“Carry your baggage toward silence:
when you seek the signs of the Way,
don’t make yourself the focus of attention.
The Prophet said, “Know that amid the sea of cares
my Companions are like guiding stars.”
Fix your eye on the stars and seek the Way;
speech confuses the sight: be silent.”
“Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance”
Camille and Kabir Helminski, 1996
December 17th is Shebi-Arus, the celebrated “wedding night” of the adored 13th century mystic poet and teacher, Jalal-a-din Rumi. This was the night of his passing and his reunion with the Beloved. On that day, there was much lament for the loss of a man and yet there was rejoicing in the elevation of his soul.
Many are surprised to find out that Rumi is among the most widely read poets in America. Yet, despite his poetic couplets and ghazals being so prolific, many do not realize it is his that they are reading. It is amusing to think that many believe his passages are by writers for Hallmark. Most of his poems originally written in pristine Persian, have been translated to English over many decades and centuries.[oftentimes poorly or with incorrect citation of authorship]. It is never authentic to break apart poems into greeting cards; but who is really speaking Rumi’s words anyway? If this is how the fragrance of the message is passed, so be it.
Kabir Helminski is an esteemed Sufi scholar, beloved devotee, and renown Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order of Sufi. The Mevlevi order was founded around 1273 by Rumi’s followers after his death, particularly by his successor Hüsamettin Çelebi and Rumi’s son, Baha al-Din Muhammad-i Walad. Anointed as Shaikh, Kabir is a widely read and listened to translator of Rumi and cofounder and codirector of the Threshold Society, dedicated to Sufism. He is one the world’s most influential Muslim spiritual leaders. His translations of Rumi are indeed beautiful and faithful.
Kabir explains that Rumi’s original name was Muhammad and that he was given the title Jalal (glory, splendour) al-Din (of the religion) meaning the great [one] of religion. Later he was also named Molana meaning lord or master. The name “Rumi” refers to his place of origin, in this case, from Rum (or Rome). Ottomans named the Eastern Roman Empire as Rum and since Rumi lived most of his life and is enshrined in Konya, Turkey, his name endures. Actually, Rumi was born in Balkh (now Afghanistan) so he is also called Balkhi.
Kabir tells us that Khamush, the Silent, is a sobriquet that Rumi (also referred to as Mevlana or Maulana) often used in his poems. More than a thousand of his poems end with reference to his beloved teacher and friend, Shams-i Tabrizi, and about five hundred odes end with khamush. The word “khamush” has many meanings when spoken in Farsi, Urdu, and Hindi; but in all applications, it means silent, mute, and quiet. Rumi makes reference to silence because only silent contemplation can lead one to the Way of Sufis, to self knowledge, and ultimately the knowledge (reunion) amidst God.
The true translations of Rumi’s poetry, while fragile and sometimes contested between native Persian speakers and others, are faithfully accomplished less by scholars than by impassioned lovers of esoteric divine expression. The original light of Divine Love is expressed from pre-eternity across centuries and diverse cultures through a succession of metaphoric glass panes of many a lamp; each pane being that of a prophet or teacher’s clarity. Often we do not even see the glass, so pure is the teacher. What we behold instead is simply the source of light itself – the timeless intention of Love.
The veils that intercede with the light of loving consciousness are raised by the limited mind, but lowered by the purified heart. One does not polish panes of glass (of understanding) with broadcast words, but rather with devotional silence; khamush. This silence is a still and untainted awareness, not muddled by words and rationalizations. To feel the Love of Rumi, say nothing with your mouth and listen without ears. Let the senses slip back to the sea of deep consciousness.
“There’s a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it. Give
more of your life to this listening. As
brightness is to time, so you are to
the one who talks to the deep ear in
your chest. I should sell my tongue
and buy a thousand ears when that
one steps near and begins to speak.”
We are not all attuned to perceiving the mystical properties of Divine Love. And even those that are, long to behold the dream vision of God and of the prophets. Rumi conveys to us the relieving words of the Prophet Mohammed, “… Happy [is] he that has seen me and [happy is] he that looks at him that saw my face.”
Extending this further as a metaphor, I would say that few, if any, can stare at the sun without being blinded. We can, however, gaze without harm at its light reflecting in the face of the moon. The moon, who directly and forever faces the sun (the Beloved), is the beautiful glowing lover. Rumi reflects (transmits) Shams this way. If we stay in the presence of lovers, we can feel the Sun.
“When a [glass] lamp has derived [its] light from a candle [within], every one that sees it [the lamp] certainly sees the candle. If transmission [of the light] occurs in this way till a hundred lamps [are lighted], the seeing of the last [lamp] becomes a meeting with the original [light]. Either take with [all] thy soul from the hindmost [last in succession] light— there is no difference— or from the candelabrum [lamp].”
Rumi is the flame of Shams. He held a love so pure – as to be self dissolving – that they are unified in the highest state of love. This story of the embodiment and dissolution in pure love is told in other epic romances; Majnun became one and the same with Layla; we see the same Romeo with Juliet, Viz and Shamin, Heer and Ranjha.
“Either behold the light [of God] from the lamp of the last [saints], or behold His light from the candle of those who have gone before.”
It is said, “my teacher’s teacher is my teacher.” And so human love can rise to archetype of the true “True” Love.
The translations of Rumi have taken a Persian voice into an English one, but this is merely the succession of lamps; teachers and clerics, poets and empaths, those who bear the torch of mystic lineage. Irrespective of the transmission’s link in the chain, the source is the same. Love cannot be conveyed, shaped, or obscured by language – it stirs the heart and confuses the mind.
May God bless us in the direction of our attentions to the Truly existent; those messages from Mevlana which cannot be heard or seen, but passes through all mediums. Rumi’s poetry fills silence with deeper silence…only in this state do we directly hear the Beloved.