Rumi was born Jalaluddin Balkhi, on September 30,1207, in Balkh,
Afghanistan. ‘Rumi’ means ‘from Roman Anatolia’. He got his name Rumi in
Konya, Turkey. His family emigrated there sometime between 1215 and
1220. Rumi’s father Bahauddin Walad was a theologian and jurist. At his
death, Rumi took over the position of sheikh in the dervish learning
community in Konya.
Rumi’s poems lead the reader to a ‘blank state of knowing nothing’.
There is no harm, if at times ambition is kept on hold, while man lives
life ‘free of purpose, free of time and space, in a kind of pure
sailing.’ Circumventing all cyclic patterns, man should come out once in
a while and indulge in the ‘simplicity of just taking in sunlight, no
pretext, no excuse, empty in the present moment’ advises Rumi.
What is there in this
philosopher, so far off in time, that fascinates today’s tech-savvy
youth so much? Surfing several intervening centuries, undoing numerous
other equally famous thinkers on the way, why the gen-next wants to
re-explore his text. To retrieve what?
According to some, Rumi’s poems are like ‘food and drink nourishment for
soul’. His discourse oscillates between practical and mysterious. He
looks at a rose and learns a lasting lesson. ‘The patience of a rose,
close to the thorn keeps it fragrant’ he writes. A short-lived luminous
candle becomes a multi-layered metaphor for him. Of melting body and
migrating soul. ‘A candle is made to become entirely flame. In that
annihilating moment, it has no shadow’ he reflects.
His lines keep shifting
focus from everyday to esoteric. ‘An invisible bird flies over, but
casts a quick shadow’ muses Rumi, trying to comprehend the mystery in
‘Your actions mean
nothing, the sex and war that you do. You are holding part of your pants
and prancing around’. Rumi wrote these futuristic lines eight centuries
back. Can there be a better description of today’s war-torn Islamic
countries? They are going nowhere because of external interference,
internal feud and sectarian violence.
But Rumi does not brood
over the irony of life always. Sitting in the Tavern, he tries to
imagine the immensity of ocean in a wine cup. ‘Look at this cup that can
hold the ocean’ he muses. But when the crowd and congestion of the wine
house stifle him, he comes out saying--‘Why do you stay in prison, when
the door is so wide open? Then he looks up and indulges in some
irreverent wit. ‘Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the
street’ he quips. On a different occasion, the moon causes some sort of
abstract craving in him. ‘Thirst drove me down to the water, where I
drank the moon’s reflection’ writes Rumi. All too often, Rumi’s simple
statements have a symbolic tone. His mundane images cast a metaphysical
shadow. Long and hard.
‘I am so tired of what
I have been doing’. Does not this line sound like the melancholic cry of
a modern man, stuck in a sorry Sisyphean cycle, pathetically
predictable? ‘You were young once and content. Now you think about money
all the time’ adds Rumi to rub some more salt and then suggests to break
free and enjoy the ‘freedom of madness’.
Rumi reposes great
faith on divine grace. ‘For one moment, quit being sad. Hear, blessings
dropping their blossoms around you’ he exhorts. But pragmatic that he
is, he does not deny the inherent pain of day to day struggle. ‘These
pains that you feel are messengers. Listen to them. Turn them to
sweetness. The night is almost over’ he sums up.
‘Patience polishes and purifies’ writes
Rumi highlighting the virtue of patience. ‘Feeling lonely and ignoble
indicates that you have not been patient’ he rues. ‘Brother, stand the
pain. The sky will bow to your beauty’ he elaborates. ‘Let us wait and
trust the waiting’ he concludes giving hope.
But then he is not against any display of
grief or grievances. He calls God a ‘nursing mother’ and the Universe a
‘reasonable father’. ‘Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent with your
pain. Lament!’ he tells all. ‘The child cries, and then the mother’s
milk flows’ he points out. In Nature’s complicacy he sees the latent
compassion. ‘Whatever comes, comes from a need, a sore distress, a
hurting want.’ he concludes.
‘A Sufi is the child of this moment’ says
Rumi and advocates austerity along the way. ‘The foundation and walls of
the spiritual life are made of self-denials and disciplines’ he says
favouring a frugal living. ‘There is a hidden sweetness in the stomach’s
emptiness.’ he adds.
