Translations on this page from the books, The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, and The Glance and The Soul of Rumi by Coleman Barks.
The Self We Share
Thirst is angry with water. Hunger bitter
with bread.The cave wants nothing to do
with the sun. This is dumb, the self-
defeating way we've been. A gold mine is
calling us into its temple. Instead, we
bend and keep picking up rocks from the
ground. Every thing has a shine like gold,
but we should turn to the source! The
origin is what we truly are. I add a little
vinegar to the honey I give. The bite of
scolding makes ecstasy more familiar. But
look, fish, you're already in the ocean:
just swimming there makes you friends with
glory. What are these grudges about? You
are Benjamin. Joseph has put a gold cup
in your grain sack and accused you of being
a thief. Now he draws you aside and says,
"You are my brother. I am a prayer. You're
the amen." We move in eternal regions, yet
worry about property here. This is the
prayer of each: You are the source of my
life. You separate essence from mud. You
honor my soul. You bring rivers from the
mountain springs. You brighten my eyes. The
wine you offer takes me out of myself into
the self we share. Doing that is religion.
The Seed Market
Can you find another market like this?
with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
for one seed
get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
a divine wind?
You've been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it's still water
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It's a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry at once, quickly,
for God's sake!
Don't postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.
No amount of searching
will find this.
A perfect falcon, for no reason
has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Photo by: Muenchphotography.com
Two Kinds of Intelligence
There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
Below are teaching stories and longer poems. All are translated by Coleman Barks.
A certain person came to the Friend's door
The Friend answered, "Go away. There's no place
for raw meat at this table."
The individual went wandering for a year.
Nothing but the fire of separation
can change hypocrisy and ego. The person returned
walked up and down in front of the Friend's house,
"Who is it?"
"Please come in, my self,
there's no place in this house for two.
The doubled end of the thread is not what goes through
the eye of the needle.
It's a single-pointed, fined-down, thread end,
not a big ego-beast with baggage."
The Dream That Must Be Interpreted
This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.
But there's a difference with this dream.
Everything cruel and unconscious
done in the illusion of the present world,
all that does not fade away at the death-waking.
and it must be interpreted.
All the mean laughing,
all the quick, sexual wanting,
those torn coats of Joseph,
they change into powerful wolves
that you must face.
The retaliation that sometimes comes now,
the swift, payback hit,
is just a boy's game
to what the other will be.
You know about circumcision here.
It's full castration there!
And this groggy time we live,
this is what it's like:
A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived, and he dreams he's living
in another town.
In the dream, he doesn't remember
the town he's sleeping in his bed in. He believes
the reality of the dream town.
The world is that kind of sleep.
The dust of many crumbled cities
settles over us like a forgetful doze,
but we are older than those cities.
as a mineral. We emerged into plant life
and into the animal state, and then into being human,
and always we have forgotten our former states,
except in early spring when we slightly recall
being green again.
That's how a young person turns
toward a teacher. That's how a baby leans
toward the breast, without knowing the secret
of its desire, yet turning instinctively.
Humankind is being led along an evolving course,
through this migration of intelligences,
and though we seem to be sleeping,
there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream,
and that will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.
The Taste of Morning
Time's knife slides from the sheath,
as fish from where it swims.
Being closer and closer is the desire
of the body. Don't wish for union!
There's a closeness beyond that. Why
would God want a second God? Fall in
love in such a way that it frees you
from any connecting. Love is the soul's
light, the taste of morning, no me, no
we, no claim of being. These words
are the smoke the fire gives off as it
absolves its defects, as eyes in silence,
tears, face. Love cannot be said.
Shadow and Light Source Both
How does a part of the world leave the world?
How does wetness leave water? Dont' try to
put out fire by throwing on more fire! Don't
wash a wound with blood. No matter how fast
you run, your shadow keeps up. Sometimes it's
in front! Only full overhead sun diminishes
your shadow. But that shadow has been serving
you. What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is
your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.
I could explain this, but it will break the
glass cover on your heart, and there's no
fixing that. You must have shadow and light
source both. Listen, and lay your head under
the tree of awe. When from that tree feathers
and wings sprout on you, be quieter than
a dove. Don't even open your mouth for even a coo.
Who Says Words With My Mouth?
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
This poetry, I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.