How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss or an insensitive employee, difficult neighbour, ruin your day? Well, unless you are thick skinned like the Terminator, you’re probably setback on your heels. This happens to me regularly, even though I try to practice mindfulness but just now and then some Garbage Truck comes along and knocks me down for a while. I honesty think I am a sucker for punishment when it comes to life’s little niggles and being dumped on. However, the mark of success is how quickly you can recover and refocus on what’s important in your life. A few years ago I learned this small lesson. And I learned it in a city taxi. Here’s how the story goes:
I hopped into the taxi one day and we took off for the train station. We were travelling in the right lane when all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, the car skidded, the tires squealed and at the very last moment our car stoped just one inch from the other car’s back end. It was a close call.
I couldn’t believe it.But I couldn’t believe what happened next. The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. And for emphasis, he threw in a one finger salute, as if his words were not enough.
But then here’s what really blew me away. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy as if old friends. And I mean, he was very friendly. So, I said, “Why did you just do that? This guy could have killed us!” And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, “The law of the Garbage Truck.”
He said, Many people are like garbage trucks.They run around full of garbage, full of frustrations, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up even more, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me you’ll be happier.”
So I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people, at work, at home, or in the street? It was then that i said, “I don’t want their garbage and I’m not going to spread it anymore.”
I began to see Garbage Trucks all over. Like in the movie the Sixth Sense, the litte boy said, “I see dead people.” Well, now “I see Garbage Trucks.” I see the load they are carrying. I see them coming to dump it and sometimes it’s on me! Now, like my taxi driver, I don’t take is personally, I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.
From an original story by David J Poolay with thanks.
A long-time-ago story about Sai Baba. I think the year was 1996. I arrived in Bangalore late one evening, and got a taxi to Whitefield. It had been a hell of a journey from London. The hot sun, after the cold and wet English weather, cheered me up but I was still not in a good mood. Actually, I wanted to go home! With some reluctance, I went to darshan the very next morning and found a row to sit in and reflect on why I was there. I sat there quietly pondering on why I would choose to put myself through endless lineups and cramped floor seats for endless weeks at a time. Was I stupid? What was making me torture myself like this? Sighed and sat with head down thinking: ‘this is not me, is it? It’s my heart. My heart wants to be here but my head is screaming ‘no, no, no!’ I dreaded more back row seats and those hot sweaty bodies and the sour bad breath that comes after long sits in the heat.
Then I spotted the seva dal with the bag full of seating numbers. I knew from countless visits before, this game of chance probably would not favour me! Too right! Our line was in the double digit category. I surrendered. When we eventually stood to be seated in the Sai Ramesh hall, I found a place as far away as possible from the central aisle. It was over by the chair ladies, in the last but one block. I could not be seen and I, myself, could not see anything but backs of heads !
Swami arrived that morning as usual. He did not enter the hall by the VIP entrance at the front but, unusually, by the second entrance in the middle of the ladies blocks. Instead of turning toward the VIPs and front as usual, he decided to go the other way, walking down the small narrow aisle, where sick and disabled ladies sat. He strolled all the way down to our block and stopped right in front of me !!!
I sat there with mouth open, in-deed shock! Of course, he never looked at me, but took letters from those nearby. He, later, strolled to the very back, walked along to the central aisle and up toward the front. “You can’t hide from Swami” – that’s the lesson here!
Readers familiar with the Coleman Barks versions of Rumi’s work think of Rumi as a man who deftly celebrated love’s ecstasies… and he did. To imagine, however, that Rumi wrote verse only to praise wine or kisses, is to forget that he evoked those human delights as metaphors for something transcendental. Rumi was a devout Muslim cleric, and he wrote in celebration of unity with God. Yet even in his day, his personal life caused misunderstanding andscandal.
– Anne Bayliss
What do we know about Shams? He is mentioned only briefly and, often, only as the teacher of Rumi. But Shams, was more than just a wandering dervish or “poor man of God.” A Shafi’i Sunni Muslim, he had traveled restlessly after leaving his hometown of Tabriz, visiting Baghdad, Damascus, Aleppo, and other places, working as a tutor, weaver, or day-laborer, and seeking out interesting lectures on Islamic theology as well as philosophy.
