On Forgiveness

 

Borrow the Beloved’s eyes.
Look through them and you’ll see the Beloved’s face
everywhere. No tiredness, no jaded boredom.
“I shall be your eye and your hand and your loving.”
Let that happen, and things
you have hated will become helpers.

A certain preacher always prays long and with enthusiasm
for thieves and muggers that attack people
on the street. “Let your mercy, O Lord,
cover their insolence.”
He doesn’t pray for good,
but only for the blatantly cruel.
Why is this? his congregation asks.

“Because they have done me such generous favours.
Every time I turn back towards the things they want.
I run into them. They beat me and leave me nearly dead
in the road, and I understand, again, that what they want
is not what I want. They keep me on the spiritual path.
That’s why I honour them and pray for them.”

Those that make you return, for whatever reason,
to God’s solitude, be grateful to them.
Worry about the others, who give you
delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.
Friends are enemies sometimes,
and enemies Friends.

There is an animal called an ushghur, a porcupine.
If you hit it with a stick, it extends its quills
and gets bigger. The soul is a porcupine,
made strong by stick-beating.
So a prophet’s soul is especially afflicted,
because it has become so powerful.

A hide is soaked in tanning liquor and becomes leather.
If the tanner did not rub in the acid,
the hide would get foul-smelling and rotten.

The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross.
Work on it with manual discipline,
and the bitter tanning acid of grief,
and you will become lovely, and very strong.

If you can’t do this work by yourself, don’t worry.
You don’t even have to make a decision,
one way or another. The friend, who knows
a lot more than you do, will bring difficulties,
and grief, and sickness,
as medicine, as happiness,
as the essence of the moment when you’re beaten,
when you hear Checkmate, and can finally say,
with Hallaj’s voice.
I trust you to kill me.

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.
(Hallaj, a Sufi mystic and contemporary of Rumi)

Part of my daily practice is to read poetry of the mystics. I care not from what tradition they come. Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, atheist…. The threads are the same. The beauty of mystical poetry brings me closer to Great Spirit. I remember my connection to whatever is beyond my comprehension. How easy it is, in our busy lives, to forget.

This poem, by Rumi, touched me when I read it. It reminds me that when I turn towards greed, pride, avarice, selfishness…every time I stray from the road, ignore my guidance, judge without understanding…when I am heartbroken, in pain, on my knees, I am brought again to the path, to my practice, to my prayers. It is so easy to forget these things when the world is rocking, life is good, the money flows, love is all around. And often times friends can support each other in the collusion of this. They agree that I have been bad done by, instead of asking me to look at myself and the part I played. Friends might hang out in each others wounds, like modern day vampires, sucking off each others pain, but in so doing, keeping it alive..instead of doing the hard work of forgiveness and surrender.

It is the dark night that gives birth to the greatness in us. This is the beauty and the tragedy. No one escapes…and from this depth of understanding we grow in compassion.

If we really believe we are all one..then if I feel attacked by another, is it me attacking? When I hurt another, is it me hurting? When I am angry and I strike out, I strike myself.

Am I able to forgive if there is only me? Am I able to be deeply grateful to the thieves and muggers who attack me with their words, their sticks…knowing that they are the ones who keep me in the mystery and beauty of life and always in my greatest prayers and compassion?

Who do you need to forgive?
How long have you been carrying your vengeance?
At what price to your soul?
What is the payoff for hanging on to your vengeance?

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