Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Lamps Are Different but the Light is the Same

I am using the holy month of Ramadan to celebrate interfaith connections. There are many examples of interfaith collaboration if we but take a moment to look.  Twelfth century Spain saw a beautiful collaboration among Christians, Jews and Muslims as has been described in The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews,and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal.  Richard Rubenstein has also written a delightful book, Aristotle’sChildren: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages. Rubenstein’s book captures the thrill and excitement of the rediscovery of Aristotle’s philosophy. He shows how the study of Aristotle revitalized European thought and at the same time gives us a glimpse into the interfaith collaboration that existed for a time in Medieval Europe. Menocal’s book demonstrates how interactions between Jews, Christians and Muslims in places like Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville resulted in a shared culture of art and architecture.

The Most Widely Read Poet in the United States

Poetry is another great medium for listening to voices from many avenues of faith and culture.  Rumi was a Persian poet who lived in the thirteenth century, spending most of his life in what is known today as Turkey (his scholar father moved the family from Persia to avoid Ghengis Khan’s invasion).  Although Rumi (known in Persia as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī) was a Sufi within the Islamic tradition, he is today the most widely read poet in the United States. His poetry is a beautiful example of the ability to transcend one’s own tradition to speak people across many traditions and cultures. One of Rumi’s poems, “One One One” declares a truth that can indeed transcend all vessels of tradition. He proclaims that “The lamps are different, but the light is the same.” Listen to a recitation and commentary of this poem in English and then scroll down to read the words.  May we take this moment to look beyond the barriers of fear and hate that continue to be constructed in our time.

One One One

The lamps are different.
But the Light is the same.
So many garish lamps in the dying brain's lamp shop,
Forget about them.
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light.
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own hold fire,
The Light streams toward you from all things,
All people, all possible permutations of good,
evil, thought, passion.
The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind,
Endlessly emanating all things.
One turning and burning diamond,
One, one, one.
Ground yourself, strip yourself down,
To blind loving silence.
Stay there, until you see
You are gazing at the Light
With its own ageless eyes.

Mevlana Rumi (1207 - 1273)

Mevlevi Dervishes Perform (Sultanahmet - İstanbul - Turkey)
Credit: Kıvanç Niş
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
 “The Mevlevi Order or the Mevleviye are a Sufi order founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in 1273 in Konya (in Turkey at present). They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi Path.”

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