“Naught to do with existence”

From Rumi’s Mathnavi (book III) – a parable most beautiful.


One day a sufi sees an empty food sack hanging on a nail.
He begins to turn and tear his shirt, saying,
Food for what needs no food!
A cure for hunger!

His burning grows and others join him,
shouting and moaning in the love-fire.

An idle passerby comments, “It’s only an empty sack.”

The sufi says, Leave. You want what we do not want.
You are not a lover.

A lover’s food is the love of bread,
not the bread. No one who really loves,
loves existence.

Lovers have nothing to do with existence.
They collect the interest without the capital.

No wings, yet they fly all over the world. No hands,
but they carry the polo ball from the field.

That dervish got a sniff of reality.
Now he weaves baskets of pure vision.

Lovers pitch tents on a field of nowhere.
They are all one color like that field.

A nursing baby does not know the taste of roasted meat.
To a spirit the foodless scent is food.

To an Egyptian, the Nile looks bloody.
To an Israelite, clear.
What is a highway to one is disaster to the other.

— Mathnawi III, 3014-30
Version by Coleman Barks
“The Essential Rumi”
Castle Books, 1997

Leave a Reply