Rumi and his teachings on Sufism, the fruit of a markedly advanced Persian and Islamic culture at a time when Europe was still mired in its Dark Ages, is remarkable by any standard - poetically, artistically, scientifically, philosophically and metaphysically.
While elements of fundamentalist and evangelistic Christianity in the West, particularly in the United States, cling blindly to an exclusivity and blind faith that denies the legitimacy of all other religions and the findings of modern science, 750-or-so odd years ago, Rumi swept aside such false controversies in language that, even in translation, is both striking and startling.
Taken from "The Way of the Sufi," by the great Sufi teacher and scholar, Idries Shah, the following excerpts from Rumi's vast works, both poetry and prose, show how far ahead of his times, and perhaps ours, the great Sufi poet was.
Rumi on Religion:
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 Mussulman.
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 garden of Paradise or Eden;
My place placeless, my trace traceless.
Neither body nor soul: all is the life of my Beloved . . .
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 place, his place, I saw him. He was in no other place.
Rumi on Evolution:
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 take on a long journey, nonetheless. And you have to go through a hundred different worlds yet.
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 disappearnace 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.
INTELLIGENCE AND REAL PERCEPTION
Intelligence is the shadow of objective Truth.
How can the shadow vie with sunshine?
The Science of Truth disappears in the Sufi's knowledge.
When will mankind understand this saying?
[Idries Shah, "The Way of the Sufi," pp. 102-108.]
. . . .and, finally, from "The Essential Rumi," by Coleman Barks:
. . . For hundreds of thousands of years
I have been dust grains
floating and flying in the will of the air,
often forgetting ever being
in that state, but in sleep
I migrate back. I spring loose
from the four-branched time-and-space cross,
this waiting room.
I walk into a huge pasture.
I nurse the milk of millenia.
Everyone does this in different ways.
Knowing that conscious decisions
and personal memory
are much too small a place to live,
every human being streams at night
into the loving nowhere, or during the day,
in some absorbing work.