Drunkenly along the Sufi Path of Love
18 spiritual couplets and 18 selected ghazals
Molana Jalaleddin Rumi Balkhi
a brief life of Rumi, glimpses of his masterpiece, the Masnavi,
and a sketch of the life of Shams
Mohsen Khatami & Prem Shashi
With special gratitude and appreciation to:
Arya Khatami, without whose patience, good will and computer-related expertise
and skills this work could never have been realised
Alireza Orang for helping us out with the calligraphy
when all the technical odds seemed stacked against us
Simon Baker for his generous-hearted and meticulous editing
Thanks also to Muslim Poonawala, Swami Deva Urja,
Hooman Kalantari, ‘Reza Matrix’, Guido Mina di Sospiro,
Philippa Mitchell, Gerald Lester, Katy Emck and Gillian Corderoy
for their advice, help and support along the way….
We offer this ‘carpet’
to all seekers of truth – which is nothing but love.
We hope this collection can assist you on your journey,
and we would be delighted to hear any stories
about your ‘flights’ with this ‘carpet’!
Love and light
Mohsen Khatami Ma Prem Shashi
Pune, India, May 2004
Table of contents
Introduction by Mohsen Khatami
This magic carpet 9
Introduction by Prem Shashi
These magic circles 13
A taste of Sufism 17
18 Masnavi couplets and 18 ghazals
1 With ego, without ego 23
2 The Beloved is coming 29
3 Hearts like whales 33
4 That house and this house 37
5 How can I be a man? 41
6 Pour the wine 47
7 The hidden treasure 51
8 Birds who have flown 57
9 Become a myth, become a myth 61
10 Wine of love 67
11 Die, die in this love 71
12 Dancing from nothingness into being 75
13 The spring of my Lord 79
14 Circle of lovers 83
15 Breaking free 87
16 How drunk we are! 91
17 Love and reason 95
18 Divine physicians 99
Life of Rumi
From the love of wisdom to the wisdom of love 103
A glimpse at Rumi’s masterpiece
An ocean of Sufi wine: the Masnavi 125
Fragments from the life of Shams
Sun of truth and mystical midwife 135
Footnotes for the spiritual couplets and ghazals 153
Index of Sufi concepts 182
Mandala titles and details 184
This magic carpet
Look at me! Look at me! I’ve come back to take away your sadness;
I return full of joy, I return full of joy – I return free from everything
Like every Persian, I first encountered Rumi’s verse in my school days,
when his melodious stories and parables formed a key part of my literature classes.
Although I enjoyed the poetry and the surface meaning of his works even then,
my schoolteachers certainly said nothing about the esoteric significance
embedded in the rhythmical rhyming couplets.
It was not until many years later that I came across Rumi once more,
when a growing interest in spirituality drew me into Sufi dervish circles.
This new context made me aware of the deeper message of Molana Rumi
(Molana, meaning ‘our master’, is the affectionate name
by which Rumi is popularly known in Iran).
But the turning point came in 1991, when I began reading the works of ‘Molana’ Osho.
The 20th-century Indian mystic’s radical message that we should live life in the here and now, filling it with love, laughter, music, dance and celebration,
showed me Rumi’s poetry in a new light.
I realised Rumi was giving the same life-affirming teaching to 12th-century seekers.
And indeed his simple, bold and brave expression of his experiences with the divine
has been a source of delight and inspiration for millions ever since.
About two years ago I was contemplating translating a few selected poems by Rumi,
to reveal the essential vision of the master and illustrate some basic Sufi concepts
in simple English. Perhaps rendering about 45 volumes of Osho’s discourses
into my mother tongue, Persian – or Farsi, had made me daring enough
to consider undertaking such a challenging task.
Meeting the beautiful soul Prem Shashi a few months later was a definite sign
that the time had come for such an endeavour. When I saw her painted mandalas
I was inspired with the idea of harmonising some translations of Rumi’s
verse with the ‘whirling tone’ of her lovely, meditative designs.
As she combines being an artist with being a writer/editor/translator,
a ‘whirler’ a musician and a native English-speaker,
I felt sure she could help me to realise this project.
This book is the result of many magical moments we spent together,
absorbing the intoxicating poems of Molana Rumi, and ‘weaving’
them into the present new English versions.
We jokingly refer to our work as ‘weaving’ and to this book as a ‘carpet’ –
a flying carpet maybe! Perhaps you will become ‘drunk’ too,
and fly with its wings of love and wisdom.
