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Rumi's Mathnawi


The beloved is all, the lover just a veil.
The beloved is living, the lover a dead thing.
If Love withholds its strengthening care,
The lover is left like a bird without wings.
How will I be awake and aware
if the light of the Beloved is absent?
Love wills that this Word be brought forth.
If you find the mirror of the heart dull,
the rust has not been cleared from its face.

The undisciplined man doesn't wrong himself alone- he sets fire to the whole world. Discipline enabled Heaven to be filled with light; discipline enabled the angels to be immaculate and holy.

My friend, the sufi is the son of the present moment: to say "tomorrow" is not our way.

A thorn in the foot is hard to find.
What about a thorn in the heart?
If everyone saw the thorn in his heart,
when would sorrow gain the upper hand?

When your heart becomes the grave of your secret, that desire of yours will be gained more quickly. The Prophet said that anyone who keeps secret his inmost thought will soon attain the object of his desire. When seeds are buried in the earth, their inward secrets become the flourishing garden.

There are true promises that make the heart grateful; there are false promises, fraught with disquiet. The promise of the noble is sterling; the promise of the unworthy breeds anguish of the soul.

Love of the dead does not last, because the dead will not return. But love of the living is in every moment fresher than a bud, both the inward and the outward eye. Choose the love of that Living One who is everlasting, who offers you the wine that increases life. Do not say "We have no entrance to that King." Dealings with the generous are not difficult.

This discipline and rough treatment are a furnace to extract the silver from the dross. This testing purifies the gold by boiling the scum away.

The spiritual path wrecks the body and afterwards restores it to health. It destroys the house to unearth the treasure, and with that measure builds it better than before.

Hear one of the sayings related from the Prophet: "No prayer is complete without Presence."

The more awake one is to the material world, the more one is asleep to spirit. When our soul is asleep to God, other wakefulness closes the door of Divine grace.

The soil is faithful to its trust; whatever you have sown in it, you reap the same. But until springtime brings the touch of God, the soil does not reveal its secrets.

How long will you say, "I will conquer the whole world and fill with myself"? Even if the snow covered the world completely, the sun could melt it with a glance. A single spark of God's mercy can turn poison into springwater. Where there is doubt, He establishes certainty.

If ten lamps are in one place, each differs in form from another; yet you can't distinguish whose radiance is whose when you focus on the light. In the field of spirit there is no division; no individuals exist. Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends. Catch hold of spirit. Help this headstrong self disintegrate; that beneath it you may discover unity, like a burried treasure.

Don't take a wooden sword into battle. Go, find one of steel; then march forward with joy. The sword of reality is the saint's protection: your time with him is worth as much as the cup of life itself. All the wise have said the same: the one who knows God is God's mercy to His creatures.

Companionship with the holy, makes you one of them. Though you're rock or marble, you'll become a jewel when you reach the man of heart.

Plant the love of holy ones within your spirit; don't give your heart to anything but the love of those whose hearts are glad. Don't go to the neighborhood of despair: there is hope. Don't go in the direction of darkness: suns exist.

Feed your heart in conversation with someone harmonious with it; seek spiritual advancement from one who is advanced.

God has scattered His light over all souls; happy are they who have helped up their skirts to receive it. Those lucky ones don't look to anything but God; without that skirt of love, we miss our share.

Sometimes, in order to help, He makes us miserable; but heartache for His sake brings happiness. Laughter will come after tears. Whoever foresees this is a servant blessed by God. Wherever water flows, life flourishes: wherever tears fall, Divine mercy is shown.

Weep like the waterwheel, that green herbs may spring up from the courtyard of your soul. If you wish for tears, have mercy on one who sheds tears; if you wish mercy, show mercy to the weak.

When you feel pain, ask pardon of God; this pain has its uses. When He pleases, pain becomes joy; bondage itself becomes freedom. When you take a clear look, you'll see that from God are both the water of mercy and the fire of anger.

Since our vision is so limited, let's go! Let our sight be dissolved in the seeing of the Friend. Our sight for His -what an exchange!

The world is a prison and we are the prisoners: dig a hole in the prison and let yourself out!

Water in the boat is the ruin of the boat, but water under the boat is its support. Since Solomon cast the desire for wealth out from his heart, he didn't call himself by any name but "poor". The stoppered jar, though in rough water, floated because of its empty heart. When the wind of poverty is in anyone, she floats in peace on the waters of this world.

