Tag Archives: Rumi

Review: Rumi: Past and Present, East and West


Rumi: Past and Present, East and West
Rumi: Past and Present, East and West by Franklin D. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Impressive study and a must read to understand the life and poems by Rumi (Jalal al-Din)

By reading this study, I understood that Rumi was born in Balkh (currently located in Afghanistan) in 1207 AC. His family had to flee for the Huns – several years later Balkh was sacked by the Huns. Their journey had led via Mecca and Damascus to Konya (Turkey) where his father and later Rumi received a position as religieus jurist and teacher. Konya was regarded by the Islamic world as part of the Roman Empire: due to this fact Rumi is known under a name referring to the Roman Empire.

In 1244 Rumi had met the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi. This meeting had completely changed Rumi’s life from an established teacher and jurist into an religious mystic poet. In 1248 Shams-e Tabrizi had left Rumi never to be seen by Rumi.

In 1273 Rumi had died in Konya.

This study is an excellent introduction and guidance to the mystic poems of Rumi

View all my reviews

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Introduction: Narrator – on the way


Instead of a home

The moon and the starry sky

As steadfast mate

 – free to haiku by: Inoue Shirō

As long as I exist, there have been storytellers in my life. At home, at school, in the synagogue, in the Church, in books, in the classics of antiquity, in the Tanakh – the Bible of Judaism – and in the Talmud, I have heard of the experiences of the great storytellers. Next to my mother, the most influential storytellers in my life are: Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Siddhartha Gautama as Buddha, Muhammad as the Prophet and Messenger of God in the Islamic faith, Vyasa as writer of the Mahābhārata – the story of India –, Homer the poet and singer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Rumi or better Jalāl al-Dīn the poet of amongst others Masnavi.

Before I met Narrator in Istanbul, an extraordinary mathematician was the most wondrous storyteller in my life. With only a suitcase, he travelled from friend to friend for a few days home. Regularly he stayed a few nights with me in Amsterdam. He recounted about the difference between finiteness and infinity, about prime numbers, sets and zero. As a welcome gift he always gave me some of his mathematics books that he exchanged against a few technical books from my bookshelf. At our parting he asked sincerely if I didn’t mind that he had to leave now.

Narrator, I saw for the first time in the Süleyman mosque in Istanbul where he welcomed me with: “Here, air and earth are one”.  I replied: “This, that we are now”, whereby he swirled with rustling clothes.

Suleyman moskee1[1]

Suleyman moskee3[1]

That morning I had arrived in Istanbul on invitation by Carla Drift to start our Odyssey to “Who are you – a survey into our existence”. For the first time Carla Drift and I had met at a philosophy lecture given by Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen at the Technical University in Delft. Hereafter our lives regularly crossed; we helped each other where necessary and we always enjoyed each other’s company.

A few years ago, Carla began her nomadic existence in Europe with a Caravan-Tractor combination. On a clear icy cold night Carla saw a dark cold man in a sleeping bag by the side of the road. After she had saved him from an eternal dream, they travelled to Istanbul where had scheduled to start our Odyssey.

Narrator – εἰς τὴν Πόλιν on the way to “this”


My third incarnation as Bhikṣu or – in the words of everyday life – as wanderer who followed the annual trek of the birds, ended in Istanbul. In this former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire [1] I became part of the “polis” [2] – not only part of the City State with a public secular politics, but at home in the universal community of environment and people

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[3]

My Acropolis was not a temple where in the past the Greeks gave a house [4] to their Gods with all the splendour and exceptional beauty. Although I was at home everywhere, I found no lasting home in a church, mosque or temple.

Akropolis[5]

Between the many churches and mosques of Istanbul I experienced my body and “polis” – in the form of the universal living environment – as the temple of God [6].

Blauwe moskee[7]

In the poem “This we have now” by Rumi I read a reflection of my world in Istanbul:

This

That we are now

Created the body, cell by cell,

Like bees building a honeycomb.

The human body and the univers

Grow from This [8]

During my first three incarnations – first as Kṛṣṇa in Kenya, then as idol in Amsterdam and several Northern cities, and thereafter as Bhikṣu who followed the annual trek of the birds between South and North Europe – I had only seen reflections of “This” within my own living environment.

