A COMPARISON BETWEEN RUMI AND PLATO




A COMPARISON BETWEEN RUMI AND PLATO

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, likens humankind to slaves who have run away from their masters without permission in order to watch some theatrical play. A wonderful play is being presented on the stage. While the slaves are watching what is being performed, their eyes keep turning back to the door because they are afraid that at any moment their master might come in, and they would be punished. Therefore, they cannot fully enjoy the play. Their anxiety and fear take the joy out of their pleasure. According to this philosopher, the world is like a great theatrical stage. A beautiful and grand play is being presented  At the same time, this world is like a museum full of beautiful works. We human beings, although living in this magnificent museum, are unable to examine it minutely. We are unable to penetrate into the fine points in the wonderful works kept in this museum because all of us are too busy with our daily work. We all have duties that we have to perform. We have to make our living, and this causes us to be slaves to life. For this reason we are unable to think about the life drama that is being presented on the stage, the masterpieces around us, and the Creator of it all.



Were we to take our minds and hearts as our guide in the light of science and knowledge, we would stand in wonderment at what we see, from the smallest atom to the greatest being either in what we see in our own world or in the infinite vacuum of the heavens, those other worlds, other stars and other suns going round and round... We do not need to look far. We have only to turn our eyes to our own bodies. Every human being is a universe composed of billions of cells. Unknown to ourselves these billions of cells in us work on our behalf. And our minds? All the cities we visit, the valleys we pass through, the mountains we cross, the human beings we know, the books we read are all photographed and compiled in our minds. What a wonderful archive that is! Even the copy of the voice of a friend whom we haven't seen in years is stored in our minds. We can recognize the voice of that friend even when we do not see his face. Our brain, our most precious possession, is placed inside a strong case, carefully folded and packed by a master's hand. How many architects  how many chemists, how many engineers and physicists have worked together to prepare the plan of this mysterious laboratory of the human body, and have put together this masterpiece of human being?

The world is not made up of human beings only. There are millions and millions of living beings from the microscopic germs and microbes to elephants. Each creature, like the human being, has been created in a wondrous way. The fineness and art in a mosquito's wing is not to be found in the wing of a giant airplane. The bees make their honeycombs so precisely The young of a duck know how to swim as soon as they come out of the egg. The horses carried over to America by Christopher Columbus knew how to distinguish between the good and the poisonous plants in a strange land the samples of which they had never seen in Europe.
Plants, too, are innumerable. They are tied to earth by their roots and they cannot move about, but they can feed, they can breathe, they reproduce and eventually die. The order in their leaves serving as lungs, the beauty, color and taste in their fruit— what is all this? There is motion and liveliness even in things that we perceive as lifeless. Atomic science and new discoveries have proven that the smallest particle of every substance revolves around a nucleus at a dazzling speed. Where is the Artist who made all these beings in accordance with these very fine calculations  Who created this art and who caused us to stand in wonderment before the beauties He created? Who is the owner of all this work we see? Who created all these beings? I remember the following two verses we had to learn by heart when I was a child:

When you read a book,
You ask who the writer is.
When you see a nice building,
You wish to know who the builder is.

Have the heavens and the earth no owner? When one thinks of it, one understands, That everything proves to us That there is a great and Almighty God.

Where, then, is the great Creator who has calculated everything precisely, thought of everything thoroughly, and who rules the universe by unchangeable rules? How should we look for God who demonstrated great art even in every single atom? The peerless Creator who adorned the whole universe, including our own earth, with magnificent beauty is hidden behind His works. Making these works a veil to Himself, he does not show Himself.

The great philosopher Plato and the great saint Rumi have put the same great effort into searching, finding, understanding and making others understand the Being who created the universe. They have expressed their ideas and feelings in a very similar manner. However, Plato made his thought and feeling a guide in attaining the truth and discovering the secrets of the universe while the great Rumi took his own faith and inspiration as his guide in his search.

How can we explain the fact that the thoughts of Plato and those of Rumi were identical in some points? The truth has been manifested to human beings since Adam. Therefore, who knows, Plato may have been influenced by the great religions and philosophical currents that came before him. The fragments of truth in his books may have come out of the sources of these great religions. The heavenly religions agree on the faith in One God. As a matter of fact, certain Muslim thinkers have considered Plato as one of the prophets in the Qur'an whose name remains unmentioned. One wonders if Rumi saw Plato's works. He possibly did. Even if with his knowledge of the Greek language he did not understand and comprehend these works, the works of the great Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had been translated into Arabic since the time of the Abbasids.

