The Wisdom of
The Real Work
There is one thing in this world that you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there's nothing to
worry about; but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life.
It's as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human beings come to this world to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you don't do it, it's as though a priceless Indian sword were used to slice rotten meat. It's a golden bowl being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots. It's a knife of the finest tempering nailed into a wall to hang things on.
You say, "But look, I'm using the dagger. It's not lying idle." Do you hear how ludicrous that sounds? For a penny, an iron nail could be bought to serve the purpose. You say, "But I spend my energies on lofty enterprises. I study jurisprudence and philosophy and logic and astronomy and medicine and all the rest."
But consider why you do those things. They are all branches of yourself.
Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord. Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don't, you will be exactly like the man who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You'll be wasting valuable keenness and foolishly ignoring your dignity and your purpose.
From The Teachings of Rumi edited by Andrew Harvey
One of the marvels of the world is
the sight of a soul sitting in prison with the key in its hand! Covered with dust,
with a cleansing waterfall inches away! A young man
who rolls from side to side,
though the bed is comfortable and a pillow holds his head.
He has a living master, yet
he wants more, and there is more. If a prisoner hadn't
lived outside, he would not
detest the dungeon. Desiring knows there's satisfaction beyond this. Straying maps
the path. A secret freedom opens through a crevice you
can barely see. Your love
of many things proves they're one. Every separate stiff
trunk and stem in the garden
connects with nimble root hairs underground. The awareness
a wine drinker wants cannot
be tasted in wine, but the failure brings deep thirst
closer. So the heart keeps ignoring
the waterfall and the key, but there is one guiding through
all the desiring restlessness.
The old captains are blind to the young man's qualities.
They keep arguing their tired
arguments: how spiritual maturity arrives like leaflessness,
the lightness of winter trees
that comes with age. Such predictable phrases breeze out of the old soldiers
who presume to advise Muhammad! Don't use words in the
presence of the Friend. When
you sit down with your beloved, tell the chaperone, the
word-woman who brought you
together, to leave. Silence is better.
From Book 5 of the Masnawi Translated by Coleman Barks in The Soul of Rumi
Whoever is loved is beautiful, but the opposite is not true, that whoever is beautiful is loved. Real beauty is part of loved-ness, and that loved-ness is primary. If a being is loved, he or she has beauty, because a part cannot be separate from the whole. Many girls were more beautiful than Laila, but Majnun did not love them. "Let us bring some of these to meet you," they used to say to Majnun, and he would reply, "It's not the form of Laila that I love. Laila is not the form. You're looking at the cup, whereas I think only of the wine I drink from that cup. If you gave me a chalice studded with gemstones, but filled with vinegar or something other than wine, what use would that be? An old broken dipper-gourd with Laila-wine in it is better than a hundred precious goblets full of other liquid."
Passion is present when a man can distinguish between the wine and the container. Two men see a loaf of bread. One hasn't eaten anything for ten days. The other has eaten five times a day, every day. He sees the shape of the loaf. The other man with his urgent need sees inside into the taste, and into the nourishment the bread could give. Be that hungry, to see within all beings the Friend.
Creatures are cups. The sciences and the arts and all branches of knowledge are inscriptions around the outside of the cups. When a cup shatters, the writing can no longer be read. The wine's the thing! The wine that's held in the mold of these physical cups. Drink the wine and know what lasts and what to love. The man who truly asks must be sure of two things: One, that he's mistaken in what he's doing or thinking now. And two, that there is a wisdom he doesn't know yet. Asking is half of knowing.
Everyone turns toward someone. Look for one scarred by the King's polo stick.
A man or a woman is said to be absorbed when the water has total control of him, and he no control of the water. A swimmer moves around willfully. An absorbed being has no will but the water's going. Any word or act is not really personal, but the way the water has of speaking or doing. As when you hear a voice coming out of a wall, and you know that it's not the wall talking, but someone inside, or perhaps someone outside echoing off the wall. Saints are like that. They've achieved the condition of a wall, or a door.
-Translated by Coleman Barks with A.J. Arberry
From Enlightened Mind Edited by Stephen Mitchell