In my fourth incarnation I wanted to leave the protection of the cave [9] – in which I found shelter until now – with only reflections of the all-encompassing “This” as Plato described in his Politeia [10].

Grot[11]

Slowly at the beginning of my new incarnation I became perfectly included in the universe. In the libraries of Istanbul I read translations of the works of Rumi. Along with his poems I swirlingly began a new existence.

With the new spring – at the invitation of Carla Drift – Man Leben arrived in Istanbul. Carla, Man and I decided to start “Who are you – a survey into our existence”. Before we entered everyday life on this quest, we wrote each other’s biographies.


[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis

[3] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corne_d%27Or

[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis

[6] See also: The first letter to the Corinthians 12 – 20

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

[8] Part of the English version of the poem “This we have now” by Rumi. See also: Barks, Coleman, The Essential Rumi. New York: Castle Books, 1997, p. 262

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

[10] In English the Politeia is often translated with “State” or “Republic”. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staat_(Plato)

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

Narrator – on the way 2


After the death of Raven I spent every year’s winter in South Spain. In the spring I migrated with the birds to the North wandering the summer season in Northern Europe. The wind, the weather and the people I met on my way, gave direction to the temporary shelter in the northern cities.

Vogeltrek[1]

Regularly I visited Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. The volatile friends from the past were swept away from everyday life by the mysterious disease that had the name AIDS. Several old friends started another life without place for a wandering Bhikṣu. Usually I lived by the street with magic, storytelling and I had started singing.

My performance of Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas” [2], moved the audience. Parts of the text about shadows – during the night shadows of murdered villagers and in daytime shadows of lost beloved ones – was applicable on my life.

Let me be

Shadow of your shadow

Shadow of your hand

Shadow of your own. [3]

schaduwen[4]

After 18 years wintering in the South and in summertime wandering in the north, I was an adult in my third incarnation; each moment, hour, day, year was different and the same. Although I carried always the shadows from my previous life with me, this simple life rhythm gave some inner peace.

In the autumn I sang lines from “Ne me quitte pas” for an audience on the Leidseplein in Amsterdam:

I, I will give you

Pearls of rain

from lands

Where it never rains.[5]

After singing the words “from lands where it never rains” I knew that my mother had died. Her commandment to move to Amsterdam and its realisation had ended. I bowed to the audience and in honour of her memory I immediately set off “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” – to the city – to Istanbul [6]. From Istanbul I wished to move to Konia the following spring. It was time to swirl in the footsteps of Rumi [7].

Come, Come, whoever you are,

Wanderer, idolatrous narrator and worshipper of the golden glow,

Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,

Come, and come yet again.

Ours is not a caravan of despair. [8]

Derwish[9]

On the road to Istanbul I was accompanied by my mother, like Rumi wrote in a poem:

“My thoughts are in the heart of my mother,

the heart of her will be sick

without the thoughts of me”. [10]

The fourth incarnation in my life had begun. I deviated from my usual autumn migration to South Spain. That year, the winter started early in Middle Europe. Mid November there was already snow. On the way to Istanbul I became adrift by the cold. Early December it froze solid. I had nothing to eat. The next clear night at new moon my breath watched over me. The ghosts and shadows from my life temporary found peace. The frost took me in; earth and firmament were one.

Stone and stilled

Inside and outside

One in the cosmos

Sterrenhemel[11]


[1] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogelzug

[2] To be listened via: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za_6A0XnMyw

[3] Source: Own translation of the last lines from Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas”.

[4] Source image: http://bat-smg.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abruozdielis:Southwark_Park_Evening_Shadows.JPG

[5] Source: translation of the first lines from the second verse of “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel.

