Wednesday, January 20, 2010

[Sunlight] Coming back to wakefulness


Here, Sunlight offers verses from Rumi's Mathnawi, Book IV, in a
version by Coleman Barks, and a literal translation by Professor R.A.
Nicholson, from which Professor Barks derived his version:


"The Dream That Must Be Interpreted"

This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.

Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.

But there's a difference with this dream.
Everything cruel and unconscious
done in the illusion of the present world,
all that does not fade away
at the death-waking.

It stays,
and it must be interpreted.

All the mean laughing,
all the quick, sexual wanting,
those torn coats of Joseph,
they change into powerful wolves
that you must face.

The retaliation that sometimes comes now,
the swift, payback hit,
is just a boy's game
to what the other will be.

You know about circumcision here.
It's full castration there!

And this groggy time we live,
this is what it's like:
A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived,
and he dreams he's living in another town.

In the dream, he doesn't remember
the town he's sleeping in his bed in.
He believes the reality of the dream town.

The world is that kind of sleep.

The dust of many crumbled cities
settles over us like a forgetful dose,
but we are older than those cities.

We began as a mineral.
We emerged into plant life,
and into the animal state,
and then into being human,
and always we have forgotten our former states,
except in early spring
when we slightly recall
being green again.

That's how a young person
turns toward a teacher.
That's how a baby leans toward the breast,
without knowing the secret of its desire,
yet turning instinctively.

Humankind is being led along
an evolving course, through
this migration of intelligences,
and though we seem to be sleeping,
there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream,

and that will eventually startle us
back to the truth of who we are.

-- Mathnawi IV, 3628-3652, 3654-3667
Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995

Even so this world, which is the sleeper's dream: the sleeper
fancies that it is really enduring,
Till on a sudden there shall rise the dawn of Death and he
shall be delivered from the darkness of opinion and falsehood.
(Then) laugher at those sorrows of his will take possession of
him when he sees his permanent abode and dwelling-place.
Everything good or evil that thou seest in thy sleep will be
made manifest, one by one, on the Day of the (Last) Congregation.
That which thou didst in this sleep in the (present) world will
become evident to thee at the time of awaking.
Take care not to imagine that this (which thou hast done) is
(only) an evil action committed in this (state of) sleep and that
there is no interpretation (thereof) for thee.
Nay, this laughter (of thine) will be tears and moans on the
Day of interpretation, O oppressor of the captive!
Know that in the hour of thy awakening thy tears and grief
and sorrow and lamentation will turn to joy.
O thou that hast torn the coat of (many) Josephs, thou wilt
arise from this heavy slumber (in the form of ) a wolf.
Thy (evil) dispositions, one by one, having become wolves
will tear thy limbs in wrath.
According to (the law of) retaliation, the blood (shed by thee)
will not sleep (remain unavenged) after thy death: do not say,
"I shall die and obtain release."
This immediate retaliation (which is exacted in the present
world) is (only) a makeshift: in comparison with the blow of
that (future) retaliation that is a (mere) play.
God hath called the present world a play because this penalty
is a play in comparison with that penalty.
This penalty is a means of allaying war and civil strife: that one
is like a castration, while this one resembles a circumcision.

(IV, 3654-3667)

The man who lives in a city (many) years, as soon as his eye
goes asleep,
Beholds another city full of good and evil, and his own city
comes not into this memory at all.
So that (he should say), "I have lived there (so many years);
this new city is not mine: here I am (only) in pawn*."
Nay, he thinks that in sooth he has always lived in this very
city and has been born and bred in it*.
What wonder (then) if the spirit does not remember its
(ancient) abodes, which have been its dwelling-place and birth-
place aforetime,
Since this world, like sleep, is covering it over as clouds cover
the stars? -
Especially as it has trodden so many cities, and the dust has
not (yet) been swept from it perceptive faculty,
Nor has it made ardent efforts that its heart should become
pure and behold the past;
That its heart should put forth its head (peep forth) from the
aperture of the mystery and should see the beginning and the
end with open eye.
First he came into the clime (world) of inorganic things, and
from the state of inorganic things he passed into the vegetable
(Many) years he lived in the vegetable state and did not re-
member the inorganic state because of the opposition (between
And when he passed from the vegetable into the animal state,
the vegetable state was not remembered by him at all,
Save only for the inclination which he has towards that (state),
especially in the season of spring and sweet herbs -
Like the inclination of babes towards their mothers: it (the
babe) does not know the secret of its desire for being suckled;
(Or) like the excessive inclination of every novice towards the
noble spiritual Elder, whose fortune is young (and flourishing).
The particular intelligence of this (disciple) is derived from
that Universal Intelligence*: the motion of this shadow is derived
from that Rose-bough.
His (the disciple's) shadow disappears at least in him (the
Master); then he knows the secret of his inclination and search
and seeking.
How should the shadow of the other's (the disciple's) bough
move, O fortunate one, if this Tree move not?
Again, the Creator, whom thou knowest, was leading him
(Man) from the animal (state) towards humanity.
Thus did he advance from clime to clime (from one world of
being to another), till he has now become intelligent and wise
and mighty.
He hath no remembrance of his former intelligences (souls);
from this (human) intelligence also there is a migration to be
made of him.
That he may escape from this intelligence full of greed and
self-seeking and may behold a hundred thousand intelligences
most marvellous.
Though he fell asleep and become oblivious of the past, how
should they leave him in that self-forgetfulness?
From that sleep they will bring him back again to wakefulness,
that he may mock at his (present) state,
Saying, "What was that sorrow I was suffering in my sleep?
How did I forget the states of truth (the real experience)?
How did not I know that sorrow and disease is the effect
of sleep and is illusion and phantasy?"

-- Mathnawi IV, 3628-3653
Translation and Commentary by Reynold A. Nicholson
"The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi"
Published and Distributed by
The Trustees of The "E.J.W. Gibb Memorial"

Nicholson's commentary:

* I.e. not a permanent resident.
* Literally, "that his origin and habit has always been in this very
*I.e. the Logos with whom the Master (the Perfect Man) is identified.




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