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Newsletter for July 2015

 

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The Chinese and the Greek Artists

(Selection from Masnavi Rumi, translated by E. H. Winfield (1898)

 

The Chinese and the Greeks disputed before the Sultan which of them were the better painters; and, in order to settle the dispute, the Sultan allotted to each a house to be painted by them. The Chinese procured all kinds of paints, and colored their house in the most elaborate way. The Greeks, on the other hand, used no colors at all, but contented themselves with cleansing the walls of their house from all filth, and burnishing them till they were as clear and bright as the heavens. When the two houses were offered to the Sultan's inspection, that painted by the Chinese was much admired; but the Greek house carried off the palm, as all the colors of the other house were reflected on its walls with an endless variety of shades and hues.

 

Knowledge of the heart preferable to the knowledge of the schools.

The knowledge of men of heart bears them up, the knowledge of men of the body weighs them down.

When 'tis knowledge of the heart, it is a friend;  When knowledge of the body, it is a burden.

God saith, "As an ass bearing a load of books,"  1 The knowledge which is not of Him is a burden.

Knowledge which comes not immediately from Him Endures no longer than the rouge of the tire woman.

Nevertheless, if you bear this burden in a right spirit 'Twill be removed, and you will obtain joy.

See you bear not that burden out of vainglory, Then you will behold a store of true knowledge within.

When you mount the steed of this true knowledge, Straightway the burden will fall from your back.

If you drink not His cup, how will you escape lusts?  You, who seek no more of Him than to name His name?

What do His name and fame suggest? The idea of Him. And the idea of Him guides you to union with Him.

Know you a guide without something to which it guides? Were there no roads there would be no ghouls.

Know you a name without a thing answering to it? Have you ever plucked a rose (Gul) from Gaf and Lam?

You name His name; go, seek the reality named by it! Look for the moon in heaven, not in the water!

If you desire to rise above mere names and letters, Make yourself free from self at one stroke!

Like a sword be without trace of soft iron; Like a steel mirror, scour off all rust with contrition;

Make yourself pure from all attributes of self, That you may see your own pure bright essence!

Yea, see in your heart the knowledge of the Prophet, Without book, without tutor, without preceptor.

The Prophet saith, "He is one of my people, Whoso is of like temper and spirit with me.

His soul beholds me by the selfsame light Whereby I myself behold him,

Without traditions and scriptures and histories, In the fount of the water of life."

Learn the mystery, "I was last night a Kurd, And this morning am become an Arab." 2

This mystery of "last night" and "this morning" Leads you into the road that brings you to God.

But if you want an instance of this secret knowledge, Hear the story of the Greeks and the Chinese.

*NOTES:

1. Koran lxii. 5.

2. Syad Abu'l Wafa, an unlettered Kurd, found a paper with the words Bismillah upon it, and, after spending the night in prayer, found himself able to understand Arabic (Luck-now Commentator).

 

 

 

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