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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rumi - The Big Red Book Review

Mixed Media: Book Reviews, Film, Website, Food, and Music Reviews, By James Bean

Copyright December 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Book Review: "Rumi - The Big Red Book - The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship", by Coleman Barks, HarperOne, ISBN 978-0-06-190582-7

Says the 13th Century Poet-mystic Jalaluddin Rumi:

Something opens our wings.
Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us.
We taste only sacredness.

If you've been wondering which collection of Rumi poems to get, this one, 492 pages in length, represents a most excellent vintage indeed, offering cup after cup of a spiritually intoxicating elixir you'll only find at Rumi's tavern. "Rumi - The Big Red Book", represents the essence or distillation of many decades-worth of translation effort -- Bark's life's work.

Not long ago I had the privilege of interviewing Coleman on my program, Spiritual Awakening Radio. During the course of the conversation he confirmed that it was the Christian Science Monitor that said, "Rumi is the most widely read poet in America." By "liberating Rumi from a scholarly purgatory", as he put it, Coleman's intimate, contemporary English translations have almost single-handedly made Rumi into a household name.

What is that "Something" people are magnetically drawn to in Rumi's verses, like a moth to the flame? From where does this sparkling radiance and inspiration emanate? Perhaps the highest answer is, Rumi gives voice to the Cry of the Soul within us all.

Another answer would be, Rumi was a Sufi Master and mystic-soul. Many may not realize, when they enjoy reading Rumi poetry, they are encountering, perhaps for the first time, teachings that come directly from a living school of spirituality known as Sufism, and Sufis are the gnostic or mystical branch of Islam. When Rumi writes about Shams of Tabriz, he is referring to his spiritual teacher and mentor in a long line of Sufi Masters spanning many generations. And to this day, there are numerous Sufi Orders in the world.

During the interview, Coleman mentioned that he had met the great Sufi teacher Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, at first in a dream! then eventually, in person, visiting with him many times (1977-86). Muhaiyaddeen would often come to the US. Named after their founder, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship is a Sufi center located in Philadelphia.

Rumi, with his message of tolerance between religions and spiritual oneness with God, "The Beloved", was so far ahead of his time, he seems right at home here in the 21st Century. The vision of Rumi is a life-affirming one that so desperately needs to be shared with humanity.

There are so many other gnostics, mystics, and heretics also doing time in various "scholarly purgatories" of academia, wooden translations of obscurity. I know a thousand "Rumis" the world needs to hear, to be soothed by the Voice of the Soul that speaks through them all. Hafiz, Shams of Tabriz, Sarmad, Kabir, Rabia, Mira Bai, Daya Bai, Sahjo Bai, Tukaram, Hazrat Sultan Bahu, Baba Farid, Guru Nanak, Dariya Sahib, Tulsi Sahib, Surdas, Namdev, Ravidas, Paltu, Sant Radhaswami Sahib, Maharshi Mehi, and many more besides, up to the living present -- countless are lovers of the Beloved.