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

[7] Jalāl ad-Dīn – in the West known as Rumi – was born near Balkh in Afghanistan in the 13th century CE. His parents fled for the Huns. Jalāl ad-Dīn received the name Rumi in the Arab world because he lived in Konia South of Ankara in the current Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arabic world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. Hence Jalāl ad-Dīn is named after the name of his main domicile in the Arab/Persian world. Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

[8] Free rendering of verses by Rumi. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi en Rumi and His Sufi Path of Love (2007) by M Fatih Citlak and Huseyin Bingul, p. 81

[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dervish

[10] Free rendering of a poem by Rumi. Source: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starry_Night

Narrator – All ways lead to Rome


From the harbour of Alexandria I left Africa to never return again. I travelled by boat to Valletta in Malta and then with another boat to Rome. For the first time I was fully surrounded by water; constantly there was the cradles of the boat and the sloshing of waves. In the boat, I was again contained in the womb; I grew to a new life in another world. During day I napped in the shade and at night I watched the starry night and the moon. In silence I prepared for.

All-encompassing  Rome received me with open arms. Enclosed in the Catholic habits the afterlife was awaiting. Many habits were different than in Kenya, but for me it was a continuation of my heavenly school years at the nuns.

[1]

In that autumn and winter I did not discover the world of Rome, but Rome entrusted itself to me. Later on our quest to “Who are you”, I read in a book a short passage that reflects my life in Rome: “Is it a foregone conclusion that the discovery of the world only comes from our side? Why would not the world entrusts itself to us to be discovered?” [2]. Jalāl al-Dīn – in the Western and Muslim world better known as Rumi [3] – wrote: “Rome is always decaying and growing for You, and how should a man plead with You for the sake of a single man’s soul?” [4]

[5]

In Rome, the earthiness was linked to vanity and grandeur. During day and evening I worked in the kitchen of a posh restaurant.

[6]

In early morning I walked down the streets and I looked at the buildings from different times. During night I slept outdoors in parks and regularly there was a lover where I could stay.

[7]

That winter there was lots of rain in Rome and I saw the first snow in my life. I was astonished about the abundance of water.

[8]

The following spring it was possible to continue my voyage to Amsterdam. The roads to the North were passable again. I began my voyage from Rome to Amsterdam by foot.


[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome

[2] Bron: Safranski Rüdiger, Heidegger en zijn Tijd. Amsterdam: Olympus, 2012, vijfde druk p. 34

[3] Jalāl al-Dīn has been given the name Rumi in the Arab world, because he lived in Konia, south of Ankara in Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arab world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

[4] Free rendering of Poem 78 from: Arberry, A,J, Mystical Poems of  Rūmī, Volume 1. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991 p. 69

[5] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_(stad)

[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome

[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome

Man Leben – Oriental wisdom 2


Alles gelebt was man leben kann?

Lived everything what you can live?

You continue with the story of your life:

“In the previous post I told how I explored Oriental wisdom. I have mentioned my preference for mavericks. The meaning of the mavericks “ya, ra, la, va and ha” in the Devanāgarī alphabet express my experiences at that stage of my life. In examining the meaning of “la” – meaning in Sanskrit “of Indra”– and consulting several sources, I encountered the meanings of Indra. Indra means “God of heaven” or “Svargaloka” [1]. Indra is often depicted seating on a multi-headed elephant.

[2]

Now I explain the underlying meanings of svargaloka, because this gives light on the developments in my life around the death of my aunt and my godmother.

Svargaloka is composed of the words “svarga” meaning in Sanskit amongst others: heaven, the residence of light and of the gods, heavenly bliss, Indra’s heaven (where the souls of virtuous mortals go before they return in earthly bodies) and “loka” which means: free or open space, the universe, of number 7 – which we encounter later on our Odyssey. The world has three loka’s: the sky/heaven, the earth and the underworld.

Svarga is composed of the parts:

  • Sva: meaning “own, one’s self/Self, the human soul”.
  • Ra: meaning “give, love, desire, motion, brightness, splendour”,
  • Ga: meaning “abiding in, staying” [16]

On the basis of these parts, “svarga” is the residence of our/your own being in all its splendour. The svargaloka is heaven, earth and underworld – all, everywhere and one – in all its manifestations. Here and now, it shows its splendor.

Around 1993, I studied Jalâl al-Din who is better known as Rumi. He has been given the name Rumi in the Arab world, because he lived in Konia, south of Ankara in Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arab world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. That is the reason why Jalâl al-Din is better known after the name under which his whereabouts is named in the Arab/Persian world [3]. In Chapter 7 we meet Rumi on our Odyssey.