As our beloved Rumi says: “Do not see us with the eyes in your head,
see us with your secret eyes…..” So please read this work also with your “secret eyes”,
and tell us freely all your feelings, opinions, suggestions,
criticisms and corrections of it.
Any such gifts would be much appreciated.
I am truly grateful to my beloved collaborator for contributing her dazzling mandalas,
her overall insight and compassion, and her conscientiousness and precision
in the work of ‘weaving’. This ‘weaving’ is much more than just editing;
it involves understanding the concepts and expressing them with clarity and elegance.
One thing is certain: without her,
this colourful ‘carpet’ would never have existed!
I hope you will enjoy absorbing the essence of the Sufi message
of love and meditating on these beautiful mandalas,
and that you may also take a wonderful trip upon this ‘carpet’,
woven with love and care.
Pune, India, May 2004
These magic circles
When Mohsen suggested this book project to me,
my initial reaction was to ask what on earth the connection might be
between his translations of the Sufi mystic Rumi and my mandalas,
ultimately derived from Buddhist tradition.
A moment later though, it dawned on me that I am myself
a living proof of the hidden link between these two
seemingly very different spiritual paths.
For, in my life in India, when I am not painting mandalas (or editing works on Rumi),
there is a good chance that I will be whirling like a dervish –
a Sufi meditation technique attributed to Rumi himself. And, for me,
whirling is the active, ecstatic Sufi approach, and creating mandalas the quiet,
reflective Buddhist approach, to the same spiritual work.
Both are tools in the search for the eye of the chaotic whirlwind within our minds,
the silent centre that is the seat of our being.
And a whirling skirt is as circular as a mandala is.
When I am whirling, I often feel myself to be quite still at the centre of the vortex
that is the world. I also feel the Sufi’s ecstasy in the dance,
especially when we are whirling – to beautiful Sufi music
that frequently features settings of Rumi’s ghazals – beneath the spinning, sun-dappled treetops, or under the moon and stars, as we sometimes do in Osho Meditation Resort.
When I am working on the mandalas I find the disciplines of the intricate and regularly repeating design, held within a circle, and the practice of always working
outwards from the centre, help subtly to keep me centred,
and bring a calm coolness associated with the meditative path of Buddhism.
Contemplating the finished designs gives a sense of the dance of existence that may be elaborate, or even chaotic, but nonetheless always obeys a hidden harmony –
an insight with which no Sufi could disagree.
This contemplation is the true function of the mandala: it serves as an aid to meditation,
a sort of trap for the mind. Its vivid colours and intricate pattern of shapes
attract the mind and hold it within the circle, at the same time
drawing it repeatedly towards the still point at the centre.
So I accepted Mohsen’s invitation, and have greatly enjoyed working –
with a man who so clearly embodies the Sufi message of love – on this, our magic carpet.
(Many Persian carpets, are also adaptations – or elongations – of the mandala form,
and the stunning tiles decorating mosques such as the Grand Mosque of Isfahan,
in Iran, are also exquisite mandalas.)
There is another connection between my mandalas and Persian carpets.
Traditionally, such carpets always contained a deliberate ‘error’,
to remind us that they were the work of mere humans,
who could not rival the flawless creations of Allah.
My mandalas, being hand-drawn, similarly feature small irregularities.
For me though, child of another age, such ‘flaws’ reflect rather the ‘hand-drawn’ symmetries of nature itself, in contrast with the inhuman regularity of a machine-generated image.
Most of the time the eye, one of nature’s most miraculous hand-drawn precision tools, generously overlooks these small irregularities, but they are always there – as they are in all the handy works of nature – and give a secret life to the design.
(Where the backgrounds and multiple colour versions in this volume
are concerned though, I confess I had a great deal of fun playing on the computer.)
Choosing a mandala for each ghazal was a wholly intuitive process –
I hope some of the echoes we felt will resonate with a wider public.
The names the mandalas bear are quotations drawn from the ghazals to which they are related. Once chosen, Rumi’s words seemed almost magically to add new depth
and significance to the designs, but, in essence, like the ghazals,
As Rumi and his work belong within the spiritual tradition of Sufism,
we felt that some outline of Sufism should be given here.
While our own overview follows, for the inner essence,
we have turned to the words of a contemporary enlightened master, Osho.
The fact that this book is a by-product of our common love for Him
makes it easier simply to quote Him!
