Write me: rjn@richardjnewman.com

The Crown You Wear Would Not Exist Without Them

I’ve heard that with his dying breaths Nushirvan
advised his son Hor­muz on how to rule:
“Guar­an­tee the poor their peace of mind.
Do not allow your priv­i­lege to bind you.
None who call your king­dom home will be
at peace if priv­i­lege is all you live for.
No judge will find a shep­herd innocent
who slept and let the wolf among the sheep.
Go! Stand guard! Pro­tect their impov­er­ished lives.
The crown you wear would not exist with­out them.
A tree, my son, is nour­ished through its roots.
Just so, a monarch draws his kingdom’s strength
through those he rules. Do not betray their trust
unless you have to; you’ll find your­self rootless.

Give Attention While You’re Still Alive

You will, if you are wise, val­ue what remains
when out­ward forms decay and die: the pure
idea the out­ward form once housed. Just so,
a man who choos­es igno­rance and greed,
who does not live in fear of God, lives empty,
pos­sess­ing out­ward form alone. The one
who makes it pos­si­ble that peo­ple sleep
at night with peace­ful hearts will sleep in peace
when he is laid to rest beneath the ground,
so give atten­tion while you’re still alive
first to the wel­fare of your inner self.
Don’t assume your fam­i­ly will care.
Their con­cern is how to satisfy
their own desires, not with the corpse you’ll be
when you are dead. Do you want to free your life
of all dis­tress? Then do not free your mind
of those who live dis­tressed lives. Give away
your trea­sure, all of it, today. Tomorrow,
the key to it might not be in your hand.

Make your own pro­vi­sions for the world to come;
com­pas­sion will not give your wife and children
strength to send after you what you will need.
He who enjoys great wealth in the next world
car­ried the ball of for­tune there from this one.
There’s no one any­where to scratch my back
as well as I can with my own fingertips.

Don’t close your fist around what you possess;
in the end, you’ll chew your knuck­les with regret.
Use your wealth instead to clothe the poor
and you will walk clothed in God’s presence.
If you let a needy stranger leave your door
emp­ty hand­ed, when you, in need, go door-
to-door, you’ll find you are a stranger there.
A man who has gives to those who don’t,
fear­ing the day that he’s the one without.
Look into the hearts of those who’ve suffered;
one day, it will be your suf­fer­ing heart
you’re look­ing into. Sus­tain in happiness
the spir­its of those who fail; the time will come,
in your own fail­ure, when you will need sustaining.
Show grat­i­tude that you are not a beggar:
do not chase the beg­gars from your doorstep.

Wild for Oneness

To love some­one whose body is like yours,
made from water and from clay, will rob you
of your peace of mind and of your patience.
When you’re awake, his love­ly dim­pled cheeks
call your thoughts to them, and you can’t resist;
and when you sleep, his image binds your dreams.
In self­less love you lay your head so low
at his feet that next to him the world means nothing;
and when the gold you offer fails to move him,
gold and dust become the same for you.
No oth­er beau­ty takes your breath away
because his pres­ence leaves no room for others.
You say his dwelling place is in your eyes,
but if you fold your eye­lids shut, you’ll see
he’s in your heart. You do not fear dishonor
by another’s hand, nor do you have the will
to wait even a sec­ond for what you want.
If he asked you for your soul, you’d put it on your lips;
and if he put his sword against your neck,
you’d bend to it will­ing­ly, eagerly.
Since love like this, that’s built on emp­ty air
so con­trols your life, caus­ing such trouble,
why are you sur­prised at those who walk
the Way, immersed as they are in Truth’s ocean?
Wild for one­ness with God’s divine soul,
they’re care­less with the souls God gave them.

And Heaven Let The Oyster Do Its Work

A drop of rain fell slow­ly from a cloud.
Shamed by the sea’s appar­ent endlessness
it said, “Where there’s an ocean, who am I?
If such vast water exists, I do not!”
But while it held itself in such contempt,
an oys­ter took it in and cher­ished it,
and heav­en let the oys­ter do its work
until the drop became a king­ly pearl.
It rose so high because it first bowed low,
bang­ing at non-being’s door
until at last it came to be.

If You’re Riding In a Caravan

I’ve heard a kind­ly mys­tic built a house
to match his height. Some­one said to him,
“I know you can build a bet­ter house than this.”
“Be qui­et!” the mys­tic replied. “Why
should I build myself a mau­soleum? This
is plen­ty for me to leave behind!” Don’t make
your home where the river’s surge is sure to find it.
Nor, if you’re rid­ing in a caravan
does it make sense to set­tle on the road.

Return to Saadi’s Bustan