Today, Sunlight offers a selection from the Mathnawi, Book VI, Verses 117-128, in an interpretive version by Coleman Barks, and in translation by Reynold A. Nicholson:
When We Pray Alone
We are brought thick deserts, and we rarely refuse them.
We worship devoutly when we're with others.
Hours we sit, though we get up quickly
after a few minutes, when we pray alone.
We hurry down the gullet of our wantings.
But these qualities can change,
as minerals in the ground rise inside trees
and become tree, as plant faces an animal
and enters the animal, so a human
can put down the heavy
body baggage and
-- Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But they (the mystics) use a comparison and illustration, in order that aloving feeble-minded man may apprehend (the truth).
'Tis not a simile, but 'tis a parable for the purpose of releasing (melting) the frozen intellect.
The intellect is strong in the head but weak in the legs,* because it is sick* of heart (spiritually decayed) though sound of body (materially flourishing).
Their (the unspiritual men's) intellect is deeply involved in the dessert (pleasures) of this world: never, never do they think of abandoning sensuality.
In the hour of pretension their breasts are (glowing) like the orient sun, (but) in the hour of pious devotion their endurance is (brief) as the lightning.
A learned man who shows self-conceit in (displaying) his talents is faithless as the world at the time for keeping faith.*
At the time when he regards himself (with pride) he is not contained in the world: he has become lost in the gullet and belly, like bread.
(Yet) all these (evil) qualities of theirs may become good: evil does not remain when it turns to seeking good.
If egoism is foul-smelling like semen, (yet) when it attains unto the spirit (spirituality) it gains light.
Every mineral that sets its face towards (aspires to evolve into) the plant (the vegetative state)-- life grows from the tree of its fortune.
Every plant that turns its face towards the (animal) spirit drinks, like
Khizr, from the Fountain of Life.
Once more, when the (animal) spirit sets its face towards the (Divine)
Beloved, it lays down its baggage (and passes) into the life without end.*
-- Mathnawi VI: 117-128
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"
*weak in the legs: "I.e. it has no strength to search after spiritual things."
*sick: "Literelly, 'ruined.'" (Nicholson)
*keeping faith: "I.e. when the time comes for him to make good his pretensions."
*lines 125-28: "See the note on I 3165-3168" ["The corn-seed sown in the earth
becomes bread, which, when eaten, assimilated, and converted into sperm, produces the man endowed with spirit (vegetable, animal, and intellectual). The soul, as a mode of Divine Being, undergoes a similar evolution: 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)
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