Here’s the second last poem from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry book Love’s Permission.
– Hoshang Merchant
This morning has come whoring
Where are incense and prayer?
The sun is in bed
Outside it is raining
Rumi’s plaint reaches our ears
It frees rivers of ink and tears
Something must sit at centre for this to be
The Master absconds
The pupil sits searching
The sky for an eye
He waters the earth Verses wet
By giving up each one’s brought up bone dry and shining
Each letter a burning jewel
Each jewel a burning wound
Received on the way to Mecca
Dealt by the Beloved’s own son
This morning the darlings are turning
at Konya as they do each mourning
They celebrate the son of the Sun
They call to the Lover to come
So the Beloved can become the bridegroom
Each day is death
Each day is marriage
in this world but not of it
Why then do I
turn to you in bed with wet eye?
Ella approached the window and looked at the sky, which was an amazing indigo in all directions. It swirled with an invisible speed of its own, dissolving into nothingness and encountering therein infinite possibilities, like a whirling dervish:
“A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western… Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”
The first step is always the hardest:
“It is never too late to ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?’ Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.”
Nothing happens out of God’s will. It is one of the rules:
“This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. Fear not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He’s the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs out of God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does beautifully.”
Under a clear blue sky, I was playing chess with a Christian Hermit named Francis. He was a man whose inner balance did not tilt easily, a man who knew the meaning of submission. And since Islam means the inner peace that comes from submission, to me Francis was more Muslim than many who claim to be so:
“Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission – a power that comes from within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquillity and peace even when the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.”
Spiritual growth is about the totality of our consciousness, not about obsessing over particular aspects.
“Nothing should stand between yourself and God. Not imams, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters, not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your faith.”
Tough one, this rule. Though, notice how Shams talks about the difficult concept of idolatry. So, not only idols made of stone come under idolatry, but also the people we might end up idolizing: the imams, priests, or rabbis. There’s no harm is talking to them, or listening to them. But idolizing them is a the problem, I guess.
Which among these idols are more harmful in a person’s quest for spirituality? Can such things be compared? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I can’t help wondering.
Let the problems in life be a step towards knowing yourself better:
“If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss or fright, one way or another, we are all faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental, and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before. The only way to get closer to Truth is to expand your heart so that it will encompass all humanity and still have room for more Love.”
As hurtful as it is, being slandered is ultimately good for one on the path:
“The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked, and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?”
I think this is a very beautiful thought, and all of us could learn from it:
“The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”
“The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit, ” God says. Each and every one of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it falls upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.”
Instead of losing themselves in the love of God and waging a war against their ego, religious zealots fight other people, generating wave after wave of fear. Looking at the whole universe with fear-tinted eyes, it is no wonder that they see a plethora of things to be afraid of. Wherever there is an earthquake, drought, or any other calamity, they take it as a sign of divine wrath – as if God does not openly say, My compassion outweighs My wrath. Always resentful of somebody for this or that, they expect God the Almighty to step in on their behalf and take their pitiful revenges. Their life is a state of uninterrupted bitterness and hostility, a discontentment so vast it follows them wherever they go, like a black cloud, darkening both their past and their future.
There is such a thing in faith as not being able to see the forest for the trees. The totality of religion is far greater and deeper than the sum of its component parts. Individual rules need to be read in the light of the whole. And the whole is concealed in the essence.