The Force of Friendship by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

Rumi felt the force of friendship when he met Shams of Tabriz

This poem appears in Book 6 (out of 6) of the Masnavi (I’ve seen it spelled Masnavi, Mathnawi and Mathnavi).

In Islamic tradition, Satan’s great sin was his refusal to bow before Adam (Surah 2:34). This poem references that tradition.

The second half of the poem about the mouse and the frog is the final portion of a much longer story describing the friendship between the mouse and the frog.

The Force of Friendship

In Rumi's poem The Force of Friendship, a dugong finds a special pearl

A sea-cow, a dugong, finds a special pearl
and brings it up on land at night. By the light it gives off
the dugong can graze on hyacinths and lilies.

The excrement of the dugong is precious ambergris
because it eats such beauty. Anyone who feeds on Majesty
becomes eloquent. The bee, from mystic inspiration,
fills its rooms with honey.

So the dugong grazes at night in the pearl-glow.
Presently, a merchant comes and drops black loam
over the pearl, then hides behind a tree to watch.

The dugong surges about the meadow like a blind bull.
Twenty times it rushes at nothing, passing the mound
where the pearl is.

So Satan couldn’t see
the spirit-center inside Adam.

God says, Descend,
and a huge pearl from Aden gets buried under dirt.
The merchant knows,
but the dugong doesn’t.

Every clay-pile with a pearl inside
loves to be near any other clay-pile with a pearl,
but those without pearls cannot stand to be near
the hidden companionship.

Remember the mouse on the riverbank?
There’s a love-string stretching into the water
hoping for the frog.

Suddenly a raven grips the mouse and flies off.
The frog too, from the riverbottom,
with one foot entangled in the invisible string,
follows, suspended in the air.
Amazed faces ask, “When did a raven ever go underwater and catch a frog?

The frog answers, “This is the force of Friendship.”
What draws friends together
does not conform to Laws of Nature.
Form doesn’t know about spiritual closeness.
If a grain of barley approaches a grain of wheat,
an ant must be carrying it. A black ant on black felt.
You can’t see it, but if grains go toward each other,
it’s there.

A hand shifts our birdcages around.
Some are brought closer. Some move apart.
Do not try to reason it out. Be conscious
of who draws you and who not.

Gabriel was always there with Jesus, lifting him
above the dark-blue vault, the night-fortress world,
just as the raven of longing carries the flying frog.

 

 

This rendering of this poem is found in the book This Longing: Poetry, Teaching-Stories, and Letters of Rumi, edited by Coleman Barks and John Moyne.

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

I Should Be Suspicious Of What I Want For The World

Paul Atreides would avenge his father and bring the universe to its knees.  I should be suspicious of what I want for the world.

Steps 65 through 67 of Steps to Knowledge have something in common.  They all contain some variation on the sentence “You have come to the world to work.”  Step 65, “I have come to work in the world,” introduces the idea.  Step 66, “I will stop complaining about the world,” gave the idea of something I need to drop if I’m going to take this idea seriously.  And now, Step 67, “I do not know what I want for the world,” brings another item from which I need to slowly back away; my designs for the world.

I should be suspicious of what I want for the world

Someone might say “I don’t demand that the world devote itself to making me happy.  I’m willing to be the change I wish to see in the world.” But what if the change you wish to see in the world sets other events in motion resulting in changes in the world you didn’t wish to see?  Are you wise enough to see it fully through?  I’m not.

Someone might say “I would make the world a more just place.”  But many who live deserve death, and some that die deserve life.  Can you give it to them?  Even people who care about strangers, who care about evil and social injustice, can be heartless and cruel and hard and cold.

I am recalling the Rumi poem which I have already shared once in this space:

Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
Chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
And end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
And fall in.
I should be suspicious
Of what I want.

Someone is going to ask, “Well, what should we do then?”  Steps to Knowledge recommends at this point that we cultivate a healthy suspicion of what we want for the world.  Steps to Knowledge recommends at this point that we reserve a space for what Knowledge knows it must contribute, for the mission we have in life to fulfill, for the work we have come to the world to do.

