13 Metaphors from Rumi

13 Metaphors from Rumi

Lauren Wright

Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call

In this metaphor, Rumi is saying that a person's purpose is to become synonymous with God. The caller is God, and each person is the Called. Rumi says let the caller and called disappear. If you are truly one with God you will not know where God begins and you end. Instead of being two separate things, the caller and the called, you simply become the Call, or one.
You yourself are forgotten, who you are is indistinguishable from God. You lose yourself completely and find God. This is the way a relationship with God should look.

We know that alchemy transforms copper into gold.
This Sun doesn't want a crown or robe from God's grace.
He is a hat to a hundred bald men,
a covering for ten who were naked

Rumi is indicating in this metaphor that it is possible for something of little valuable to become more valuable like the transformation from copper to gold. But is this what God provides to those who believe in him? According to Rumi it is not. God provides what is most needed, like a hat to a hundred bald men, or covering for ten who were naked. It is almost silly for one expect that God will provide you with riches, and material things of this world. Why would a sunneed a crown or robe from God's grace? It seems like a silly question, and that is the point. Rumi is pointing out how some may expect some sort of prize for believing in God, but in fact God provides you with what is of most importance and what is most needed.

I've said before that every craftsman
searches for what's not there
to practice his craft.
A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don't think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting you net
into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,
but still you call it "death",
that which provides you sustenance and work

Rumi is listing different occupations that require emptiness. He is showing that there is a purpose for emptiness in this world. In a lot of ways people would feel they have no purpose in this life without that emptiness. It often takes emptiness for someone to realize what is missing. If everything was whole in this life, who would need God? Who would need heaven? Everything would be provided here on earth and there would be no need to escape. God provides you sustenance and work in this life through the emptiness, and also provides you a way out. In a lot of ways people embrace the emptiness because it gives them something to do, but fear death, or eternal. I believe Rumi is referring to heaven with the 'invisible ocean'. There is
abundance provided, but people cling to the emptiness. I think Rumi is pointing out the frivolousness of this.

Know that your body nurtures the spirit,
helps it grow, and gives it wrong advise.

The body becomes, eventually, like a vest
of chain mail in peaceful years,
too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

But the body's desires, in another way, are like
an unpredictable associate, whom you must be
patient with. And that companion is helpful,
because patience expands your capacity
to love and feel peace.
The patience of a rose close to a thorn
keeps it fragrant. It's patience that gives milk
to the male camel still nursing in its third year,
and patience is what the prophets show to us

Rumi is relating the body to the soul in this metaphor. Rumi is pointing the body's purpose to the soul. On one hand, the body can be misleading to what the soul really needs. The body has earthly desires, shortcommings, and is finite. The body becomes like a chain mail vest at times, and needs to be taken off, or have less focus in order to get what the soul needs. On the other hand, the body's shortcommings also strengthen the soul. The body teaches patience, and enables you to love and feel peace more. The body is something God gives you to strengthen your soul, and away to connect with and learn from the earth.

We have crept into this corner of grief,
turning the water wheel with a flow of tears.
While a tyrant with a heart of flint slays,
and no one says, "Prepare to pay the blood money."
Faith in the king comes easily in lovely times,
but be faithful now and endure, pale lover.
No cure exists for this pain but to die,
So why should I say, "Cure this pain"?


Rumi is pointing out in this metaphor how hard it is to love God and do what he wills during the hard times. It is always easy to be thankful and faithful to God when things are coming your way. The true test of a strong relationship with God, is through the hard times, and tests God throws your way. Rumi brings up the question why people ask to be cured from the pain. God has already provided a way out, with death, and a better place with heaven, so why do so many people ask to be cured and to stay in the world filled with pain. If people were more secure in the afterlife they would not be afraid of death, but would welcome it whenever it was their time.

Drink from the presence of saints,
not from those other jars.
Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.
Be a conoisseur,
and taste with caution.
Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,
the ones unadulterated with fear,
or some urgency about "what's needed."
Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves when it's been untied,
and is just ambling about.


