It was on the eve of my trip to Istanbul that I met him for the first time in my dream. That seems like a long time ago now. But we have become good friends lately. Regularly, chatting about the world and cosmos. At first I did not recognise him. An ordinary looking elderly folk, a bearded guy wearing a white robe and conical shaped hat, was busy talking to his audience, a small audience, about 30 or so beautiful little birds feeding on grains and pieces of bread in front of him. I leaned forward respectfully to greet him and then sat down next to him on the bench. His name was Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi; 30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273. He was a retired poet, a scholar and a thinker. While conversing I decided to ask a few questions. After all I was in the presence of a sage.
Me: When I look around, I see so many people suffering and feeling unhappy with their life, why is that?
Rumi: Happiness dwells wherever individuals remove their fears, as fear is based on anxieties and worries which are influenced by the ego. The ego creates a comfort zone for itself, halting any self-growth and progress.
When no change is taking place in life, no love is felt, love is a dynamic force. In the absence of love, fear begins to creep in slowly. Fear is pain and pain makes people shrink, e.g. people stop being charitable due to fear of poverty. Similarly, ego resists change, hence no progress. Removing pain from your heart (no longer feeding the ego), brings internal harmony. Harmony in everything i.e. what you think, say and do.
Sorrow prepares you for joy. So take decisions to make your future better e.g. learn new skills and take part in self-improvement; the panacea is to be creative, happiness will return, it always does.
But this is not the true success!
Me: What is the true success and how can it be achieved?
Rumi: Perspective! Perspective is important, a realisation that this earthly life is just a guest house. From this perspective, the basic principles of success are simple; truly exert yourself on the path; to never intentionally harm anyone or anything, and always be the source of benefit to those around you.
Remember, success is an illusion in the absence of love for the beloved. Do not forget, apart from prostration, all other types of worship mentioned in the Quran are related to love for humanity. So strive towards love for humanity and success will find you. It is love that restores resilience in the human spirit.
Me: If love is so prevailing then why do we have a tendency for self-destruction?
Rumi: Lightness and darkness cannot dwell in the same place at the same time, but both must exist and change places periodically. Thus darkness and light are constantly chasing each other. But love and darkness never mix. It is the ego that takes one on a self-destructive path towards darkness. The ego is a dangerous master to have, should you choose to enslave yourself to it. Those who destroyed themselves did so because they took their ego as their master. The path to enlightenment lies in love for the divine (the beloved).
The remedy for those who are suffering is to frequently drink from the tavern of love and knowledge.
Then the light of new dawn woke me up from my sleep, and I was no longer in dream world.
From the poem: The Pauper and the Prisoners
Renounce these affections for outward forms,
Love depends not on outward form or face.
Whatever is beloved is not a mere empty form,
Whether your beloved be of the earth or of heaven.
Whatever be the form you have fallen in love with,
Why do you forsake it the moment life leaves it?
The form is still there; whence, then, this disgust at it?
Ah! lover, consider well what is really your beloved.
If a thing perceived by outward senses is the beloved,
Then all who retain their senses must still love it;
And since love increases constancy,
How can constancy fail while form abides?
Rumi, Maulana ‘Jalal uddin Muhammad. 2008, The Masnavi I Ma’navi of Rumi, Forgotten Books