Let us consider briefly some of the ideas and beliefs Rumi and Plato have in common in their books. Both Rumi and Plato have declared that e present life in which we are living must have origins. Both of them thought that our spirits dwelt in some other world before we came to exist on earth. This, Plato explains, is the "World of Ideas, " the "World of Examples, " while Rumi calls it the "World of Spirit. " According to Plato, in the world where our spirits were before we came into this present world, there were the best, the most beautiful and perfect of what we see in the present world. The things we have seen and liked in this world such as a pretty face, a beautiful sight, a good work, lovely music, etc., remind us of the beautiful things that we have seen in the world of spirit. The beautiful things that we saw in that world have left traces of memory in our spirit. For this reason, Plato says: "To know is to simply remember that which was known before. "

According to Rumi, our real motherland is that universe which is the "World of Absolute Beauty. " We are strangers on earth. All human beings are strangers in this world. That universe which Plato calls the World of Ideas is our paradise lost. We have been exiled from that world into this one. Rumi explains in his Mesnevi:

The man who lives in a city (many) years, as soon as his eyes go asleep, beholds another city full of good and evil, and his city comes not to his memory at all, to that (he should) say, "I have lived there (so many years); this new city is not mine, here I am only in pawn. " No, he thinks that in truth he has always lived in this very city and has been born and bred in it. What wonder (then) if the spirit does not remember its ancient abodes, which have been its dwelling place and birthplace aforetime, since this world, like sleep, is covering it over as clouds cover stars?"

This place is like an exile for us and our spirits are prisoners in our bodies. Rumi says in one of his poems: ''Where am I, where is the prison? Whose property did I steal so that I was locked up in the prison of body?" We are troubled because we are separated from our own land, which is the world of spirit. There is a deep complaint on this account in the beginning of the Mesnevi. We are in trouble because we have been separated from our origin.

What is death according to Rumi? Death is deliverance from this world of suffering, returning into our real homeland. For this reason death is a release. It is the release of the soul from the prison of the body, the return to the world of spirit to unite with the Absolute Beauty, and this causes death to cease to be dreadful and to become sweet. This is the reason why the night on which Rumi passed away was called shab-i 'arus (the wedding night). "On the day of my death, when my coffin is carried away, do not suppose that I have any of this world's troubles and pain.

When you see my funeral being performed do not cry 'Separation! Separation!' The day of death is the day when 1 shall attain union with the Beloved. "

It is the same faith that caused Mansur al-Hallaj to give his life unregretfully on the gallows. It is the same faith with which Farid al-Din Attar infuriated the Mongol soldier who wanted to sell him as a slave, facing death in full knowledge. The same faith caused Seyyid Nesimi to have his body flayed as he uttered no complaint. It was the same faith that allowed Plato's teacher Socrates to drink his hemlock poison cheerfully and go to his death feeling no anxiety. This story given in Plato's book called Phaedon - the Immortality of the Soul is worth reading as a warning.

According to Plato everything we see in this world is subject to a permanent change. Everything is not perfect and faultless in this world. The best of the beauty that enchants us in this world, the best of the good things that capture our hearts in this world is in the World of Ideas, that is, in the World of Examples. Therefore, we should not be troubled about the beauties that perish in this world. Rumi, in a poem touching on this matter, says: "The original of every substance, or every picture you see in this world is in the World of the Spirit. Do not worry that the picture is gone. Do not be troubled that every pretty face you have seen, every subtle saying you have heard has vanished since the truth does not consist of what you see and what you know in this world. "

According to Rumi, after being exiled to this world, God has given us possibilities to be delivered. Without waiting for death to come, we can be lifted toward the world of spirit by killing our passions and getting rid of our worldly desires. A ladder of love is being placed before us so that we may be able to go up higher: "Since the day you came to this world of being, a ladder has been placed before you so that you may escape. ' Rumi very often thinks of our spirit as locked up in the prison of the body and imagines ways of deliverance. On a spring day as Rumi goes around among the gardens he notices that the dry branches that looked dead in winter have come to life, have giv­en forth buds and leaves. The buds are breaking their hard shells and are like flags of triumph bursting out in joy and excitement. The great thinker and poet Rumi asks the leaves: "O leaf, you must surely have found strength to force the branch to burst open so that you could emerge. What did you do to become free from the prison? Speak, speak, so that we may do what you did in order to become free from this prison. "

Rumi often reminds man who has been exiled from the world of the spirit into the present world to try to understand what he is, from where he came, and that it is necessary for him to tear himself away from this earth and return to his original home: "Think or your condition, try to understand yourself. Get out, go traveling and search for your real homeland. Get yourself far from the prison of the material world, journey to the world of the spirit. You are the bird of the holy world of the spirit. Alas, if you should appropriate this mortal world and wish to remain in it. " Here we see the real matter: We should not become bound to this world and to things of material benefit to the mortal beauties and ephemeral delights, but we should look for the eternal beauties, to remember God, Creator of all the universe, to find Him in our hearts and consciousness and to love Him truly.

