has neither food nor sleep.
The Man of God is a king beneath a humble cloak: The Man of God is a treasure in a ruin.
The Man of God is not of wind and earth: The Man of God is not of fire and water.
The Man of God is a sea without a shore:
The Man of God rains pearls without a cloud.
The Man of God has a hundred moons and skies:
The Man of God has a hundred sunshines.
The Man of God is wise through Truth:
The Man of God is not a scholar from a book.
The Man of God is beyond faith and disbelief alike:
For the Man of God what ‘sin’ or ‘merit’ is there?
The Man of God rode away from Non-being:
The Man of God has come, sublimely riding.
The Man of God Is, Concealed, O Shamsudin!
Search for, and find – The Man of God.
The Prophet said that Truth has declared:
'I am not hidden in what is high or low
Nor in the earth nor skies nor throne.
This is certainty, O beloved:
I am hidden in the heart of the faithful.
If you seek me, seek in these hearts.’
The Science of Truth disappears in the Sufi’s knowledge.
When will mankind understand this saying?
Dust on the Mirror
Life/Soul is like a clear mirror; the body is dust on it.
Beauty in us is not perceived, for we are under the dust.
Action and Words
I am giving people what they want. I am reciting poetry because people desire it as an entertainment.
In my own country, people do not like poetry. I have long searched for people who want action, but all
they want is words. I am ready to show you action; but none will patronise this action. So I present
you with – words.
A fool’s ignorance eventually harms, however much his heart is one with yours.
Work is not what people think it is.
It is not just something which, when it is operating, you can see from outside.
How long shall we, in the Earth-world, like children
Fill our laps with dust and stones and scraps?
Let us leave earth and fly to the heavens,
Let us leave babyhood and go to the assembly of Man.
If ten men want to enter a house, and only nine find their way in, the tenth must not say: ‘This is what God ordained.’
He must find out what his own shortcoming was.
Only sweet-voiced birds are imprisoned.
Owls are not kept in cages.
Tie two birds together.
They will not be able to fly, even though they now have four wings.
Seek a pearl, brother, within a shell;
And seek skill from among the men of words.
You have a duty to perform. Do anything else, do any number of things, occupy your time fully, and yet, if you do not do this task, all your time will have been wasted.
The Community of Love
The people of Love are hidden within the populace;
Like a good man surrounded by the bad.
The aim of a book may be to instruct,
Yet you can also use it as a pillow;
Although its object is to give knowledge, direction, profit.
Epitaph of Jalaludin Rumi
When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.
This is an excerpt from The Way of the Sufi by Idries Shah. The book is available to read on our website -- and you can buy it here in all formats, including audio.