Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Love of Your Eloquence

by Jalāluddīn Maulānā Rūmī
   [13th century]

Your resplendent face
   has become my soul’s mirror;
Your Soul, and my soul:
   the two have become one.
O completely full Moon,
   the heart’s home is You!
Once, the intellect ruled
   as distinguished master; 
it is now Your servant,
   and the guard at Your door. 
Though water and clay
   have made me forgetful of You,
since that day when You said:
   “Am I not your Lord?”*
my soul has been drunk
   on the beauty of Your face.
Now the water is clear;
   the clay has settled
to the bottom of the pond.
   I have ceased saying:
“This is mine, that is yours.”
   Now, the Emperor of Rūm
has crushed the Ethiopians.**
   May the triumphal reign
of Your felicity endure forever!
   O You, whose cheek
is like the Moon! My lament
   is renewed without end –
for I have become veiled
   by the love of Your eloquence.

Ghazal no. 61, F-2243

[my translation]

[l. 11] Water and clay both belong to our body, which is the vehicle or instrument by which our eternal soul can exist on earth and experience life through the senses. At death, we leave both water and clay behind. In this sense, clay is our solid and opaque material body, and water our subtle and transparent energetic body. During existence on earth, our soul is perceiving existence through the body, both material and subtle together. When we become attached to material things, our subtle body becomes troubled and restless, mixed with the heaviness of materiality. Then in that state our soul cannot see clearly through its vehicle of embodiment. The soul becomes blinded by material existence, since the subtle body, which in itself is transparent, is made opaque by its mixture with materiality. But when one surrenders attachment to materiality (that is, when one stops clinging to things and thinking in terms of “This is mine, that is yours”), the material body (the clay) stops being agitated and settles to the bottom. Then the subtle body (the water) can flow more freely, and it recovers its natural transparency, and is then receptive to the divine light. By means of the transparency, fluidity and receptiveness of the subtle body, the soul can then behold God’s light through the frame of bodily existence on Earth, without being veiled by the opacity of the material body.

[l. 14] The Day of “Am I not?” (Alastu) refers to the Quranic story of Gods creation of humankind from Adam: And [remember, O Prophet,] when your Lord brought forth from the loins of the children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, [asking them:] Am I not your Lord? and they replied: Yes, we do bear witness. [That covenant was taken] lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, We were not aware of this (Quran 7:172). Rūmī is saying: ever since You showed Your Face to me, my soul has been in love with You, although this world (i.e. water and clay) has distracted me from you.

[l. 22] The Emperor of Rūm (Qayṣar-i Rūmī) is a symbol of the realized human, whose soul is turned towards God and ruled by Him, while the Ethiopians symbolize the human still ruled by desires and preoccupied with the material world, hence dark-faced. Rūm (Byzantium) was the name of the region where Rūmī lived (hence his nickname), in present-day Turkey.

[ll. 27-30] The closing lines suggest that Rūmīs painful longing (hence his lament) is never-ending because of his love for the Beloveds eloquence, in other words, for the beautiful things that God creates. Gods creativeness is subtly compared to the eloquent words that come out of the mouth of the poet. Rūmīs soul has been veiled by his love for Gods beautiful creation/words, and that is why love is endlessly painful. The Transcendent, formless God, is the real Beloved, but whenever the soul falls in love with His creations, because they carry a trace of Him and remind the soul of Him, the soul experiences a love mixed with sorrow. The veil is because the lover has mistaken his real object of love by falling in love with Gods trace in His creatures (His eloquence”), instead of Him. Shams of Tabriz, for instance, personifies Gods eloquence for Rūmī. It is God that Rūmī loved in Shams, but because Shams is not God, Shams became a veil on Rūmīs soul due to his attachment to Shams. When Shams disappeared without a trace, Rūmī was inconsolable due to his attachment to him, which caused him long-lasting sorrow. But God Himself, Rūmīs real Beloved, never went away.

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