There are many different ways to define Sufism – some scholarly, some historic,
some deeply esoteric. For us, in essence, Sufism is a path to enlight-enment characterised
by its emphasis on the power of love as a tool for transformation – in daily practical life,
as well as in the inner work on oneself.
The Path of Love, as it is also called, is in fact the esoteric face of Islam,
though it is often in direct contradiction – and conflict – with the exoteric or orthodox versions of that religion. In place of the rituals of orthodox Islam Sufis use singing and dancing
(notably zekr – chanting the names of Allah – and samaa, or whirling)
and ecstasy to express devotion to a god who is not a remote father figure,
but a divine feminine presence through out all nature and Creation –
more like a mother goddess, or an intimate friend or beloved.
Sufi teachings and practices are traditionally transmitted directly from a master
to his or her disciple, who thus undertakes a gradual journey towards
the same human transcendence or enlightenment as was found by the Buddha,
or, in the last century, by Osho. One of the central pillars of this path is ecstasy,
a sort of spiritual drunkenness, symbolised in Sufi writings by reference to wine.
This drunkenness, sometimes achieved through zekr or samaa, is also one of the symptoms of Sufi love and is in effect a way of ‘going beyond the mind’, as Osho would have put it.
Osho has described his own sannyasins as “the Sufis of the new age”, and emphasises
that the kind of love required by this Path of Love is far from the mundane,
self-interested delusions that pass for ‘love’ in our society.
Rather, it is eshq, a love so intense that the lover becomes totally lost in it,
goes mad in it, and is ready to surrender his life to it: “This is the whole Sufi alchemy:
how to create eshq in you, how to create such passion
that you can ride on the wave of it and reach to the ultimate.”
And if you would like to understand the essence of Sufism,
please accept these words from a realised soul who says:
“I am not a Mohammedan, obviously, but I am a Sufi all the same.”
“A Sufi need not be a Mohammedan. A Sufi can exist anywhere, in any form –
because Sufism is the essential core of all religions. It has nothing to do with Islam in particular. Sufism can exist without Islam; Islam cannot exist without Sufism. Without Sufism, Islam is a corpse. Only with Sufism does it become alive.
“Whenever a religion is alive it is because of Sufism. Sufism means a love affair with God,
with the ultimate; a love affair with the whole.
It means that one is ready to dissolve into the whole, that one is ready to invite the whole to come into one’s heart. It knows no formality. It is not confined by any dogma, doctrine, creed or church. Christ is a Sufi, so is Mohammed. Krishna is a Sufi, so is Buddha….Sufism is the innermost core – as Zen is, as Hasidism is. These are only different names of the same ultimate relationship with God.”
Osho – Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1
The warp and the weft of this work
The content of this book is designed and presented in a slightly idiosyncratic manner.
We have taken the first 18 couplets of Rumi’s masterpiece, Masnavi Manavi –
as they are said to encapsulate the essence of the whole work –
and placed each of them with a selected ghazal.
The choice and sequence of these ghazals is purely intuitive,
as is their relationship with the mandala reproduced at the start of each chapter.
The couplets of the Masnavi are presented in three ‘languages’: the original Farsi,
or Persian, followed by the English translation and then a ‘Finglish’ version –
to give non-Farsi speakers an idea of the musical rhythms of Rumi’s mother tongue.
The ghazals are presented in English alone.
Where the style of the translations is concerned, we have kept it as literal as possible,
while loosening it enough to give our English version a certain poetry of its own. For the transliteration of Farsi/Arabic words, we have adopted the principle of writing them in English as close to their actual sound in Farsi as possible.
There may therefore be some variance between them
and other standard transliterations of these words.
Following the series of 18 couplets and ghazals, is a chapter on the life of Rumi,
a brief glimpse at the Masnavi – including a number of additional
translated couplets on love – and a look at Rumi’s mysterious master, Shams,
who inspired most of the ghazals in this book.
We have also included some footnotes to aid in the comprehension
of the couplets and ghazals, and an index to the key Sufi concepts covered.
An alternative way to fly this carpet
Many great spiritual books are popularly used for divination.
The famous Divan of Hafez (1325-1389), another Persian Sufi poet,
is a special favourite among Iranians even today.
The technique employed is simply to ask specific guidance from the spirit of the author,
then to open the book at random and read the words on the page that is opened.
Often these words seem almost miraculously to apply to the matter in question.
In our experience, the works of Osho also have this quality.
We hope that perhaps these translated words of Rumi might function in the same way.