Saturday, April 30, 2005

truth's path

On truth's path, wise is mad, insane is wise.

In love's way, self and other are the same.

Having drunk the wine, my love, of being one with you,

I find the way to Mecca and Bodhgaya are the same.

#302: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

At the dawn of consciousness today, I thought of opposites like deep-shallow, weighty-light, compact-bulky, and so on. I did try the word opposite but knew it was an unlikely word to find in Rumi's first lines. It then occurred to me that yesterday's finis had marked the opposite pole of begin which is where I started this daily discipline. I then sought out the next keyword used and found fake, then lies, so then I searched under truth and found this wonderful verse above. It is so compact, so succinctly wise. It looks like the kind of verse that would be so quotable. And yet, a Google search on "the way to Mecca and Bodhgaya" (hardly likely to differ among translators) yielded only Zara Houshmand's translation for The Iranian.

Perhaps the Bodhgaya reference is too obscure? This is the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment and it is a primary focus for Buddhist pilgrimage, as Mecca is for Muslims. When contemplating opposites, how much further apart can you get than between this sweet simple verse of a mystic poet and the Taliban's mindless act of vandalism in blowing up the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan?

And yet Rumi's poem urges us to equate or unite the opposities, to see the sanity in the Taliban's mad act and perhaps the madness within Rumi's own seemingly so sane outlook. Rumi was a Sufi and Sufi wisdom was often perceived and even deliberately presented as a kind of folly (see Idries Shah: Wisdom of the Idiots).

A classic text on opposities is C. G. Jung's Mysterium Coniunctionis which opens with these words:

The factors which come together in the coniunctio are conceived as oppposites, either confronting one another in enmity or attracting one another in love. To begin with they form a dualism; for instance the opposites are humidum (moist) / sicum (dry), frigidum (cold) / calidum (warm), superiora (upper, higher) / inferiora (lower), spiritus-anima (spirit-soul) / corpus (body), coelum (heaven) / terra (earth), ignis (fire) / aqua (water), bright / dark, agens (active) / patiens (passive), volatile (volatile, gaseous) / fixum (solid), pretiosum (precious, costly; also carum, dear) / vile (cheap, common), bonum (good) / malum (evil), manifestum (open) / occultum (occult; also celatum, hidden), oriens (East) / occidens (West), vivum (living) / mortuum (dead, inert), masculus (masculine) / foemina (feminine), Sol / Luna. Often the polarity is arranged as a quaternio (quaternity), with the two opposites crossing one another, as for instance the four elements or the four qualities (moist, dry, cold, warm), or the four directions and seasons, thus producting the cross as an emblem of the four elements and symbol of the sublunary physical world. This fourfold Physis, the cross, also appears in the signs for earth, Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter.

Not only is there a basic dualism but there is a dualistic relationship of love/hate between the opposites. We come together or engage with the enemy in an embrace that is essentially as intimate as the embrace of lovers. By contrast, we find times in which we must draw away from a beloved because we want to reassert our separateness as distinction. In this instance, I have to say that I cannot agree with Rumi. Mecca and Bodhgaya are not the same. Perhaps this was true enough in Rumi's time and place, but it is not true today. Islam has no legitimate place among the world's religions, despite its central assertion of One God, while Buddhism can and does and should get the nod, despite (perhaps because of) having no need for deity.

However much I love you, Rumi, I must differ with you here. Mecca is a place of false pilgrimage while Bodhgaya is a place of true. They are not the same.

As this blog progresses, I hope to elaborate or bulk out that point of view.


At Tuesday, 12 July, 2016, Blogger Shannon said...

Mindless act of violence? Have you not bothered to look into whether they had a specific reason for doing so? They were destroyed to make a point about the fact that "here," in one of the poorest country's on Earth, UNESCO was tripping all over itself to look after those pieces of stone, diverting resources that could have been used to protect what is *most sacred* in Afghanistan—lives of Afghans.

No Buddhist has any right to complain about some statues when so many Afghans have suffered and died over the past several decades.


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