Hope everyone is staying healthy and happy, and busy spreading positivity and kindness all around, perhaps, randomly as well as in a planned manner 🙂. It is most important that we do it more and more (and slightly more please) in these testing times. 

The Forty Rules of Love! What! One may wonder if there are rules of Love, and if there are then why should they be followed, after all Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Here the Love that is being referred to is Divine Love, i.e., eternal compassion and loving kindness towards everyone around, without being judgmental in anyway. 

Written by Turkish author Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love is a novel published in March 2009. It describes the journey and union of Maulana Jalal-Ud-Din (please pardon me if I wrote the name incorrectly), popularly known as Rumi and his master (or Guru) Shams of Tabriz/Shams Tabrizi. It is a (spiritual) fiction book, with two parallel stories, one in 21st century revolving around a housewife, Ella, longing for Love in her life and second from the 13th century, about Rumi and Shams.

Having had come across many of Rumi’s poems since childhood, I always had the desire to know more about him and read more of his work. With Divine Grace, this book was suggested to be read by Anu ji in her discourse The Glory of Divine Love (it is a must listen if you haven’t already heard it) and I cannot be grateful enough to the Divine for blessing me with it. I personally believe that anyone on the spiritual path must read this book at least once. Some may feel uncomfortable about reading literature other than their own religion, which is Hinduism for many of us. But are we really Hindus? Or perhaps the question to be asked is “Does religion exists in God’s realm?”.

“Compassion is my religion and Unconditional Love, my core philosophy.”
– Om Swami

Swamiji beautifully answered the question in his quote above. I suggest to read Reflection by our dearest Swamiji and Sanatana Dharma of the Ancient Sages by Sri Devi Om to explore more in this regard.

Before further digressing (somehow we all like to digress, isn’t it? 🙂), with Divine motivation, a thought emerged that summarizing the forty rules, even just by themselves without the supporting stories by Elif Shafak would be very beneficial. (Though I strongly recommend everyone to read the complete book.) It would give us all a chance to share them and meanwhile contemplate and implement them. Over the next four posts (including this one), I present to you The Forty Rules of Love (and some stories and quotes) that Shams of Tabriz taught to Rumi, which he further spread through poetry. The Forty Rules of Love are considered to be the essence of the Quran and the Sufi way of life. (Fun fact: Every chapter in the book starts with the letter “B” and is related to the phrase Bismillah hir Rehman nir Rahim, meaning In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent and the most Merciful.)

The Forty Rules of Love: Rules 1 through 10

  1. How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.
  2. The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs (i.e., ego) with your heart. Knowing your self will lead you to the knowledge of God.
  3. Each and every reader comprehends the Holy Quran on a different level in tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning and it is the one that the majority of the people are content with. Next is the Batini—the inner level. Third, there is the inner of the inner. And the fourth level is so deep it cannot be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable. (I see a direct relation between this and the four levels of consciousness described in the Vedic literature: Vaikhari or the physical consciousness; Madhyama or the mental consciousness; Pashyanti or the intellectual consciousness; Paravani or the transcendental consciousness. Swamiji expounds on it in his book The Ancient Science of Mantras.)
  4. You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue, or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for Him: in the heart of a true lover. There is no one who has lived after seeing Him, just like there is no one who has died after seeing Him. Whoever finds Him will remain with Him forever.
  5. Intellect and love are made of different materials. Intellect ties people in knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everything. Intellect is always cautious and advises, ‘Beware too much ecstasy,’ whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are hidden among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.
  6. Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.
  7. Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is best to find a person, the person who will be your mirror. Remember, only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.
  8. Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.
  9. Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.
  10. East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.

As Swamiji teaches us that there is no distinction in spiritual teachings across all the religions of the world because God is One, and no religion exists in his realm. Let us all contemplate on each of the rules and implement them in our lives. This post is written only by the motivation from the Divine, and I am eternally grateful to the Divine for the words that come from Him like migrating birds, I am only the bed of water where they stop to get hydrated on their way to warmer lands. 

Note: The rules are presented verbatim from the book and all the rights belong to the author and the publisher of the book. 

The featured image represents sema, a dance form that Sufi saints perform in remembrance of God. The hand pointing skyward represents connection to God and the hand pointing towards earth represents passing of the Divine knowledge from God to the people. Melieka Fathi | Robabi: this is a short video of the sema dance, shared by a Sufi friend. Image credits.

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