In my opinion, I compare this to the Christian idea of your relationship with God. When you become a christian, you invite God to come live in your heart. There are many other things that people turn to to fill the emptiness in their lives. Christians believe that emptiness is God shaped, and that there is no other way to fill that hole then from God. Rumi is pointing out that there are
many other jars, or ways that you can go to satisfy your hunger. But he tells you to be a conoisseur or to be more educated and careful about what you use to fill your life. He says to drink the purest, and the one that will untie you and set you free.

We all are lions, but lions on a banner:
because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment.
Their onward rush is visible, and the wind is unseen:
may that which is unseen not fail from us!
Our wind whereby we are moved and our being are of thy gift;
our whole existence is from thy bringing into being.


Lions are one of the most feared animals. I find it interesting that Rumi choses lions as a metaphor for people. I personally take it as an indicator of how influential or detrimental people can be. Lions are feared and therefore have influence. Lions can also easily destroy. God provides the lions' motion, but only the movements of the lions are seen. If people call themselves followers of God, one would hope that they would be doing God's work and not their own. A lot of times, God is misrepresented, and people misuse their religion. I think that when Rumi says 'may that which is unseen not fail from us' , I believe he is asking that their actions be completely God's and not their own. The wind that God provides is a gift, and it needs to be used correctly and respected.

These spiritual window-shoppers,
who idly ask, 'How much is that?' Oh, I'm just looking.
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.
What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.
Where did you go? "Nowhere."
What did you have to eat? "Nothing much."
Even if you don't know what you want,
buy _something,_ to be part of the exchanging flow.
Start a huge, foolish project,
like Noah.
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.


Rumi is calling people to actually take part in what they believe. Window shoppers simply look, they do not buy. Spiritual window shoppers believe in something, like what they believe, but they do not act on it. Rumi indicates that these people will let their whole lives pass them by without contributing anything. He mentions Noah, and says start a huge foolish project.
To Rumi, Noah's project may have been foolish, but it is something that is remembered and points to God
regardless. Spiritual window shoppers may be too timid, and worried about what others may think if they act on what they believe. Rumi says to not care about what others think,because it does not matter.

Oh, if a tree could wander
and move with foot and wings!
It would not suffer the axe blows
and not the pain of saws!
For would the sun not wander
away in every night ?
How could at ev?ry morning
the world be lighted up?
And if the ocean?s water
would not rise to the sky,
How would the plants be quickened
by streams and gentle rain?
The drop that left its homeland,
the sea, and then returned ?
It found an oyster waiting
and grew into a pearl.
Did Yusaf not leave his father,
in grief and tears and despair?
Did he not, by such a journey,
gain kingdom and fortune wide?
Did not the Prophet travel
to far Medina, friend?
And there he found a new kingdom
and ruled a hundred lands.
You lack a foot to travel?
Then journey into yourself!
And like a mine of rubies
receive the sunbeams?


In this metaphor Rumi is simply asking that if you are able to do something for God, do it. He talks about how if a tree had feet, it would move so it would not have to be chopped down. He is comparing this to people. If you have an opportunity to better your soul, to do everything you can to do so. 'And if the oceans water would not rise to the sky, How would the plants be quickened by streams and gentle rain?' Rumi reiterating that in order to fed yourself spiritually you have to
actively do something, like take a pilgrammage, spend time worshipping God, studying about God, reaching to others. At the end Rumi even says if you do not have the means to travel, you can look inside yourself and find what you need. In a lot of ways this is a poem showing how you have no excuse to not feed yourself spiritually.

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
it easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.
Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.
So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.
That's how you came here, like a star
without a name. Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.


While you are on Earth there are many things you depend on and need initially. When you are a baby you depend on someone to feed you, clean you, nurture you. But once you gradually gain independece, you forget your previous dependence and needs. This should apply spiritually as well. Early in your faith in God you feel the need to cling to earthly things, and depend on human relationships. But Rumi suggests once you truly find God, you need to forget your previous dependence and simply go straight towards him and not look back.

Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."


When many think of death they think of funerals. If you really believe in the eternal, why wouldn't you think of death as a wedding? You are entering into a covenant that God has promised you a gift of eternal life. You become one with God. I think it is a beautiful metaphor to compare your love with God as your love of a husband or wife. That is the closest you get to
the love of God, and the oneness you experience with your spouse is just a taste of the oneness you will one day experience with God. So why be sad? It should be a celebration like a wedding!

Like the birds of the sea, men come from the ocean--the ocean of the soul.
How could this bird, born from that sea, make his dwelling here?
No, we are the pearls from the bosom of the sea, it is there that we dwell:
Otherwise how could the wave succeed to the wave that comes from the soul?
The wave named 'Am I not your Lord' has come, it has broken the vessel of the body;
And when the vessel is broken, the vision comes back, and the union with Him.


Birds can't swim. Birds fly. It is absurd to think of a bird living in the ocean. I feel it is same with those who believe in God. Originally we were made to dwell with God. Original sin ruined that because sin cannot stand in the presence of God, and we were separated from him. I believe that we were not made for this world, and weren't meant to be separated from God.
That is why this world is so painful and hard, because this is not what we were made for. Just likea bird was not made for the ocean, we were not made for this life, but the next. When you are on earth and turn your life to God, a wave comes, a wave of God asking you 'Am I not your Lord'? This is a wave to remind you who you belong to, who you were made to be, and breaks you wide open. Once you come back to consciousness you remember, and you are one with God, as you were meant to be.

The flowers flee from Autumn, but not you -
You are the fearless rose
that grows amidst the freezing wind.

Pouring down like the rain of heaven
you fell upon the rooftop of this world.
Then you ran in every direction
and escaped through the drain spout . . .

Now the words are over
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest
in the arms of the Beloved.


If you truly follow God you should stand out from this world. The world is full of sin, and to become more like God you need to be the opposite. This is not the easy way to take by any means. Much like a rose standing alone in a field, continuing to grow upward despite the cold weather. You don't have time to rest now, if you want to do God's will. At the end of the metaphor Rumi says 'Now the words are over and the pain they bring is gone. Now you have gone to rest in the arms of the Beloved.' After a long hard life of swimming up stream, facing those who speak harsh words against you, you finally have your rest with God in heaven. That is the goal, and that is the reward.

I've heard of living at the center, but what about
leaving the center of the center?
Flying toward thankfulness, you become
the rare bird with one wing made of fear,
and one of hope. In autumn,
a rose crawling along the ground in the cold wind.
Rain on the roof runs down and out by the spout
as fast as it can.


This is the opposite of the previous metaphor. This is someone who decides to take the easy way out, and not live a full life of serving God. They chose the easy way over the hard, and try to escape this life as fast as they can without any pain, or the experience and learning that comes along with it. This is the path of least resistance, which may sound appealing, but does not give you an eternity of rest.

Share this:

©2009 - 2017
Thank you for visiting Maulana Rumi Online, a blog dedicated entirely to the life, works and teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi better known simply as Rumi here in our beloved America. Just as a memory refresher, all articles, e-books, images, links and reading materials listed in this Blog are solely for Educational purposes. This Blog is designed and maintained by yours truly, your comments, critiques or suggestions are quite welcome and greatly appreciated. As for my own Rumi Translations, you are welcome to copy and use them as long as it's not for commercial purposes. For best viewing, please try this Blog on Google Chrome Browser. This is a very long Blog though, so please make sure to use the Scroll To Top or Bottom Buttons at the left side, or Back To Top Button at the bottom right corner of your screen for smooth navigation. If you have any question, comment, critique or suggestion, please contact me by clicking the Contact Box embedded at the right middle corner. As Rumi would say, "Come, come, whoever you are, come back again.."!

To link to this blog, simply copy and paste the code below into your blog or website