‘Speech is silver, silence is golden’ said
William Shakespeare. And like his forerunner Rumi remarks-- ‘Silence is
an ocean. Speech is a river’. ‘The soul lives there in the silent
breath’ he elaborates.
‘A wall standing alone is useless’
cautions Rumi. He puts great emphasis on bonding and companionship.
‘When ink joins with the pen, then the blank paper can say something’ he
In the late fall of
1244 Rumi met Shams of Tabriz, a wandering dervish. And both became
inseparable like ink and pen. It is believed that, with the arrival of
Shams of Tabriz began Rumi’s transformation into a mystical artist. But
their friendship was a short lived one, which ended, when Shams
disappeared, on the night of December 5, 1248.
Separation from Shams
had a great impact on Rumi. But thankfully the calamity also led to
great creativity. Rumi called the huge collection of his ghazals(odes)
and ‘rubaiyat’(quatrains),Divani Shamsi Tabriz(The works
of Shams of Tabriz).
‘Charaiveti, Charaiveti’ (keep walking)
exhorted the Hindu sages, calling life on this planet, a long journey.
‘We are all returning’ echoes the Quran. ‘Notice how everyone has just
arrived here from a journey’ repeats Rumi. ‘Your real ‘country’ is
where you’re heading, not where you are’ he adds, clearing the
confusion. But then he feels lost along the way. ‘The ocean takes care
of each wave’ sings the minstrel on the move, underlining his faith on
According to Rumi, someone who is curled
up and constricted does not qualify for the ‘healing elixir’. ‘Stay out
in the open like a date palm, lifting its arms’ he advises. Because then
only one can take ‘sips of rainwater’.
When it comes to modes and methods of
worship, like other saintly souls, Rumi too prefers essential devotion
to superfluous rituals. If one is humble inside, even his ‘sweet
blasphemy’ will have the impact of ‘true devotion’. ‘Inside Kaaba, it
doesn’t matter which direction you point your prayer rug!’ he
Your action will be your best friend’ says
Rumi. But cautions all against bad ‘karma’. ‘No matter how fast you run,
your shadow more than keeps up. Sometimes, it is in front!’ he warns.
‘Move into the sun. You’re wrapped in
fantasy and inner mumbling.’ says Rumi, advising all to be active and
pragmatic. For him many humble house hold chores are actually simple
ways to gain wisdom. ‘There is great wisdom in washing the bedclothes.
Wash them.’ he advises. ‘No longer subject to fortune, you could be
‘luck’ itself.’ he observes, expecting all to sculpt their own destiny.
Poetry and music mean a whole lot to him.
‘We rarely hear the inward music, but we’re all dancing to it
nevertheless.’ he claims. ‘A true seeker must be completely empty like a
lute to make the sweet music’ relates Rumi.
According to many
Rumi’s poetry is ‘a salt breeze from the ocean of ‘ilm’ (divine
luminous wisdom), travelling inland.’ Rumi is a bridge between religions
and cultures. A dissolver of boundaries. He is the ocean that
acknowledges oneness over the multiplicity of waves. Rumi’s poems are
like firecrackers on a funeral pyre. They point us away from misery. He
is a letter to everyone. You open it. It says--‘Live’.
‘Every morning we glow and in the evening
we glow again’ reflects Rumi. Evening descended on this messianic mystic
on December 17, 1273. ‘A great mutual embrace’ must have happened then,
between him and God, as he had visualized.
goes by, but his dust of passing hangs in the air’. Who knows, a great
humanist that he was, Rumi’s soul must be somewhere around, wrapped in
‘pure absence’. ‘A sweet breathing emptiness’. ‘Quiet as moonlight’.
Showering blessings like a rain cloud. Because he believed in ‘love with
no object’. For Rumi, the human being in spite of all his follies is
like a ‘wished for song’. ‘Never think that you are worthless. God has
paid an enormous amount for you’ he remarked, evaluating the worth.
Anywhere you put your foot, feel me in the
firmness under you’ Rumi said once, expressing his humble wish.
(Author is an alumnus of FTII, Pune and is active in Film and Television
sector for last twenty years. He has shouldered varied relevant
responsibilities in Mumbai and Hyderabad. Presently he is based in