Shams of Tabriz was a Persian Sufi and roaming dervish who lived at the end of the twelfth/ early thirteenth century. He was the spiritual teacher and advisor of Rumi, and indeed it’s often said that Rumi was a professor who Shams transformed into a mystic, a lover, and a poet. They spent months together, lost in a kind of ecstatic mystical communion known as “sobhet” — conversing and gazing at each other until a deeper conversation occurred without words. There are many legends describing their meeting in Konya: Rumi was taught by Shams in seclusion for 40 days, and the period after this is described as Rumi’s ‘mysticism’, where sufis danced, played music (rabab), and drank wine. It is in this time, that the concept of “whirling dervishes” originated.
The 40 Rules of Love
One day, according to legend, Rumi was reading next to a large stack of books. Shams Tabriz, passing by, asked him, “What are you doing?” Rumi scoffingly replied, “Something you cannot understand” (i.e. knowledge that cannot be understood by the unlearned.) On hearing this, Shams threw the stack of books into a nearby pool of water. Rumi hastily rescued the books and to his surprise they were all dry. Rumi then asked Shams, “What is this?” To which Shams replied, “Mowlana, this is what you cannot understand” (i.e. knowledge that cannot be understood by the learned.) Shams’ forty observations about the nature of love and God can be read together and all at once (fine but a bit left brain, a bit “learned” as Shams might say) or discretely, each a starting-point for reflection (more right brain, letting the mind wander laterally and make connections). Like life, and love, learning is not a race to the finish, but a voyage to the start.
This post is the third in the series illustrating these profounds and mystical sayings. For Part 1 of the 40 Rules of Love please click here. For Part 2 please click here. For Part 4 please click here.
21. When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearance. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed instead opens a third eye – the eye that sees the inner realm.
22. Life is a temporary loan, and this World is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this life, stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance. Sufis do not go to extremes. A Sufi always remains mild and moderate.
23. The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each 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.
24. Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in Love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.
25. Each reader comprehends the Holy Qur’an on a different level of tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning, and it is the one that the majority of the people are content with. Next is the Batin – the inner level. Third, there is the innermost of the internal. And the fourth level is so deep it cannot be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable.
26. 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.
27. Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbours ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead, for forty days and nights, say and think beautiful things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of 40 days because you will be different inside.
28. The past is an interpretation. The future is on illusion. The World does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead, time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.
29. Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to leave everything to fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the world is all-pervading, and it is composed of 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument, but how well to play is entirely in your hands.
30. 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?
For Part 1 of the 40 Rules of Love by Shams Tabrizi please click here
For Part 2 of the 40 Rules of Love by Shams Tabrizi please click here
For Part 4 of the 40 Rules of Love by Shams Tabrizi please click here
For Blake and Rumi by Sardar Muhammad, please click here