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Sufi Wisdom: Everyone and No One


As militant Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry. As a part of Joe's Good News Saturdays, we spend some time each week with the Sufis and their "wisdom of idiots."

This week, it's back to Rumi. I'm reading Coleman Barks' collection The Essential Rumi at the moment. This short poem caught my eye, as a nice crossover between Sufism and Zen:
When you are with everyone but me,
          you're with no one.
When you are with no one but me,
          you're with everyone.
Instead of being so bound up with everyone,
          be everyone.
When you become that many, you're nothing.
Who is speaking here? And how can one "be everyone", as Rumi suggests?


Who is speaking here?

Who asks?

The Absolute is speaking; by submerging self-conciousness in the Absolute the self becomes nothing, but partakes of the Absolute which encompasses everything.

Perhaps He who originated all.

One can be everyone by just accepting that one already IS everyone and everything.

Who is speaking here?

No one!

And how can one "be everyone", as Rumi suggests?

Dissolve your Self into the Other!

Dissolve your Self into the Other!

Yes, but how to do that?

Rumi's remark doesn't describe what to do; it causes you to do it. No one has ever been able to describe it, but many kinds of utterance that will cause you to do it have been found. Take Zen quips, for example.

Yes, but how to do that?

Smell a flower. Then appreciate your mistress' perfume.

Gaze into water at an angle, so it offers no reflection, then reflect.

Make a fool of yourself.

Laugh with others when they do.

Go somewhere where you cannot speak English to survive. Come back.

Come back.

Come back? Please. Where do you think I've been?

Earth? Welcome home!


Taking a crack at one possible Sufi interpretation (and it's only a guess, as I am not a Sufi):

The speaker is the Beloved.

In the first line, He puts the reader in his place for focusing on the secular at the exclusion of the spiritual -- that is, being concerned solely with worldly matters (those things "not G-d"). Without G-d, these worldly concerns are trifles ("with no one").

In the second line, He reminds the reader that the focus on the spiritual (for a Sufi) reveals the truth behind the world. Being connected with the One, through learning this truth, connects one to all.

Or in other words, since "everyone but me" is no one, "everyone" is Me; so if you're with everyone, then you're outside of Me and if you are everyone, then you're Me.

Or in other other words, G-d permeates all that exists. There's no inside or outside, upside or downside, rightside or wrongside in this phenomenon, the only Phenomenon?


Roomi said in one other poem, that meditation with only logic is like walking with wooden legs, u cannot go far away from where u r now. so u cannot reach your desired final destiny with only logic, u need your heart as well, u need to use the love (which in his perspective, is the most important character of a human being), so I think that u cannot translate the poem for your mind with your logic, your heart should listen to it.

I've read somewhere that the path to ultimate truth may be followed by logic, step by step, but at some point you will reach an edge from which only courage will propel you into the beyond.

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