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

The Horseman And The Snake

The-Young-Poet-Rumi-by-Skip-Noah Rumi wrote the story of The Horseman and the Snake

The Young Poet Rumi by Skip Noah

The Rumi story of the rider and the man who swallowed a snake first appears in Book 2 (out of 6) of the Mathnawi.  I have read two later versions of this story.  One of them is the 18th century version by Salim Abdali.  The other is the 20th century version by Coleman Barks, called “Jesus on the lean donkey.”  I am sharing the Salim Abdali version, found in the book “Tales of the Dervishes” by Idries Shah.

I am sharing this story because there is a section in the Coleman Barks version that captures the feeling I felt when I first wrote about Step 65 “I have come to work in the world” of Steps to Knowledge.  The line that skewers my soul is “God’s Silence is necessary, because of humankind’s faintheartedness.”  Here is the story.

The Horseman and the Snake

There is a proverb that the “opposition” of the man of knowledge is better than the “support” of the fool.

I, Salim Abdali, bear witness that this is true in the greater ranges of existence, as it is true in the lower levels.

This is made manifest in the tradition of the Wise, who have handed down the tale of the Horseman and the Snake.

A horseman from his point of vantage saw a poisonous snake slip down the throat of a sleeping man.  The horseman realized that if the man were allowed to sleep the venom would surely kill him.

Accordingly he lashed the sleeper until he was awake.  Having no time to lose, he forced this man to a place where there were a number of rotten apples lying upon the ground and made him eat them.  Then he made him drink large gulps of water from a stream.

All the while the other man was trying to get away, crying “What have I done, you enemy of humanity, that you should abuse me in this manner?”

Finally, when he was near to exhaustion, and dusk was falling, the man fell to the ground and vomited out the apples, the water, and the snake.  When he saw what had came out of him, he realized what had happened, and begged the forgiveness of the horseman.

This is our condition.  In reading this, do not take allegory for history, nor history for allegory. Those who are endowed with knowledge have responsibility.  Those who are not, have none beyond what they can conjecture.

The man who was saved said: “If you had told me, I would have accepted your treatment with a good grace.”

The horseman answered: “If I had told you, you would not have believed.  Or you would have been paralyzed by fright.  Or run away.  Or gone to sleep again, seeking forgetfulness. And there would not have been time.”

Spurring his horse, the mysterious rider rode away.

I read the tale of The Horseman and the Snake, and I cry out that my heart might be less faint.

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Three Pieces Of Advice

Perhaps this young man will receive three pieces of advice

This story is from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah.  I recalled this story when I wrote about Step 56 of Steps to Knowledge.  As I considered the general spirit of Step 56, I recalled one of the characters in this story.

This story was first found in the ILahi Nama (Divine Book) of Persian poet Farad Al Din Attar (1145-1220).

The story "Three Pieces of Advice" is found in the Divine Book of Farad al-Din Attar

Rumi put it in the Mathnawi (Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning) about 50 years later.

Three Pieces of Advice

A man once caught a bird.  The bird said to him. “I am of no use to you as a captive.  But let me free, and I will give you three valuable pieces of advice.”

Would you accept three pieces of advice from this bird?

The bird promised to give the first piece of advice while still in the man’s grasp, the second when he reached a branch, the third when he had gained the top of a mountain.

The man agreed, and asked for the first piece of advice.

The bird said:

“If you lose something, even if it be valued by you as much as life itself – do not regret it.”

Now the man let the bird go, and it hopped to a branch.

It continued with the second piece of advice:

“Never believe anything which is contrary to sense, without proof.”

Then the bird flew to the mountain-top.  From here it said:

“O unfortunate one!  Within me are two huge jewels, and if you had only killed me they would have been yours!”

The man was anguished at the thought of what he had lost, but he said, “At least now tell me the third piece of advice.”

The bird replied:

“What a fool you are, asking for more advice when you have not given thought to the first two pieces! I told you not to worry about what you had lost, and not to believe in something contrary to sense.  Now you are doing both.  You are believing something ridiculous and grieving because you have lost something!  I am not big enough to have inside me huge jewels.”

“You are a fool.  Therefore you must stay within the usual restrictions imposed on man.”

