Tuesday, December 15, 2009

[Sunlight] "I have never become less from dying"


Rumi departed earthly life on 5 Jumadi II, 672 A.H (according to
the Islamic lunar calendar; Dec 17, 1273 A.D., according to the
Christian calendar). His death is referred to by Persians
as "vesal", meaning "union (with the Beloved)", while in the Mevlevi
Sufi tradition, the expression "shab-i aroos" (variously
spelled "sheb-i arus", etc., in transliteration) is used, a phrase
meaning "the wedding night" -- the night of Rumi's marriage to the
Beloved. (The Sufi tradition of referring to the death of a Sufi
saint as "urs" -- a wedding -- predates Rumi, and is still used in
Sufi circles.)

Over the next few days, the Sunlight mailing list will offer
poems appropriate to the memory of Molana's passing from this life,
and touching on his teachings on the significance of death.

Here, Sunlight offers a selection from the Mathnawi, Book III,
verses 3501 - 3506, in a translation by Professor William Chittick,
in a version by the Helminskis (accompanied by a Persian
transliteration), and in a translation by Dr. Ibrahim Gamard
(accompanied by Dr. Gamard's Persian transliteration):

I died from the mineral kingdom and became a
plant; I died to vegetative nature and attained to animality.
I died to animality and became a man. So why
should I fear? When did I ever become less through dying?

-- Mathnawi III: 3901-03
Translation by William P. Chittick
"A Sufi Path of Love"
SUNY Press, Albany, 1983


O my noble friends, slaughter this cow,
if you wish to raise up the spirit of insight.
I died to being mineral and growth began.
I died to vegetable growth and attained to the state of animals.
I died from animality and became Adam:
why then should I fear?
When have I become less by dying?
Next I shall die to being a human being,
so that I may soar and lift up my head among the angels.
Yet I must escape even from that angelic state:
everything is perishing except His Face.*
Once again I shall be sacrificed, dying to the angelic;
I shall become that which could never be imagined —
I shall become nonexistent.
Nonexistence sings its clear melody,
Truly, unto Him shall we return!**


Yâ kirâmi idhbahu hâdhâ al-baqar
in uridtum hashr arwâh al-nazar
Az jamâdi mordam va nâmi shodam
vaz namâ mordam be-hayavân bar-zadam
Mordam az hayavâni va dam shodam
pas cheh tarsam kay ze mordan kam shodam
Hamleh-ye digar be-miram az bashar
tâ bar dam az malâyek par o sar
Vaz malak ham bâyadam jastan ze ju
kullu shay'in hâlikun illâ Wajhuhu*
Bâr-e digar az malak qorbân shodam
ânche andar vahm na-âyad ân shavam
Pas `adam gardam `adam chon orghanun
guyadam keh innâ ilayhi râji`un**

-- Mathnawi III:3900-3906
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Daylight"
Threshold Books, 1994
Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra

*al-Qasas, 88
**al-Baqarah, 156


The Ascension of the Spirit

Mathnawi III: 3901-3906

I died to the mineral state and became a plant;* I died to
the vegetable state and reached animality;* (3901)
I died to the animal state and became a man;* then what
should I fear? -- I have never become less from dying.
At the next charge (forward) I will die to human nature, so
that I may lift up (my) head and wings (and soar) among the
And I must (also) jump from the river* of (the state of) the
angel: "Everything perishes except His Face."*
Once again I will become sacrificed from (the state of) the
angel; I will become that which cannot come into the imagination.*
Then I will become non-existent;* non-existence says to
me (in tones) like an organ: "Truly, to Him is our return."*

-- From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî"
[Rhymed Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning]
of Jalaluddin Rumi.
(With gratitude for R.A. Nicholson's translation)
(c) Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, &

(3901) I died to the mineral state and became a plant: the line
which precedes this famous passage shows that the context has
to do with transcendence of the human body and ego (as translated
by Nicholson: "O my noble (friends), slaughter this cow (the fleshly
soul), if ye desire to raise to life the spirits (possessed) of
(3901) and reached animality: "It means an animal which ate
plants." (Translated from a Persian translation of the famous
Turkish 17th century commentary by Anqaravi)
(3902) and became a man: "It means a man who ate animals."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)
(3904) jump from the river: "i.e. 'to escape'." (Nicholson,
(3094) "Everything perishes except His Face": Qur'an 28:88.
(3095) that which cannot come into the imagination: refers to
a saying of the Prophet Muhammad: "What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard, and what has never passed into the heart
of any mortal."
(3906) Then I will become non-existent: "i.e. 'I shall become
fání fí 'lláh." [= ecstatically annihilated (of self) in
God] (Nicholson, Commentary)
(3096) "Truly, to Him is our return": Qur'ân 2:156.
These verses describe re-ascent of the spirit back to God,
following its descent into matter. This is not transmigration,
reincarnation, or an early view of biological evolution (see
Chittick, "The Sufi Path of Love," pp. 72-82; see also related
verses in III: 4178-89; 3165-69).
"The soul, as a mode of Divine Being,... in order that its
inherent potentialities may be developed and exhibited, it
descends into the world of matter, where from the lowest phases
of soul-life it gradually rises to the highest and, having traversed
the whole circle of existence and thus attained to the utmost
perfection of which it is capable, gives itself up to God and
realises its essential unity with Him." (Nicholson, Commentary)
"Then, if he can abandon human cravings with his own free
will and die a chosen death, he will arrive at the stage of spirit.
If he also dies to the stage of spirit and erases his existence in
the Presence of God he will be abiding and will live eternally
and will find everlasting bliss. Mawlana (Jalaluddin Rumi)
indicated this meaning in [these] verses..." (Anqaravi,


az jumâdî mord-am-o nâmê shod-am 3901
w-az namâ mord-am ba-Haywân bar zad-am

mord-am az Hawânî-wo âdam shod-am
pas che tars-am, kay ze mordan kam shod-am?

Hamla-yé degar be-mîr-am az bashar
tâ bar âr-am az malâ'ik parr-o sar

w-az malak ham bâyâd-am jastan ze jû
kullu shay-in hâlik illâ wajha-hu

bâr-é dêgar az malak qurbân shaw-am 3905
ân-che andar wahm n-ây-ad ân shaw-am

pas `adam gard-am `adam chûn arghanûn 3906
gôy-ad-am ke innâ ilay-hi râji`ûn




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