The Bold and the Beloved
When we talk about love stories, the ones that immediately come to mind are the old classics. There is an element of romance, purity and truth that does not exist in today’s movies or love songs and perhaps even relationships. Similarly, one would wonder if the saints feel the same way about their disciples. Do we come under the ‘old is gold’ category, or would we be painfully categorized as ‘modern day disciples’?
Madness in love, sincerity in devotion, and loyalty in action are qualities we can find in the stories of saints like Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid, Guru Angad Dev, and Rumi. These ancient love stories have found their way to this present time, because they carry with them the fragrance of a rare romance.
There is a difference between romance and love. Love is a feeling. Romance is the way we express that feeling. A romantic loves fearlessly, without concern for shame or disgrace. Romance has the essence of being vulnerable, of being soft.
These are the elements that one relates to and is undoubtedly refreshing in an age where love has become practical and convenient. Love is still present today, but the courage to be romantic is hidden deep in history. The greatest love stories have the elements of pain, sacrifice, separation or all three. A lover’s heart, when tested to painful degrees, leads to transformation and the occurrence of a divine romance.
One can find inspiration in the poems of Rumi or Bulleh Shah. A love so intense can be experienced in present times, if one chooses to remember that we too are already in an extremely romantic relationship with our Master. The only thing lacking is the courage to let this love absorb us, disrupt our very core. But if we are not open to change, then true love will never grace us.
The story of Shams-i Tabriz and Rumi is probably one of the most beautiful love stories in the history of Persian saints. The first time Shams-i Tabriz, a wandering Sufi dervish, came into contact with Rumi, a Persian scholar, a mystical event transpired. With their friendship, all titles of teacher and student, master and disciple vanished and a divine romance was born. After a period of spiritual revelations, Shams-i Tabriz disappeared and Rumi wandered in disbelief that his companion was gone.
After a lot of searching and wandering, Rumi, consumed by the remembrance of his Master, became the embodiment of Shams-i Tabriz, and hence felt his presence everywhere. Due to the pain of the absence of his beloved, Rumi filled his writings with words of love about his Master. Today, volumes of books of Persian philosophy document Rumi’s love for Shams-i Tabriz.
Rumi’s poetry is in essence conversations he continued to have with Shams-i Tabriz after he had disappeared. The verses are sealed with mysterious secrets of what it feels like to be one with a Beloved, in his true form. They speak of a transformation so miraculous that not a single element of the previous identity remained. Rumi’s poetry holds up a mirror that reflects the infinite glory of what we can become.
A person transformed through the agony of separation and sacrifice is like no other. He makes his mark and stands undeniable in the Lord’s court as an example, a beacon, a frame of reference. He rises above all and shines brightly in his new form.
What do we do to grow our love; to shine, to separate ourselves from the mediocre love stories? Is our love the kind that can conquer the Master’s heart, command his will, and perhaps even go down in history? Or is it the lackluster cover over a beautiful soul? Do we welcome pain as we welcome joy? Do we perceive the loss of title, income and health as an opportunity to expand exponentially towards our spiritual goal? Do we welcome the opportunity to experience a love like no other?
Shams-i Tabriz, who was responsible for turning the man Maulana Rum into the mystic Rumi, spoke numerous times about true love. He said:
The mystics have been through untold hardships and spiritual discipline; their hearts shredded to pieces and ripped from their chests. They sacrificed kingdoms, pomp and glory, and their very lives. To them, neither life nor wealth holds any value, though their Beloved is impermanent. Love for the eternal and imperishable, undefiled, pure and flawless, God demands much more, far more.
Shams-e Tabrizi, Rumi’s Perfect Teacher