Kundalini Splendor

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Seyh Galib's poem 

Once more, I offer a poem from Ivan Granger's poetry-chaikhana site. His interpretation is especially meaningful here.

Love is a lamp of God, I am its moth;

By Seyh Galib
(1757 - 1799)

English version by Bernard Lewis

Love is a lamp of God, I am its moth;
love is a shackle, my heart is its crazy captive.

Since becoming a sharer in the secret of your glance
my heart became a friend of the friend, a stranger to the stranger.

Making no difference between dry piety and endless carouse --
such is the libertine way of the masters of ecstasy.

The black soil of the reveler’s world is full of abundance,
the sun of wisdom rises in the tavern jar.

He drinks the wine mingled with poison of the glance of those eyes;
I could be tipsy from the languor of those blue eyes.

Take care, do not neglect that sleeping dagger,
its tale is always the gossip of death.

Galib, enter the secluded palace of pleasure and see its secret,
the wise way of the daughter of the vine is something else.

-- from Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems, Translated by Bernard Lewis

Seyh Galib, also known as Galib Dede, was born in Istanbul. His father was a government official with a connection to the Mevlevi Sufi order, the order of "whirling dervishes" founded by Rumi.

Galib attempted to combine a government career with the interior life of a Sufi, but he eventually turned his focus wholeheartedly to the spiritual life, becoming the sheikh of the Mevlevi order in the Galata district of Istanbul.

Galib is considered to be the last of the great classical Ottoman poets.

This poem, like much of Sufi poetry, uses a language of the profane to describe the oneness with God as the Divine Beloved. Galib speaks of revelry and carousing, of taverns and "the daughter of the wine."

It is partly because of these sorts of metaphors that Victorian Europe chose to view the Muslim world as one of licentiousness and excess -- quite the opposite of the modern Western prejudice that likes to view Muslims as world-denying extremists. Both perspectives represent a profound misunderstanding of the deep wisdom being expressed through this sort of language.

Wine, as I have said elsewhere, is a common metaphor for the subtle and "intoxicating" drink of bliss. It is sweet on the palate and warms the heart. The resulting flood of energy in the body can be so intense that it often causes trembling or jerking body movements, occasionally unconsciousness, suggesting drunkenness to a spectator.

But it is in the wine glass, the "tavern jar," that the "sun of wisdom rises." By immersing yourself in that ecstasy, false concepts are washed away and true knowing emerges.

As in many sacred traditions, the Sufis often describe the interaction with the ego-self and the Divine as a game of love. Thus, Galib writes of eyes that make the "reveler" tipsy. A glance from those eyes causes him to drink "wine mingled with poison." Why poison? The wine causes the sweet ecstasy, but there is poison there too, because such a divine glance leads to the death of the ego. Ultimately, only the eternal glance remains. That is what it means to truly enter the "secluded palace of pleasure and see its secret."


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