 

As I share this story, I recall the Bible proverb, “Like the useless legs of one who is lame, is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (Proverbs 26:7, New International Version)

Three pieces of advice?  Maybe we only need one: wake up!

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Reconsidering Perfection

Your journey is unfolding exactly as it should be

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” – Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

This sentiment has been around for a long time, and many people would like it to be true.  If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.  Step 5 of Steps to Knowledge (“I believe what I want to believe”) tells us that any connection between what we believe to be so, and what actually is so, is strictly coincidental.  Just as I should be suspicious of what I want, maybe I should be suspicious of what I believe.

Do you sincerely believe that everyone is where they need to be?  Let us conduct a thought experiment.  Suppose there was a law saying the idea “everyone is where they need to be” was not allowed to be true, with serious consequences for violation of this law.  Suppose this idea was arrested by the authorities, and charged with the crime of being true.  Suppose you were the prosecuting attorney, and it was your task to prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this idea was true.  How might you proceed?  I will let you think about that.  What would the defense attorney say?  She might say “Do you believe that whoever used the chemical weapons in Syria are where they need to be?”  The defense attorney would bring forth one example after another where it would strain credibility to believe that a certain person is where they need to be.

What if, instead of a criminal case, this was a civil case, where the idea “everyone is where they need to be” is being sued for being true.  In this case, the standard isn’t “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but “preponderance of evidence.”  As the plaintiff’s attorney, it would be your job to present evidence that this idea is more likely than not to be true.  But I still don’t know how you would respond to these words from the defendant’s attorney:

“People are suffering because they aren’t where they need to be, doing the things they need to be doing, living the life they know they must live.”

Everyone is where they need to be?  Perhaps we need to think this out again.

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

These Spiritual Windowshoppers by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

Rumi meditatingThere are many Rumi poems I don’t get, but this is one I’d like to think that I do.

Coleman BarksI take great comfort in this poem. I take great comfort that there is an exchanging flow. On my weaker days, I obsess of what people think of me. On my weaker days, I take great comfort in this poem’s advice of the relative non-importance of people’s opinions. On my stronger days, this poem inspires me to start a huge, foolish project.

There are quite a few people in the world who have not taken the second step of desire. There are quite a few people in the world who have waited a long time for the world to begin.  It is my resolve to not be one of them.

These spiritual window-shoppers,
who idly ask, ‘How much is that?’
‘Oh, I’m just looking.’
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.

What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.

Where did you go? “Nowhere.”
What did you have to eat? “Nothing much.”
Even if you don’t know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.

Start a huge, foolish project,
like Noah.
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.

This translation of this poem can be found in many places, but it first appeared in the book “Rumi: We Are Three

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

And Where Are These “Few” To Be Found?

I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” (David in Psalm 16:3, New International Version (NIV))

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (God speaking to Elijah in I Kings 19:18, NIV)

When Jesus heard this [from the Roman centurion], he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:10-11, NIV)

I say that those who find the road that leads to life, like nuggets of precious gold, are where you find them.  I say those who find the true path come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  I say there must be fifty ways for saints to become saints.  I have only written of Christian saints up to now, as that is my faith tradition.  But studying Steps to Knowledge is enlarging my opinions:

“Life is kind to you, for it offers not only the reward but the way to the reward. If it were left up to you, it would be cruel indeed, for you would have to attempt every single possibility that you could conceive of, and then you would have the possibilities that others have conceived of and even the opportunities to reach Knowledge that others have used successfully but which may not in fact work well for you. In your brief span of time in the world, how can you accomplish all of these and still maintain your vitality? How can you maintain your encouragement for Knowledge when so many ways will disappoint you?” (Steps to Knowledge, Step 38, “God knows the way to Knowledge.”)

I studied this particular step in September of 2011, and as I did, I heard a voice in my mind’s ear, asking “Aren’t there any Muslims who have reached Knowledge?”  I thought there must be.  While there is no official sainthood in Islam like there is in Catholicism, people such as Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, (author of the poem “The Animal Soul“) Shams Tabrizi (Rumi’s teacher and close friend), and Kabir (already introduced here, and whose presence hovers over this thread).

