V.M Art Gallery
The deliciousness of milk and honey is the reflection of the pure heart, from that heart the sweetness of every sweet thing is derived.
The heart is the substance, and the world the accident,
how should the heart’s shadow be the object of the heart’s desire?
Is that pure heart the heart that is enamored of riches or power, or is submissive to this black earth and water of the body, or to vain fancies it worships in the darkness for the sake of fame?
The heart is nothing but the Sea of Light, is the heart the place of vision of God–and then blind?
~ Hz. Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (r.a)
Out of the many things one can watch diligently is the delightful dance butterflies can perform in the presence of flowers. They are so faithfully drawn in a trance like action to them, that they will seem oblivious to your intruding presence …could it possible that they are on high on the nectar as they carry on a drinking spree ? This mind numbing attraction to the flowers in their ever so short lifespan makes these moments quite striking. Moths for the same reason are also beautifully drawn to light. This hypnotic attraction to the very end, as a little spark burns to indicate their demise. My lovely drunken gypsies, I wish I could be you. Light and honey the nectar of the select few.
A man, falling into a well, just manages to hang on to a dead branch of a tree growing around it. The branch nearly splits. A fatal fall is imminent. He then notices, with fright, that a dragon at the bottom of the well is trying to get hold of his legs. Mastering his fear, he sees, close to him, a beehive full of honey. While holding on with one hand, he takes a little honey with the other, tastes it and says, “Life, what a joy!’
Hazrat Fariduddin Attar r.a
We have become drunk and our heart has departed, it has fled from us—whither has it gone?
When it saw that the chain of reason was broken, immediately my heart took to flight.
It will not have gone to any other place, it has departed to the seclusion of God.
Seek it not in the house, for it is of the air; it is a bird of the air, and has gone into the air.
It is the white falcon of the Emperor; it has taken flight, and departed to the Emperor.
~ Hz. Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (r.a)
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you truly love"
…. the powerful symbolic imagery employed by the Sufis in their writings and teachings on the Divine Unity (tawhid). Symbols are a useful means of understanding how outer and inner realities are fused together, because symbolism starts with the premise that a symbolic object (the outer reality) has an underlying meaning (its inner reality).
Problems seem to arise, however, when we try to apply the same principle to our everyday lives (the outer reality) and their underlying meaning or purpose (the inner reality). We tend to look for meaning and purpose in our lives in terms of the outer reality, as though they are somewhere ‘out there’ -in the future or in another place – rather than being right here where we are.
If you think about it for a moment, when we look at a symbol we perceive its inner meaning at the same time that we perceive the outer reality. The outer form is simply a veil that separates us from the inner reality. The advantage of an established vocabulary of symbols such as that used by the Sufis is that once we are aware of the symbolic meaning we no longer need to use our analytical mind to work it out. Thus freed from reliance upon the outer form, the inner reality of the symbol can speak directly to us. The veil of separation has been removed.
The examples of thematic imagery we will look at here are: the drop and the ocean; the wine of the Beloved; and the lover and the Beloved. These are followed by two classic love stories – Joseph and Zulaikha and Layla and Majnun – which are frequently alluded to in the writings of the Sufis.
The Drop and the Ocean
The natural cycle by which water from the ocean evaporates, falls on the land as rain and then makes its way along streams and rivers back to the ocean is used as a metaphor for the journey of the individual human soul back to union with its Source. Hence the many Sufi references to the drop becoming one with the ocean, to drowning, swimming, fish and pearls.
The Wine of the Beloved
Unless we have been forewarned about the symbolic language of the Sufis we could easily assume that poets such as Omar Khayyam (d.c.1123) or Hafiz (d.1390), spent most of their time in a drunken stupor. Or if they were not writing about being drunk, they were looking forward to getting drunk. Such an assumption is easy to make if we take the poetry at face value and ignore its symbolic function. It also serves to underline the point that the Sufi poets are writing about something that is beyond the understanding of most of us. They are writing about a different state of consciousness: one that is as radically different from a normal state of sobriety as being high on drugs or alcohol. For the Sufis, it is the different state of consciousness that is important.
The alcoholic imagery is not only secondary but it is also a metaphor for the spiritual ecstasy experienced in moments of profound union with the Divine.
Excerpt: John Baldock, The Essence of Sufism.
Moth and Flame | Sufi Metaphor
In sufi literature one of the most loved metaphor is moth and flame. The moth’s annihilation into the flame has been drawn again and again as an analogy for the seeker in the sufi path who seeks annihilation into Divine Essence. The sufistic term for the annihilation or passing away into the Divine is Fana.
The Moths and the Flame
Moths gathered in a fluttering throng one night
To learn the truth about the candle’s light,
And they decided one of them should go
To gather news of the elusive glow.
One flew till in the distance he discerned
A palace window where a candle burned –
And went no nearer; back again he flew
To tell the others what he thought he knew.
The mentor of the moths dismissed his claim,
Remarking: “He knows nothing of the flame.”
A moth more eager than the one before
Set out and passed beyond the palace door.
He hovered in the aura of the fire,
A trembling blur of timorous desire,
Then headed back to say how far he’d been,
And how much he’d undergone and seen.
The mentor said: “You do not bear the signs
Of one who’s fathomed how the candle shines.”
Another moth flew out – his dizzy flight
Turned to an ardent wooing of the light;
He dipped and soared, and in his frenzied trance
Both Self and fire were mingled by his dance –
The flame engulfed his wing-tips, body, head;
His being glowed a fierce translucent red;
And when the mentor saw the sudden blaze,
The moth’s form lost within the glowing rays,
He said: “He knows, he knows the truth we seek,
That hidden truth of which we cannot speak.”
To go beyond all knowledge is to find
That comprehension which eludes the mind,
And you can never gain the longed-for goal
Until you first outsoar both flesh and soul;
But should one part remain, a single hair
will drag you back and plunge you in despair –
No creature’s Self can be admitted here,
Where all identity must disappear.
Selection from Farid ud-Din Attar’s The Conference of the Birds
Taken from the translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis, Penguin Classics, 1984