[4]

In a book about the life of Rumi I read: “Love for the dead is not lasting. Keep your love (fixed) on the Living One who increases spiritual life [5] . At that time this way of seeing was for me one half of the mirror. I lived completely in our/Your own being in all its splendour. I was in the svarga one with the wind, the light, my parents and foreparents; the entire universe was omnipresent.

The other half of the mirror was formed by a passage from the Diamond Sutra: “The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable and the future is ungraspable [6]“. The past is fixed in solidified glass; of course, our view on the past changes continuously, but a carefree life in Amsterdam with my father and mother as a five year old boy is no longer possible. Occasionally in dreams or with a particular taste – think of the madeleine biscuits in À la recherche du temp perdue of Marcel Proust – or with a particular smell, as a miracle the images and experiences of that lost world emerge in me. “Only in the present I can live, nowhere else I found shelter” [7]; sailing on the wind over the waves we experience the present: try to grab the “here and now” and it is gone. The future is ungraspable as the flower in the bud: the flower manifests itself in all its glory once and for all when circumstances permit – not earlier and not later. The flower arises from the void, flourishes in the void and passes away into the void. This elusiveness reminds me of the text that we encountered earlier in our Odyssey [8]: “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [9]  or in English: “The mystery is great, without doubt it transcends us.”

In that time I experienced life fully, overwhelming and transparent. Or shown by a metaphor, both these images in the mirrors – which were placed at a 90-degree angle – were a reflection of my experiences. The mirrors were empty [10].

In the past I thought that if people or things had a name, they also got a place or a destination. On our Odyssey we will encounter this way of seeing a number of times.

In that time I also studied the Hua-yan school of Buddhism [11] and read texts about Indra’s net [12], that is a metaphor for the emptiness of all things and living beings. This void has two sides: it is “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” [13]. Both these sides are similar to “freedom from” and “freedom to” as explained “ Escape from Freedom [14]” from Erich Fromm.

[15]

By these insights I was freed from the latent feelings of guilt about my existence, mainly because my immediate family – with the exception of my aunt – had not survived the other government in Germany. Until then, there was always the question: “How did I deserve to be still alive”. At the same time, I evaded the question for the meaning and reason of this dark, dark, dark history. The religion of my parents offered me no interpretation: I could not say with conviction the verses of Kaddish including “Thou art the glory” and “The world is created according to His will”. For saying these texts I had to identify “You/His” with  “the wind” and “the water”.

This insight helped me organizing my aunt’s funeral. Her funeral was attended by many old acquaintances – as far as still alive. Also some distant relatives were present. I was the only immediate family. For her I have said a whole year with conviction the daily prayers according to the Jewish remembrance of the dead. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there.

I also attended the funeral and mourning services for my godmother. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there. It was a beautiful Catholic funeral in the tradition of South Limburg.

After these funerals I went to Auschwitz”, you say.

“I can follow your view of Oriental wisdom, but for the time I let my mind in the middle if I can agree with this view”, I say.

“Buddhism is the Middle Way; consent with my view of Oriental wisdom is not asked for. I look forward to what the continuation of our Odyssey will bring. It will be a homecoming for me”, you say.

The next post is about your visit to Auschwitz.


[1] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

[3] Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi

[5] Free rendering from: Iqbal, Afzal, The Life and Works of Jalaluddin – Rumi. London: The Octagon Press, 1983 p. 239.

[6] Free rendering from: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Diamond Sutra. New York: Counterpoint, 2001 pag.308

[7] Free rendering from the first two lines from the poem “Woninglooze – Homeless” from Jan Jacob Slauerhoff. See for the text of the poem: http://4umi.com/slauerhoff/woninglooze

[8] See the posts: “Three – Object in the middle – The Word” from 11 Juni 2011; and “A day without yesterday –a day without tomorrow?” from 3 Juli 2011.

[9] Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/ encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_ eucharistia_lt .html:  Ionnis Pauli PP. II Summi Pontificis, Litterae Encyclicae Ecclesia de  Eucharistia, Rome, 2003

[10] See: Wetering, Janwillem van de, De Lege Spiegel. Amsterdam: De Driehoek p. 118 – 120

[11] Sources: Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993; Cleary, Thomas, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Boston:  Shambhala, 2002 and : Cook, Francis, Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977

[12] See also the posts “One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” from 8 April 2011 and “One – “Powers of Ten”” from 10 April 2011

[13] See for “empty to”: Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988 p. 8, 9

[14] See page 91 in the Dutch version of “Fromm, Erich, Escape from Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941” published by Bijleveld in Utrecht, 1973.