This is the real love, the platonic love called after Plato. It is easy to love not the perishable beauties, the beautiful who lose their beauty in one way or another, but the Most Beautiful of all beauties, who hides Himself behind His own creations and works, Him who is known but not seen, Him who is infinite and immortal. How are we to find the Greatest Being who created not only the beauty and the beautiful but everything, the only God? How are we to love Him? Everyone sees God from his own angle. God is expressed according to everyone's thought, understanding, and comprehension. Are we to look for God like the shepherd who was found by Moses? A well-known story in the Mesnevi illustrates this concept: "One day, Moses met a shepherd on his way. He heard him talking to God as follows: 'O God who chooses whoever You will, where are You that I may become Your servant and sew Your shoes and comb Your head? That I may wash Your clothes and bring milk to You, O Worshipful One, that I may kiss Your little hand and rub Your little foot (and when) bedtime comes, I may sweep Your little room. O You for whom may all my goats be sacrificed. O You, in remembrance of whom are my cries of ay and ah!'" Moses scolded the shepherd for his candid speech, and he was reproached by God. Every person will understand and feel God according to his own mind and capacity and according to God's grace bestowed on him. God shows His power in everything, in every atom. One cannot help but remember Sa'di's famous couplet: "In the sight of the wise, every leaf of plants and trees is a book telling of God and His art. " Plato searched for God a great deal and acted according to his mind and logic. Rumi's way, on the other hand, is that of the heart: "The inside and outside of my heart is He. He is the soul, the vein, the blood in my body. How can there be infidelity and belief in such a place? My being has become non-existent, because He has become all my being. " Rumi sensed the Most Beautiful of all beauties first of all in his own being; then he found Him in everything, in every atom. "Do not say He is here or there. Tell the truth where is He? He is in the whole universe. But where is the eye that will see Him?' In another verse Rumi says: "Can there be a more beautiful friend than yourself? Can there be anything more beautiful than seeing your countenance? God forbid, certainly not! O my beauty, O my Beloved, it suffices me that You do exist in the two worlds. Wherever there is a spot of beauty it is the reflection of Your light. " When the power and the greatness of God are felt in every atom, in every being, it is natural to find Him, the All-Present, the All-Seeing: "Wherever I lay my head He is the only one in whose presence one prostrates. He is the only God in six directions and from the six directions. The vineyard, the rose, the nightingale, and the beautiful beloved are all pretexts. The purpose of all these is only He. "

Plato's Prosperity contains a parable about a cave: According to Plato, we are like the slaves who are imprisoned in a large cave and sit with their backs to the cave door with their hands, arms, and feet tightly bound. At the door a great fire is burning. As we watch on the walls of the cave the moving shadows of laborers carrying their loads on their backs and talking together  we understand nothing from the confused and smothered noises that come to our ears. Likewise, we see beings and things existing in this world like images. For, just like the slaves, our hands and feet are tied. We cannot go out and we cannot see the truth. We see only images. In this parable what Plato means by the slaves is the spirits that are imprisoned in our bodies. The spirit bound within the prison of the body imagines the shades and images reflected on the walls of the cave by Plato (like the pictures we see today on the screen of a movie theater) to be the truth and thus deceives itself. In order to find the true life, we must find not the shades but those whose shades are reflected or Him who causes the reflections to appear.

Emerson, the well-known thinker, says: "If we consider this visible world a symbol of the real world, the visible things are the images of the unseen things. " This is repeating in different words what Plato and the great Rumi have said. However, among the images reflected from the world of the spirits into this world, or in this world which receives the visible images of the invisible world, the superior being is humankind. Because in man's spirit there is something entrusted to man for safekeeping, a divine spark, from the Supreme Being who has created the universe. The Caliph Ali says: "You consider yourself a small thing, but in you the greatest universe is hidden. " Shaykh Ghalib also says: "Take care of yourself, for you are the quintessence of the universe, you are man who is the pupil of the worlds. " Truly in man, who is the most honorable of all creation and the quintessence of the uni­verse, is a spiritual essence, a divine spark that is not to be found in any other being. This divine spark struggles passionately to meet its origin, it runs and hurries without us beyond our material being, trembles, burns, and jumps and spiritually it searches for Him. Rumi tells of the good news that in man there is a pearl from His mine in these words: "There is something in you that, without your awareness, seeks Him. There is a pearl in your soul which is from His mine. " Therefore, man is the most honorable creature in the universe and the most sublime.

