Ahhh so where to start, last three days in Konya have been so full of impressions and stories. Like a child in the toy store, I wandered in the streets amazed, looking at all the beautiful souvenirs in the shops of Mevlana and Sufis.
I had heard about the poems of Rumi before, but it became little more intimate after reading the book ‘forty rules of love‘, with it I also became familiar with Shams of Tabriz, the love which transformed The scholar Rumi to Mevlana poet Rumi. This trip has really been a gift from God and made so special with all the fellow pilgrims, the quiet Iranian brother Hussain with beautiful eyes, he was also the first one to greet me when I had entered the Sema gathering in yelova. then there is Premal Ma, enthusiastic, filled with joy and laughter, transition teacher or love guru as I would lovingly call her, a Osho sanyasin, she had spent last twelve years in Goa india. And then our another pilgrim was sister Merium, silent and reflective, had such an intense life in such an young age, that you could only admire her courage and inner strength, originally from America, now living in Fetiah, close to her Sufi teacher baba Sherif. Ulash, our brother who was driving the van, is a beautiful soulful Sufi singer, we couldn’t talk much due to language but his spoke a lot and expressed his love and joy. And then my most beautiful Baba Cem, a Sufi dervish, mentor, elder brother. At the age of 60 now yet his spirit felt timeless. I still remember the first time we met in Sema, he gave me an intense knowing look and then smiled with his signature wink in the eye, it was one of the most wonderful warm smile I had seen. He would be the kitchen master in Sema, making food as he would offer his prayers. Coming with him in this trip was so humbling and a precious gift. Sharing stories all the way, he took us around as we walked in the market place or the holy shrines of saints. I was continuously in awe in his presence, asking him many questions and calling him baba.
“Baba, what is love? I asked
What isn’t ? He replied.
I could feel the constant flow of love in his presence with great wisdom.
So here’s few stories and moments of our time together in Konya.
Mevlana Rumi’s tomb is beautifully constructed with many towers and a museum built around it, showing the dervish lodge lifestyle and memorabilia of Rumi. However the danger with making it a museum was the modernization of this place which made it more touristic and less a place of Ibadat and silence, as compared Sham’s tomb which is 10 minute away from Rumi, is more humble and a place of worship. Yet the love for Rumi fills your heart with excitement and joy when you enter his tomb. A significant symbolic event happened to me here. From the market just before I had bought small toys, 3 whirling Sufi and 1 sheikh and kept it in my hand bag. As I entered the door of Rumi’s tomb the toy bag fell from my hand and only one of the statue of whirling Sufi broke, it broke in a very unusual way, from head and two hands. What was Rumi’s message for me, was it to leave my ‘head’ and ‘hand’ and enter with my heart, or breaking of my ego and self false image ? He always had a beautiful way to give messages through symbols. With a bow, I enter the space and was bit distracted , first with the interior beauty, the carvings and drawings on the wall, tombs of other sufi’s in the same vicinity and also with the outpouring of tourist and other guest who were constantly taking pictures and selfies, and yet in this crowd there was joy and excitement, like love itself. I knew I had to come again to feel the silence and I did the next day, standing in one corner, having
my moment of silence and another symbolic event happened. A girl in electronic wheelchair passed by me and accidentally the wheel stepped over my right bare feet, hurting the toe with little pain, ahhh I cried and automatically covered my right toe with left foot to subside the pain. Later i learnt from baba that this body posture of covering the right foot toe with left foot has story behind it, which goes like this-
Atesbaz was Mevlana Rumi’s cook and also for the dervish lodge (like a community space where all the mevlana’s students did Sema and spiritual practices). He was a very important person in the lodge with many physical duties and also spiritual wisdom.
Once there were some guests in dervish lodge, Rumi asks Atesbaz to cook some soup, to which he tells Rumi that all the wood they have is wet and they don’t have fire. Rumi tells Atesbaz to go and put his right foot under the stove and as he did, there was a green flame and a strong fire, the soup starts to boil immediately. astonished with this miracle, Atesbaz thinks to himself that if the soup is boiling then why does he not feel his feet burning, and as he doubted it, his right toe immediately start to burn. In that very moment the Rumi comes and asks Atisbaz if the soup is ready, Atesbaz hides his toe with his left leg and bows down with respect. From this day it became a tradition to cover your right toe with left foot when the Mevlevi’s greet each other formally or before they started Sema. So maybe my right toe hurting was not a coincidence, but another beautiful insight to learn from beloved Rumi.
We visited the Tomb of Atesbaz, it was also one of baba’s favorite tomb and he shared that everytime he comes here to pray he always smells food. Incidentally I too was dreaming about food as were doing Zikr in his shrine. As we walked out baba gave salt to everyone as Prasad. The salt reminded me of Gandhi ji, he would say be like a salt, also known as ‘sabras’, it is humble and becomes invisible in the food, but if it tries to be visible and too much then we won’t be able to eat the food. Sufis are like salt, I felt, very invisible, very humble. We bade farewell to Atesbaz, the man whose name means, ‘the one who plays with fire’.
Next we visited the shrine of Sheikh Sadreddin Konvi, Sufi teacher of Rumi. They say for him that he laid the woods and shams lit the fire, which transformed Rumi, without this foundation of knowledge, shams could not have done his work on Rumi. Most pilgrims always like to visit the tomb of both masters, first Shams and then of Sedreddin, before they went to visit Rumi.
Another beautiful story of Rumi I heard for the first time was of his Indian lover, also known as peacock mother or Tavis Ana. Once upon a time there was a very beautiful princess in the ancient land of India. One day as she was going somewhere in her Palki (carrier), the wind bought to her a piece of paper, on which was written a very beautiful poem, which immediately captivated her heart. Upon enquiry it was found that the paper came with the camel caravan, coming from Konya, and the poet was Mevlana Rumi. Such intense was the love in poem that she had an instant desire to go and meet Rumi, however her father was strictly against it. In her longing for Rumi, she fell sick and almost in her deathbed. Feeling helpless, her father had no other option but to let her go. She travels for many months and finally reaches the place where Rumi stayed. Without meeting him, she gets a small place near his house and would play songs of love and longing in her rebab. One day as Rumi passed her with his dervishes, he was instantly captivated. He asked his dervishes to go ahead and he went to the house of the princess and spent the night with her. Next day after Rumi had left, no body could find the princess, instead in her place there were lot of peacock feathers. Realizing that the princess has left her body and united with the divine, they took the feathers and made a burial ground for her there, which is still there today.
With many stories and beautiful moments we leave Konya to go further on our journey towards the tomb of another very prominent Saint Hazibektash, and it’s here my calling was once again affirmed.
More about it in next blog.
26th August 2016, Konya. Turkey
Fellow pilgrims. Hussain, Cem baba, Miriam and Premal Ma
Shams Tabriz tomb
Cem baba, Sufi dervish, our brother mentor and guide.
Tomb of Rumi’s cook Ateshbaz and salt as a Prasad.
With Hussain and Cem baba near shams tomb.
Whirl with joy
They say that Rumi started whirling when one day he was passing the market place and heard the sound of iron pounding. Cem baba was sharing this with us and said maybe it’s here, in front of these gold jewelry shops that maybe Rumi started to whirl, why not ?
We visited the graveyards and in one of them it was written, “I was like you yesterday as tomorrow you will be like, don’t forget this and share and do service in your life.
One of the incredible felt artist we met in Konya.
Our dervish van
Mevlana Rumi’s tomb