The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
January 2014 – Vol. 16 Issue 11
On December 17th a celebration of the Shebi Arus or Wedding Night of Rumi was held to honor the death date of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, popularly called Mevlana in Turkey. Sufis understand his passing to be the night when his soul returned home for union with the Beloved. This expansive view of death is embodied in several of Rumi’s poems:
“When I die, when my coffin is being taken out
You must never think I am missing this world.
Don't shed any tears, don't lament or feel sorry. I'm not falling into a monster's abyss.
When you see my corpse is being carried,
Don't cry for my leaving.
I'm not leaving, I'm arriving at eternal love.
When you leave me in the grave, don't say goodbye.
Remember a grave is only a curtain for the paradise behind.
You'll only see me descending into a grave, now watch me rise.
How can there be an end? When the sun sets
Or the moon goes down, it looks like the end,
It seems like a sunset, but in reality it is a dawn.
When the grave locks you up, that is when your soul is freed.
Have you ever seen a seed fallen to earth not rise with a new life?
Why should you doubt the rise of a seed named human?. . .
When for the last time you close your mouth,
Your words and soul will belong to the world of no place, no time.”
Or again: “I am blasphemy and religion, pure and impure;
Old, young, and a small child.
If I die, don't say that he died.
Say he was dead, became alive, and was taken by the Beloved.”
Finally, “I died a stone and rose again a plant;
I died a plant and rose an animal;
I died an animal and was born a man.
Why should I fear? What have I lost by death?”
The Shebi Arus celebration, held at the Bellevue Regional Library, included speakers, one on Rumi’s message and significance, the other on how his influence spread to the West and the values of the Sufi Mevlevi order that continues in Konya, Turkey; a demonstration of traditional Mevlevi Order dervish ritual dancing; recitation of a poem in the original Persian; and Turkish Sufi music performed by the Mevlana Sufi Ensemble, followed by refreshments. Also featured were some of Rumi’s poems, among them these:
“Whoever you may be, come
Even though you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fire-worshipper, come.
Ours is not a brotherhood of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times,
Come, yet again, come, come.”
And: “There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body, seek that mine.
O traveler, if you are in search of That,
Don't look outside, look inside yourself and seek That.”
Rumi was a Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic. He was born in 1207 in the Persian empire in what is now Tajikistan or Northern Afghanistan, then a major center of culture. When Rumi was 12, his father, a distinguished scholar, fled the area with his family to escape the invading Mongolians. They lived in several Persian cities before settling in Konya, now in Turkey, in 1228. There Rumi’s father was head of a religious school. After his father’s death, Rumi eventually succeed to this position. His life was revolution-ized, however, when he met the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi in 1244, after which he became an ascetic. In 1248 Shams mysteriously vanished, apparently driven off or killed with the connivance of Rumi’s sons and disciples. From Rumi’s grief at this loss sprang hundreds of lyric poems. Later he spent 12 years dictating six volumes of poetry, his masterwork, the Masnavi. He died on December 17, 1273, and his tomb in Konya remains a site of pilgrimage. His epitaph reads: “When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.” His poems form a bridge between different cultures and religions, and his influence remains so strong today that UNESCO declared 2007 the Year of Rumi.
The Shebi Arus gathering was sponsored by the Turkcha: Turkish Women Charity and Aid Organization. They believe that we should love all people and, because each person has within an infinite treasure of forgiveness and compassion, that we should love not only human beings but the whole of creation. Their organization sponsors charitable activities as well as cultural opportunities that bring diverse people together to foster better understanding and fellow feeling.
Let’s end with two more of Rumi’s poems:
“This aloneness is worth more than a thousand lives.
This freedom is worth more than all the lands on earth.
To be one with the truth for just a moment,
Is worth more than the world and life itself.”
“You personify God's message.
You reflect the King's face.
There is nothing in the universe that you are not
Everything you want, look for it within yourself – you are that.”
[World Day of Peace is a Catholic Feast held of January 1, begun in
1968 by Pope Paul IV, who was inspired by an encyclical of John XXIII.]
In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced. Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.
The ever-increasing number of interconnections and communications in today’s world makes us powerfully aware of the unity and common destiny of the nations. In the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another. But this vocation is still frequently denied and ignored in a world marked by a “globalization of indifference” which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.
In many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights . . . Alongside overt armed conflicts are the less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.
Globalization, as Benedict XVI pointed out, makes us neighbors, but does not make us brothers. The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless.” In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des [quid pro quo] which is both pragmatic and selfish.
Paul VI stated that not only individuals but nations too must encounter one another in a spirit of fraternity. … In the first place, this duty falls to those who are most privileged. Their obligations are rooted in human and supernatural fraternity and are manifested in three ways: the duty of solidarity, which requires the richer nations to assist the less developed; the duty of social justice, which requires the realignment of relationships between stronger and weaker peoples in terms of greater fairness; and the duty of universal charity, which entails the promotion of a more humane world for all, a world in which each has something to give and to receive, without the progress of the one constituting an obstacle to the development of the other.
In the broad context of human social relations, when we look to crime and punishment, we cannot help but think of the inhumane conditions in so many prisons, where those in custody are often reduced to a subhuman status in violation of their human dignity and stunted in their hope and desire for rehabilitation.
. . . the continuing disgrace of hunger in the world moves me to share with you the question: How are we using the earth’s resources? Contemporary societies should reflect on the hierarchy of priorities to which production is directed. It is a truly pressing duty to use the earth’s resources in such a way that all may be free from hunger. Initiatives and possible solutions are many, and are not limited to an increase in production. It is well known that present production is sufficient, and yet millions of persons continue to suffer and die from hunger, and this is a real scandal. We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. . . .” (John 13:34-35). This is the good news that demands from each one a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and the hopes of others, even those furthest away from me, and walking the demanding path of that love which knows how to give and spend itself freely for the good of all our brothers and sisters.
… Every activity therefore must be distinguished by an attitude of service to persons, especially those furthest away and less known. Service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace.