Rumi: The Big Red Book
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Rumi: The Big Red Book

Coleman Barks

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eBook - ePub

Rumi: The Big Red Book

Coleman Barks

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About This Book

"Really, what other book would anyone ever need?" —Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Honeybee

"Elegant and exquisite." —Deepak Chopra, author of Muhammad, Jesus, and Buddha

The Big Red Book is a poetic masterpiece from Jalaluddin Rumi, the medieval Sufi mystic whom Time magazine calls "the most popular poet in America." Readers continue to be awed and inspired by Rumi's masterfully lyrical, deeply expressive poems, collected in volumes such as The Illustrated Rumi, The Soul of Rumi, and the bestselling The Essential Rumi. With The Big Red Book, acclaimed poet and Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks offers a never-before-published translation of a crucial anthology of poems widely considered to be one of Persian literature's greatest treasures.

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Part I
Odes (Ghazals)
Names for the Mystery
Rumi did not give his poems titles, nor are they divided in the standard editions, as here, into thematic categories. I have chosen to give the odes titles to make them more accessible to modern readers. The twenty-seven categories are meant to open new depths and dimensions in the poems. Eighteen are from the Sufi Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of Allah, in Arabic.1 All of those are preceded by a form of Al, the Arabic equivalent of “The.” The calligraphy was done by Mohamed Zakariya in the celi sülüs script, specially commissioned for this volume. Two of the categories are teachers I have met during my life, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen and Osho. Shams Tabriz is also one of the names for Mystery, as is the great Indian saint Ramana Maharshi. The other categories, of my own devising, are: Dissolving the Concept of “God,” Playing, Tenderness Toward Existence, Everything and Everyone Else, and the one that is implied in every list of the ninety-nine names, The Name That Cannot Be Spoken or Written.
Chapter 1
Al-Fattah, The Opener
I have come to love the sound of the names of God. Al-Fattah is my favorite. The homemade American mystic Joe Miller used to stand up and yell Ya Fattah! (“O Opener!”) in an audience whenever he heard something he liked. There is an opening that is beyond thought. In Rumi’s poetry it is often associated with spring. It is in the soul’s life, that natural opening where we stay fresh and young. When we act out of mean-spiritedness, the closing up of the ego, we feel locked out of life. Rumi suggests that we “put the head under the feet.” We must not be led by the mind, but by a spontaneity in the heart-center, the soul, which is always starting out, beginning again. It cannot be said with words. Music and song do better.
Jars of springwater are not enough anymore.
Take us down to the river.
The face of peace, the sun itself.
No more the slippery cloudlike moon.
Give us one clear morning after another,
and the one whose work remains unfinished,
who is our work as we diminish,
idle, though occupied, empty, and open.
Is there a human mouth that does not give out soul sound?
Is there love, a drawing together of any kind,
that is not sacred?
Every natural dog sniffs God in the stew.
The lion’s paw trembles like the rose petal.
He senses the ultimate spear coming.
In the shepherd’s majesty wolves and lambs tease each other.
Look inside your mind. Do you hear the crowd gathering?
Help coming, every second.
Still you cover your eyes with mud.
Watch the horned owl. Wash your face.
Anyone who steps into an orchard
walks inside the orchard keeper.
Millions of love-tents bloom on the plain.
A star in your chest says, None of this is outside you.
Close your lips and let the maker of mouths talk,
the one who says things.
Learn the alchemy true human beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.
Welcome difficulty as a familiar comrade.
Joke with torment brought by the friend.
Sorrows are the rags of old clothes and jackets
that serve to cover, then are taken off.
That undressing,
and the naked body underneath,
is the sweetness that comes after grief.
Today I see Muhammad ascend.
The friend is everywhere, in every action.
Love, a lattice.
Body, a fire.
I say, Show me the way.
You say, Put your head under your feet.
That way you rise through the stars
and see a hundred other ways to be with me.
There are as many as there are
flightpaths of prayer at dawn.
We are here like profligates,
three camels with muzzles plunged in provender.
Other camels rage with t...

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