I have been impressed with Paramahansa Yogananda and his spiritual upline. I’m not literate with Buddhist saints, but I believe they’re out there.  I say, and I say it again, those who find the road that leads to life, like nuggets of precious gold, are where you find them.

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

The Animal Soul by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

This is a bit of an experiment.  Poetry seems to be helpful to me in sharing how I think and feel about things, especially things regarding the New Message.  I’m sharing this particular poem because I’ve used the word itches in two previous posts, and this poem paints multiple vivid word pictures of what I mean when I write that.

The Animal Soul

There’s part of us that’s like an itch
Call it the animal soul, a foolishness
That when we’re in it, we make
Hundreds of others around us itchy

And there is an intelligent soul
With another desire, more like sweet basil
Or the feel of a breeze

Listen and be thankful even for scolding
That comes from the intelligent soul
It flows out close to where you flowed out

But that itchiness wants to put food
In our mouths that will make us sick

Feverish with the aftertaste of kissing
A donkey’s rump. It’s like blackening your robe
Against a kettle without being anywhere
Near a table of companionship

The truth of a being human is an empty table
Made of soul-intelligence

Gradually reduce what you give your animal soul
The bread that after all overflows from sunlight

The animal soul itself spilled out
And sprouted from the other

Taste more often what nourishes your clear light
And you’ll have less use for the smoky oven

You’ll bury that baking equipment in the ground!

I’m pleased to announce that I can embed the player from soundcloud.com into journal posts, so that you can hear me recite this poem if you wish.

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

2012 New Message Encampment Day 2 – I Should Be Suspicious Of What I Want

In the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar,” King Herod sings…

Jesus, I am overjoyed to meet you face to face.
You’ve been getting quite a name all around the place.
Healing cripples, raising from the dead.
And now I understand you’re God,
At least, that’s what you’ve said.

When the New Message from God makes claims about itself and about Marshall Summers, some clarification is in order. The New Message claims to be a message ushering a new reality, a new way of being, a new way of navigating the world. It claims to be for this time what the revelations given to Moses were in his time, what the revelations given to Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed were in their times. It claims Marshall Summers is the Messenger of this New Message. I say this to say that if a person isn’t just a little bit shocked about this, they’re not paying attention.

We had a 30 minute silent group meditation, and after that meditation, I had an idea that I had never contemplated before. The known universe is a bigger place than most people imagine, than most people are capable of imagining. I understand this video travels through about a small portion of the known universe.

I realize there are differences of opinion about this, but I find it easier to believe that the universe described in this video is crawling with life, lousy with life, riddled with life, than to believe mankind is alone in that universe. And if God were to speak to our world, would He not speak to other worlds as well? If one were to presume our world to be entirely average, as worlds go, there must be quite a few worlds in the universe which are receiving a new message from God at the very moment you are reading these words.

We spent some time contemplating how we got to Encampment, not in the physical sense, but looking over our life history, seeing where we had followed Knowledge, and where we had either ignored Knowledge or resisted Knowledge.

Knowledge is a central technical term in the New Message from God. There is a step in the book Steps to Knowledge, a central New Message text, which asks and answers the question “What is Knowledge?”

“Let us say that Knowledge is not the things that are usually associated with it. It is not ideas. It is not a body of information. It is not a system of belief. It is not a process of self-evaluation. It is the great mystery of your life. Its outward manifestations are profound intuition, great insight, inexplicable knowing, wise perception in the present and in the future and wise understanding of the past. But despite these great achievements of mind, Knowledge is greater than this. It is your True Self, a Self that is not apart from life.” (Step 10, “What is Knowledge?”)

Many participants commented that the fulfillment of their desires, ambitions, agendas, etc., would have been disastrous for their reclamation of Knowledge. I shared a poem from Rumi which seemed to address that thought, and it seemed to resonate with the people with whom I shared it.

Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
Chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
And end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
And fall in.
I should be suspicious
Of what I want.

The original plan was to write one post about each day of Encampment, but this feels like a good stopping place. I’ve gotten roughly to the end of morning of the second day. More later.

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.