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.