October 10, 2006

The Gift

Childhood Friends

You may have heard, it's the custom for kings
to let warriors stand on the left, the side of the heart,
and courage. On the right they put the chancellor,
and various secretaries, because the practice
of bookkeeping and writing usually belongs
to the right hand. In the center,
the Sufis,
because in meditation they become mirrors.
The king can look at their faces
and see his original state.

Give the beautiful ones mirrors,
and let them fall in love with themselves.

That way they polish their souls
and kindle remembering in others.

A close childhood friend once came to visit Joseph.
They had shared the secrets that children tell each other
when they're lying on their pillows at night
before they go to sleep. These two
were completely truthful
with each other.

The friend asked, "What was it like when you realized
your brothers were jealous and what they planned to do?"

"I felt like a lion with a chain around its neck.
Not degraded by the chain, and not complaining,
but just waiting for my power to be recognized."

"How about down in the well, and in prison?
How was it then?"
"Like the moon when it's geting
smaller, yet knowing the fullness to come.
Like a seed pearl ground in the mortar for medicine,
that knows it will now be the light in a human eye.

Like a wheat grain that breaks open in the ground,
then grows, then gets harvested, then crushed in the mill
for flour, then baked, then crushed again between teeth
to become a person's deepest understanding.
Lost in love, like the songs the planters sing
the night after they sow the seed."
There is no end to any of this.

Back to something else the good man
and Joseph talked about.
"Ah my friend, what have you
brought me? You know a traveler should not arrive
empty handed at the door of a friend like me.
That's going to the grinding stone without your wheat.

God will ask at the resurrection, 'Did you bring me
a present? Did you forget? Did you think
you wouldn't see me?'"
Joseph kept teasing,
"Let's have it. I want my gift!"

The guest began, "You can't imagine how I've looked
for something for you. Nothing seemed appropriate.
You don't take gold down into a gold mine,
or a drop of water to the sea of Oman!
Everything I thought of was like bringing cumin seed
to Kirmanshah where cumin comes from.

You have all seeds in your barn. You even have my love
and my soul, so I can't even bring those.

I've brought you a mirror. Look at yourself,
and remember me."
He took the mirror out from his robe
where he was hiding it.
What is the mirror of being?
Non-being. Always bring a mirror of non-existence
as a gift. Any other present is foolish.

Let the poor man look deep into generosity.
Let bread see a hungry man.
Let kindling behold a spark from the flint.

An empty mirror and your worst destructive habits,
when they are held up to each other,
that's when the real making begins.
That's what art and crafting are.

A tailor needs a torn garment to practice his expertise.
The trunks of trees must be cut and cut again
so they can be used for fine carpentry.

You doctor must have a broken leg to doctor.
Your defects are the ways that glory gets manifested.
Whoever sees clearly what's diseased in himself
begins to gallop on the way.

-Rumi

***
"Give the beautiful ones mirrors, and let them fall in love with themselves...and kindle remembering in others..." Always bring a mirror of non-existence as a gift."

With this gift of your "non-existence," your radiant formless consciousness, your groundlessness that is nonetheless awake, in this mirror the other sees their Being. But you realize they will first see what is covering this Being, what is diseased in themselves. With what they see in your mirror of emptiness, hear in your mirror of deep listening, experience in your mirror of witnessing consciousness, they begin "to gallop on the way." Unconditioned love emerges in the mirror and this love has an infinite capacity to envelop and hold any measure of disease. As the mirror increasingly reflects their Being they "fall in love with themselves," and then begin to sense their non-being, their own silent, still, vast and empty consciousness within. They realize that they now are this mirror of non-existence, and they bring this mirror as a gift to others. With this radiant gift beyond price, they "kindle remembering in others."

2 comments:

isaiah said...

"They realize that they now are this mirror of non-existence, and they bring this mirror as a gift to others. With this radiant gift beyond price, they "kindle remembering in others.""

I am reminded...I am remembering...I am.

Thank you Aki-

Irving said...

On of my favorite Rumi poems, and in a very good and modern translation that loses none of the flavor. Thank you for a deep and cool dip in the sea. It awakens the spirit.