The Meeting of Two Oceans
O my soul, where can I find rest
But in the shimmering love of his heart?
Where can I see the pure light of the Sun
But in the eyes of my own Shams-e Tabriz.
"By all accounts, Rumi lived a grand and illustrious life-he was a respected teacher, a master of Sufi lore, the head of a university in the Anatolian capital city of Konya (in present-day Turkey).
At the age of thirty-four he claimed hundreds of disciples, the king being one of them. And what is so remarkable and unforgettable about Rumi's life is that in one moment all this changed-the moment he met a wandering dervish named Shams-e Tabriz.
Rumi was riding on a mule through a square in the center of Konya. A crowd of eager students walked by his feet. Suddenly a strange figure dressed in black fur approached Rumi, grabbed hold of his mule's bridle, and said: "0 scholar of infinite knowledge, who was greater, Muhammad or Bayazid of Bestam?" This seemed like an absurd question since, in all of Islam, Muhammad was held supreme among all the prophets. Rumi replied, "How can you ask such a question?-No one can compare with Muhammad." "0 then," Shams asked, "why did Muhammad say, 'We have not known Thee, 0 God, as thou should be known,' whereas Bayazid said, 'Glory unto me! I know the full glory of God'?"
With this one simple question--and with the piercing gaze of Shams' eyes-Rumi's entire view of reality changed. The question was merely an excuse. Shams' imparting of an inner awakening is what shattered Rumi's world. The truths and assumptions upon which Rumi based his whole life crumbled..Shams represented the replacing of Rumi's book-learned knowledge (and his lofty regard for such knowledge) with divine knowledge and the direct experience of God..after Shams' question, Rumi entered a mystical state of ego annihilation that the Sufis call fana. When he regained consciousness, he looked at Shams with utter amazement, realizing that this was no ordinary dervish, but the Beloved himself in human form. From that moment on, Rumi's life was never again the same. Shams catalyzed a profound experience for Rumi that transformed him from a dry academic to a mystic drunk with God. Shams enabled Rumi to encounter the divine reality that Rumi yearned for but until then had only known second-hand..He took Shams to live in his home and the two men were inseparable; they spent hours a day together, sometimes isolating themselves for long periods to pray and fast in divine communion with God.
Rumi was totally lost in this new found love that his master revealed, and all his great attainments were blossoming through that love. Every day was a miracle, a new birth for Rumi's soul. He had found the Beloved, he had finally been shown the glory of his own soul.
Then, suddenly, eighteen months after Shams entered Rumi's life, he was gone. He returned some time later, for brief period, and then he was gone again forever. Some accounts say that Shams left in the middle of the night and that Rumi wandered in search of him for two years. (Perhaps a symbolic and romantic portrayal of the lover in search of his missing Beloved.) Other accounts report that Shams was murdered by Rumi's jealous disciples (symbolizing how one's desires and lower tendencies can destroy the thing held most dear).
Without Shams, Rumi found himself in a state of utter and incurable despair; and his whole life thereafter became one of longing and divine remembrance. Rumi's emptiness was that of a person who has just lost a husband or a wife, or a dear friend. Rumi's story shows us that the longing and emptiness we feel for a lost loved one is only a reflection, a hologram, of the longing we feel for God; it is the longing we feel to become whole again, the longing to return to the root from which we were cut. (Rumi uses the metaphor of a reed cut from a reed bed and then made into a flute-which becomes a symbol of a human separated from its source, the Beloved. And as the reed flute wails all day, telling about its separation from the reed bed, so Rumi wails all day telling about being separated from his Beloved.)
It was Shams' disappearance, however, that ignited the fire of longing within Rumi; and it was this very longing that brought him the glorious union with the Beloved. Years later Rumi wrote: "It is the burn of the heart that I want. It is this burning which is everything-more precious than a worldly empire-because it calls God secretly in the night.."
Excerpts from 'Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved' by Jonathan Star.