[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[16] Source: elektronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

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Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Church


In the previous post you and I have met the role of the house as “object in the middle”. The role of the home has changed over the years from the environment where we live to a habitation. This habitation in the form of a house is seen by our ancestors as a safe haven and as a reference point from where the world is experienced. Recently, people started to identify with their home: they give shape to the house and the house expresses who they are. Our society demands of us more and more that we have a nationality and a permanent home and residence. Without these assets, people are not treated as full citizens.

Now you and I are looking into the role of the house of God as “object in the middle”.  The first sacred places, we have already seen. We have encountered sacred stones on our Odyssey. We remember the stone circles as places for ceremonies which we no longer know.

[1]

We also know the golden calf as an image of a (demi-) god [2]. We have read in the Old Testament about Yahweh who is present between the tips of angel wings above the lost Ark of the Covenant,.

Probably the hunter-gatherers have already given shelter to Gods. We have read about rituals performed by the hunter-gatherers to unite the hunters with their prey as redemption for killing of the prey, and to maintain the unique bond between prey and hunter for both their survival. The rituals may be performed at specific times and places. These sites may be seen as a precursor to the house of God. The many caves with paintings of hunting scenes are a next step towards a house of God. Probably, these paintings also had a religious background.

Many nomadic peoples have travelled around with their herds. They may also have known fixed holy sites. And probably they have seen sacred sites of established residents. Have they identified themselves with the gods of the established residents and the hunter-gatherers? Probably not, but maybe they have adopted some elements of the faith of other people. As nomads, they will have carried their sacred objects on the travels with their herds. In their tents special places are reserved for shrines. One example is the Ark of the Covenant that the Jews carried around on the travels and place in a tent during stages. Even in the temple in Jerusalem, the ark is placed with poles on both sides as a reminder and a preparation for a new travel.

The form of Islamic mosques reminds you and me of temporary stays – large tents and outposts to indicate the entrance point – in a desert. These mosques are transferred in imposing houses of Allah with courts and outbuildings around. An example is the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul.

[3]

Farmers with fixed fields are moving into permanent habitations. Also the gods receive their private habitations. The recognition of the house of Gods does not happen overnight. When we visit the oldest stave church at Urnes in Norway, the guide explains that the woodwork of the church is decorated with dragon motifs on the outside to keep the many evil spirits outside. This is necessary in the long dark winters. The Vikings have to leave their swords outside next to the door. Inside the church has only a few small lights from above. In that light a wooden crucifix is seen from which redemption and access to the afterlife may come. The priests at that time do try to change the image of Valhalla – the hall where the honorary fallen soldiers during battle continue eating, drinking and fighting to the end of time – into a longing for deliverance from sin and a Christian view of the afterlife. The blue paint color – lapis lazuli – on the wooden crucifix from around the 12th century AD comes from Afghanistan according to the guide.

During the explanation of the guide I think of Jalāl al-Dīn – also known as Rumi, who is born around the same time in Vaksh in Balkh Province in Afghanistan. Probably Rumi transcends the “object in the middle” in his contact with Allah: “My thoughts are in the heart of Allah, the heart of Allah will be sick without the thoughts of me [4]”. Later on our Odyssey more about this.

When we leave this church, you say: “Those light openings under the roof remind me of a saying by Oscar Wild:” We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars “.

[5]

“Do you remember the first rays of the sun at 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day of spring? [6]” I ask.

“Whenever I visit a church.” You answer.

The next message continues on churches as “object in the middle”.


[1] Source of image: Marieke Grijpink

[2] See the previous post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1” on 5th of May 2011

[3] Source image: http://www.islamleer.nl/islaam/biografie/geleerdenoverigen/758-kanuni-sultan-suleyman-i

[4] See: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[5] Source image: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/urnes-stave-church

[6] See the last post on “Two” on 25th of April 2011