The light which shines in the eye is really the light of the heart. The light which fills the heart is the light of God, which is pure and separate from the light of intellect and sense.

God created pain and sorrow that happiness might show itself by contrast. For hidden things are made manifest by means of their opposites: since God has no opposite, He is hidden.

Form came forth from formlessness and returned there, for verily unto Him are we returning. Every instant, we are dying and returning: the Prophet declared that this world is but a moment. Our thought is an arrow shot from Him into the air. How shall it stay in the air? It comes back to God.

To speak the same language is kinship and affinity: when you're with those in whom you can't confide, you're like a prisoner in chains. Many Indians and Turks speak the same tongue; yet many pairs of Turks find they're foreigners. The tongue of mutual understanding is quite special: to be one of heart is better than to have a common tongue.

With us, the name of everything is its outward appearance; with the Creator, the name of each thing is its inward reality. In the eye of Moses, the name of his rod was "staff" in the eye of the Creator, its name was "dragon". In brief, that which we are in the end is our real name with God.

Though Destiny a hundreds times waylays you, in the end it pitches a tent for you in heaven. It is God's kindness to terrify you in order to lead you to safety.

Many of the faults you see in others, dear reader, are your own nature reflected in them. As the Prophet said, "The faithful are mirrors to one another."

The inner search is from You. The blind are cured by Your gift. Without our searching, You gave us this search.

Whoever gives reverence receives reverence: whoever brings sugar eats almond cake. Who are the good women for? The good men. Honor your friend; or see what happens if you don't.

The intellectual quest,
Though fine as pearl or coral, is not the spiritual search.
That spiritual search is on another level.
Spiritual wine is a different substance.

We owe thankfulness to God, not sour faces.

Each moment contains a hundred messages from God: To every cry of "oh Lord," He answers a hundred times, "I am here."

The intelligent desire self-control; children want candy.

Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.

That taste is the seed, and thoughts are its fruits: that taste is the sea, and thoughts are its pearls. Eating lawful food gives birth to the inclination to serve God and the resolve to go to His world.

Know that a word suddenly shot from the tongue is like an arrow shot from the bow. Son, that arrow won't turn back on its way; you must damn a torrent at the source.

O tongue, you are an endless treasure. O tongue, you are also an endless disease.

Dam the torrent of ectasy when it runs in flood, so that it won't bring shame and ruin. But why should I fear ruin. Under the ruin waits a royal treasure. He that is drowned in God wishes to be more drowned. While his spirit is tossed up and down by the waves of the sea, he asks, "Is the bottom of the sea more delightful, or the top? Is the Beloved's arrow more fascinating, or the shield?" O heart, if you recognize any difference between joy and sorrow, these lies will tear you apart. Although your desire tastes sweet, doesn't the Beloved desire you to be desireless? The life of lovers is in death: you will not win the Beloved's heart unless you lose your own.

Do right, You who are the glory of the just. You, Soul, who are liberated from "we" and "I", subtle spirit in man and woman. When man and woman become one, that one is You, and when that one is obliterated, there You are. Where is this "we" and this "I"? By the side of the Beloved You made this "we" and "I" in order to play this game of service with Yourself- that You and I might become one soul and in the end drown in the Beloved.

Can the heart be possessed by laughter or grief? Such a heart has only these borrowed things to live with. The garden of Love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy. Love is beyond either condition: without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.

Whatever the soul in man and woman strives to do, the ear and the eye of the soul's King are at the window.

The world's flattery and hypocrisy is a sweet morsel: eat less of it, for it is full of fire. Its fire is hidden while its taste is manifest, but its smoke becomes visible in the end.

As far as you can, be a slave, not a monarch. Let yourself be struck. Be the ball and not the bat.

How should Spring bring forth a garden on hard stone? Become earth, you may grow flowers of many colors. For you have been a heart-breaking rock. Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth!

Wherever I shine the lamplight of Divine breath, there the difficulties of a whole world are resolved. The darkness which the earthly sun did not remove, becomes through My breath a bright morning.

Either behold the light of God from the lamps of the saints, or behold His light from the candle of those who have gone before.

Selections from Rumi's Mathnawi

Translated by Camille and Kabir Helminski

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