Few can give the shock treatment a Sufi dervish is capable of. Not concerned with the intellect, or written words, a Sufi master will teach a lesson through the most unexpected manner, through a commonplace story, rather than choosing big words and complex ideas.
Here’s a beautiful anecdote immortalised in the poetry of Rumi, an immortal name in Sufi line of prophets and poets:
“A dervish knocked at a house to ask for a piece of dry bread, or moist, it didn’t matter.
“This is not a bakery,” said the owner.
“Might you have a bit of gristle then?”
“Does this look like a butchershop?”
“A little flour?”
“Do you hear a grinding stone?”
“This is not a well.”
Whatever the dervish asked for, the man made some tired joke and refused to give him anything.
Finally the dervish ran in the house, lifted his robe, and squatted as though to take a shit.
“Quiet, you sad man. A deserted place is a fine spot to relieve oneself, and since there’s no living thing here, or means of living, it needs fertilizing.”
You haggle and make jokes to keep what you own for yourself.
You have forgotten the One who doesn’t care about ownership, who doesn’t try to turn a profit from every human exchange.”
A handful of people are known ‘Sufis‘ – mystics who rather prefer to live in seclusion.
A small percentage of Sufis become revered Sufi saints.
And an even smaller percentage of Sufi saints are known worldwide for their poetry.
Mevlana Rumi is among the smaller percentage of Sufi mystics, whose mysticism tears down the walls of religions, whose poetry inflames a deep fire we run away from daily, whose love for God and his master is deep and soulful.
Simple, to the point, and lyrical, the fountain of poetry exploded in Rumi’s heart when he came in contact with his master, Shams-e-Tabriz.
As it turns out, Rumi was a popular scholar turned poet, whose poetic genious was revealed to him after his unquenchable thirst for God was ignited by his master.
“I used to want buyers for my words,
Now I wish someone would buy me away from words”.
Story-telling, a craft used by Sufis, offers an amusing lesson to the reader, in the most shocking way.
Nostalgia is a sweet ailment. Only twisted minds savour the bitter-sweet taste of past. But, sometimes, it is all you can do. Especially when you get to stay in your home town again.
Staying in this idyllic city of Nangal made my childhood an extraordinary experience.
But, I didn’t know it at that time. I was busy daydreaming about the “perfect adult life”. Yet, I still had moments of absolute calm and happiness:
an adventurous hike to the school, cycling around the beautiful town lined by the gigantic river Satluj, the hospital nearby where we played hide and seek (maternity ward is the safest spot!), a passionate Biology teacher who took us to multiple bio-hikes (he could tell the name of each and every plant in the town and beyond), and a teacher of English literature who didn’t just read poetry.
He savoured every word of a poem, created a big spectacle out of it, and made me fall in love with English literature every single day.
I remember a poem that he narrated to us. It felt like the poem was the only thing that mattered at that moment.
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes:
“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding— …”
“The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor”, has stayed with me for longer than I imagined. But the best was yet to come;
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night, But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day, Then look for me by moonlight, Watch for me by moonlight, I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”
I can still hear the suppressed giggling of my classmates when he decided to dramatically blow a kiss.
I guess that’s what nostalgia is all about! Many of my classmates have gone ahead, and became engineers and doctors.
Yet I still find myself there, sitting in that class over and over again : awestruck, giggling, trying to memorise every single word in the “Oxford dictionary”, and falling in love with poetry as we know it.
The epic movie “Dead poet’s society” is as close as it can get, to the kind of passionate childhood we got to live. Sir Prasad to me, is an epitome of the art of teaching, and in his own ways, he clearly conveyed the “secret” to those of us who were listening:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
“To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’
Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?”
The question is still relevant,.“What will your verse be?”
I remember it. My first glimpse of Sufism. An unusual book was lying on the table, with the name “Bulleh Shah” printed on it. The name struck a chord. Just like the name “Rumi” did later on. Bit by bit, poem by poem, the love for his poetry solidified into supreme devotion, and a new gate opened for me – the golden gate of Sufi ecstasy!
So, who is a Sufi ?
Is he the one immersed in deep meditative silence? Or is he the one whirling in a divine ecstasy? Or perhaps the one whose dance has solidified into a deep silence?
As waves upon my head the circling curl,So in the sacred dance weave ye and whirl.Dance then, O heart, a whirling circle be.Burn this flame - is not the candle he?
A Sufi can be just anybody: a wanderer, a saint, a beggar, a poet, an ascetic. He can easily fit into any of these categories. Or he can transcended all these mind-imposed categories & move into the realm of nothingness.
“The Guest House” by Rumi is a stroke of genius, an enchanting lyric, a masterpiece that started a life-long addiction to Rumi and his works.
The Guesthouse by Mewlava Jallaludin Rumi
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 sentas a guide from beyond.
Note: The image has been sourced from the Internet. No infringement intended.