Because of the Divine Entrustment that was rejected by other beings and given to man at the end, man has beautified the world and invented wondrous and wonderful things. Rumi, praising the superiority of humankind, says: "We are the treas­ure of God's secrets. We are the infinite sea full of pearls. What exists in all beings, from the moon to the fish, is our self. It is we who sit on the throne of sovereignty. We are the most exalted of all beings. " When man comprehends and discovers what is in him, he will find the truth. But man is not able to find the truth of his own being. He is unable to enter the city of his body. In one of his poems, Yunus Emre says:

Into the city of my body I would like to enter for a while The face of the Sultan therein I would like to witness.

It is not easy to enter the city of the body and to witness the Sovereign therein. Rumi says: "Master, travel from yourself to yourself and search for yourself in yourself. " Thus, Rumi leaves behind Plato, who seeks for the truth by the dexterity of intellect, and goes down deep into man's very heart. This way he discovers man and the substance that is in man. "O soul, who is your beloved, do you know? O heart, who is your guest, do you know?" For him who has found the Guest within himself and loves Him, there can be no separation. While others struggle to attain the union and while they burn with the desire to meet the Beloved, Rumi says: "I do not talk of meeting the Beloved, I do not mention a union because I have not been separated from the Beloved. "

There are many verses in the Qur'an telling of man's supe­riority among all creatures and that he was created with the best qualities and superior virtues: "We have honored the children of Adam" or "Verily we have created man in the best pattern. " Let us consider the meaning of these verses to see God's great favor to man and the infinite gifts he has bestowed upon humankind: "We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. " What a wonderful thing it is to think that God is nearer to man than his jugular vein! "God is the light of the earth and the heav­ens, " and we do not need any telescope or anything else to detect Him. He demonstrates His Existence in every atom, in everything. May God open our hearts so that we may feel His Existence in ourselves without the need for telescopes. May we find Him in our souls and hearts. We do not need to look around neither on earth nor in the heavens to find Him, for He is nearer to us than our jugular vein. Niyazi Misri says:

I looked around, left and right,
In order to see the face of the Beloved,
I searched for Him outside
When He is the Soul within my soul.

Again in the Qur'an, we read: "He is with you wherever you are and God sees whatever you do. " What glad tidings are in this verse for those who believe! The great Rumi was moved by the good news in this verse and his heart was gladdened greatly. In one poem, he says: "The good news that He is with you wherever you are comes from God. This news fills one's heart with gladness and hope. You have not found peace and joy because you have not known yourself. Were you to know your­self, were you to know who your guest inside of you, you would never see discontent and lack of peace coming your way"

Plato searched for the truth through reason and dialectics. Since Rumi knew that reason is unable to comprehend the supe­rior truths and likened it to "a donkey that got stuck in the mud, " he left the path of reason, and, through inspiration, through God's grace, he found himself in himself and fell in love with himself: "I wish to go far away hundreds of stages from the place where the intellect is. I would like to be rid of the existence of good and evil. There are such beauties behind this curtain. My real existence is there, too. O you who are short of comprehen­sion, I would like to fall in love with myself. "

For Plato it was necessary for man to know himself and dis­cover that which is in him so that he may conform to this example. It was necessary for man to know from where he came and who is the guest within himself. Then man would know that he was different from the animal that was not different from him materially, and he would value himself. Rumi brought this truth to a deeper level. Man searched for and found the ways in which to recognize the Guest that is within him, to love Him and become worthy of Him, and to be loved by Him. This was the human way, the way of perfection and the way of love.

According to Rumi, since man has within him a Divine Entrustment he must appreciate his entrustment as well as his own value,; in fact, he is to show respect for his own humanity. Truly, since man has accepted the Divine Entrustment granted to him by God and become His vicegerent on earth, even though he may resemble animals in his flesh and blood and bones, he must not consider himself as equal to the animals but must believe in his own superiority and consider the fact that he is the most honorable of the creatures. For this reason, he must with­draw himself from the states his carnal existence forces him into, such as human uncleanness, falsehood, hypocrisy, passion, and lust, and he must seek after the truth with a pure heart. He must in truth love man and humanity. Then he would not be unfaith­ful to God's entrustment; then he would become His honorable vicegerent as said in the Qur'an and would have the right to bear the title of human being. If he acts in this way, man will kill (overcome) his human passions and weaknesses, find his origin while still living on earth, and no longer will be a stranger.
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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.."!








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