Exploring the timeless insights of the 13th-century Islamic scholar, Sufi saint and mystic poet Rumi, whose profound verses illuminate the interconnectedness of all existence and celebrate the divine oneness amidst the diverse tapestry of life
Maulana Jalal al-Din Mohammad Rumi (RA), the 13th-century Islamic scholar, Sufi saint and mystic poet, articulated the unity of God in diversity with a poetic diction that resonates through the ages. His verses, rich with metaphor and spiritual insight, delve into the profound interconnectedness of all existence, celebrating the divine oneness that weaves through the diverse tapestry of life.
The Persian poet and mystic played a significant role in expressing the unity of God in diversity through his poetic work. In his masterpiece, the “Mathnawi,” he often used allegorical tales and metaphors to convey the concept of divine unity amidst the diverse manifestations of creation.
One notable example is the story of the reed flute, a recurring motif in Rumi’s poetry. The reed, severed from its source, symbolizes the soul’s separation from the divine. Yet, the mournful music it produces reflects the yearning for reunification with the One. This metaphor captures the essence of unity in diversity and the inherent connection between the created and the Creator.
“Listen to the story told by the reed,
Of being separated.
Since I was cut from the reed-bed,
I have made this crying sound.”
Through the melancholic song of the reed, Rumi conveys the innate longing for reunion with the divine, emphasizing the unity that exists even in the perceived separation. The reed’s song becomes a universal melody, echoing the shared experience of every soul yearning to return to its divine origin
Rumi’s verses also explore the theme of love as a unifying force. His famous poem “The Lovers” describes the lovers merging into one another, transcending individual identities. This poetic expression mirrors the mystical idea that the multiplicity in the world is a reflection of the divine attributes and the ultimate reality of oneness.
In various poems, Rumi emphasizes the idea that God’s essence is present in all things, transcending philosophical and cultural boundaries. His works resonate with the notion that diverse forms are like mirrors reflecting the unity of the divine. Through his profound and metaphorical language, Rumi invites readers to contemplate the interconnectedness of all existence within the framework of divine unity.
Rumi often employs the metaphor of the ocean to convey the unity of God in the vast diversity of creation. In his poetic diction, he likens the individual souls to waves emerging from the same boundless ocean of divine consciousness. One such verse expresses this metaphor beautifully:
“Come, let yourself be silently drawn
By the strange pull of what you really love
It will not lead you astray
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground
Here, the metaphor of the ocean signifies the divine source and the diverse ways of approaching and connecting with it are likened to different waves. The act of kneeling and kissing the ground becomes a universal gesture, highlighting the unity beneath the surface diversity.
Rumi frequently explores the theme of unity through the metaphor of a cosmic dance, portraying the interconnected movements of lovers as a reflection of divine harmony. In his poetic diction, the dance becomes a metaphor for the rhythmic flow of life’s experiences, each step a unique expression yet inherently connected to the divine beat. He eloquently expresses this in the following lines:
We are the mirror, as well as the face in it
We are tasting the taste of this minute of eternity
We are pain and what cures pain, both.
We are the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours
Here, Rumi speaks to the dual nature of existence—pain and cure, sweetness and coldness—blurring the boundaries to emphasize the underlying unity. The dance becomes a symbol of the intricate interplay between diverse elements, all stemming from the same divine source.
The Tavern of Ruin and Renewal is used as a metaphor in Mathnawi. Rumi often utilizes the metaphor of the tavern to symbolize the journey of the soul towards unity with God. In his poetic diction, the tavern becomes a transformative space where diverse aspects of human experience converge. One of his verses captures this metaphor:
Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving
It doesn’t matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come
In these lines, the invitation to the tavern transcends individual stories and backgrounds, emphasizing the inclusive nature of the divine call. The tavern becomes a metaphor for the unity of seekers, irrespective of their diverse paths and histories, all converging in their shared pursuit of divine connection.
Rumi’s poetic diction often relies on the language of love to convey the unity of God in diversity. His verses paint a vivid picture of love as the universal language that transcends barriers and differences. In one of his celebrated poems, Rumi writes:
Love rests on no foundation
It is an endless ocean
With no beginning or end
Here, love becomes the boundless medium through which the unity of God is experienced. The endless ocean metaphor underscores the infinite nature of divine love, embracing all aspects of existence without limitation.
Rumi talks about silence beyond words, his poetic diction extends to the ineffable silence that lies beyond the confines of language. In expressing the unity of God in diversity, he often turns to the language of silence, acknowledging the limitations of words to encapsulate the divine essence. One of his verses beautifully captures this sentiment: “Let silence take you to the core of life.”
This simple yet profound statement underscores the idea that beyond the diversity of words and expressions, there exists a silent core, a unifying presence that transcends the multiplicity of existence.
The Garden of Oneness is Rumi’s main concern. His poetic imagery frequently draws upon the metaphor of the garden to depict the unity of God in the diversity of creation. The garden becomes a symbol of the divine plan, where diverse flowers bloom harmoniously, each contributing to the overall beauty. Rumi’s verses convey this idea eloquently:
You are a fountain of the sun’s light
I am a willow shadow on the ground
You make the depths churn like boiling water
I make the light ripple like a shadowy reflection
Here, the interaction between the fountain and the willow shadow represents the diverse expressions of the divine, each contributing to the overall dance of existence. The unity lies in the shared essence that animates both.
Rumi’s mystic philosophy transcends religious boundaries, emphasizing the universal nature of the divine message. His verses often blur the distinctions between different faiths, recognizing the common thread that unites all seekers on the path to God. In a powerful expression of this sentiment, Rumi declares:
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim
Not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen
Not any religion or cultural system
Here, Rumi challenges the limitations of religious labels, inviting readers to move beyond divisive categories and recognize the universal essence that underlies diverse spiritual paths.
In Rumi’s philosophical poetry, the unity of God in diversity emerges as a profound and timeless theme. Through metaphors like the ocean, the dance of lovers, the reed flute’s song, the tavern, the language of love, the silence beyond words, the garden of oneness, and the dissolution of religious boundaries, Rumi paints a picture of a divinely orchestrated symphony where diverse elements harmonize in a cosmic unity. His verses, transcending cultural and temporal boundaries, continue to inspire seekers to contemplate the interconnectedness of all existence and to recognize the divine thread that weaves through the rich tapestry of diversity. Rumi’s poetic language serves as a timeless invitation to explore the depths of the soul and to journey towards the realisation of the oneness that unites all creation.
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