Yet, according to Franklin Lewis, author of ‘Rumi, Past and Present, East and West’, Shams was also an accomplished Islamic scholar, and had devised a method for learning the Koran in three months. He was thus both a faqir, a Sufi practicing spiritual poverty, and a faqih, or scholar of Islamic law. Lewis suggested that Shams had “probably spent much of his life…sitting in on the lectures of famous teachers, most of whom he found disappointing in one respect or another.”
In the company of Rumi, Shams wrote, “‘I come for friendship, relief.’” According to some writers, “Shams searched long and hard and found none but Rumi who could tolerate his un-hypocritical and unconventional pursuit of truth.” Shams called Rumi “Mowlana (Master),” and says he would be “‘a fitting shaykh, if he would agree.’”
Lewis, Franklin: Rumi Past and Present, East and West.
from Oneworld (2000) pp. 143-147  Lewis pp. 154-164
My last darshan, I kid you not, was in my armchair in my house in France. The date, 24th November, 2010. I was watching t.v, and the time around 5.30 p.m. Then, all of a sudden, Sai’s presence was right there beside me, although not visible. The Darshan almost knocked me off the chair! I had to go and lay down afterwards. It was such a lovely feeling of peace and being extremely comfortable. So hard to describe here. Anyway, I could not speak for about 20 mins. That’s how strong the feeling of his presence was.
The story of that last darshan goes as follows :
Early that same year, March 2010, during my annual visit to Puttaparthi, I was sitting in the darshan area. Sai Baba was not coming out for darshans, he’d all but given up on public appearances. We devotees gathered all the same and sat in the peaceful vibrations, just as we had always done. Although we missed him, the feeling of love was ever present.
There were acquaintances there who i used to talk to from time to time. Most I knew by name but others only by sight. One devotee, a blond lady from Australia, around 58 years old, very dedicated to Sai, was visiting at the same time. I had seen her on many of my past visits. She sat opposite me by the chair ladies. I didn’t know her personally. I’d never spoken to her. Then one morning she sat across from me, in her usual place near the wheelchair devotees. Suddenly, she looked over at me with huge eyes. I could feel her stare penetrate me, like she was looking at my soul. It was the oddest feeling. When darshan time was over we all stood to leave. She followed me out of the hall, then caught up with me and said:
You must come for the birthday! It’s a very special time. Do come.— I am not sure she did not elaborate more or repeated it. But what she said stuck in my mind as odd, as did her strange penetrating look.
Well, there’s no way I would or could attend a birthday. I don’t like crowds and I didn’t have the money anyway. I never did attend those birthday festivals. Still, i had no idea that the next birthday would be Sai’s last. I thought no more about it. Then all those months later, 24th November, the armchair darshan happened. Out of the blue! I will never forget it… By the way Sai baba’s birthday is 23rd November, my last darshan was 24th November, the day after..
“Your days pass like rainbows, like a flash of lightning, like a star at dawn. Your life is short. How can you quarrel?”
In the Jewish mystical tradition, one great Rabbi taught his disciples to memorize and contemplate the teachings and place the prayers and holy words on their heart. One day a student asked the Rabbi why he always used the phrase “on your heart” and not “in your heart,” and the master replied, “Only time and grace can put the essence of these stories in your heart. Here we recite and learn them and put them on our hearts hoping that some day when our heart breaks they will fall in.”
But when our heart breaks—in love, in friendship, in partnership—it is always a very difficult experience. Modern neuroscience has even discovered that the emotional suffering we experience registers in the same areas of the brain as physical pain. So when we’re feeling abandoned and rejected, we don’t want to eat, we can’t sleep, we have difficulty breathing, our bodies feel as if we have the flu or we’ve been run over by a truck.
So, what can we do when we have to accept the loss of a friend, a lover, or a loved one? What truth can we find beyond the stories we tell ourselves about how they’re wrong and we’re right, or that we’re wrong and they’re right? What can we do besides spending fruitless hours trying decipher everything they said or did? Can we do something more useful than justifying to ourselves what we said or did, or wishing that we had said or done something else? And what can we do when the story spreads to nearly drown us in despair over feelings that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re unlovable, that we’re the reason things didn’t work out?
Like a sandcastle, all is temporary.
Build it, tend it, enjoy it.
And when the time comes
let it go.
The first thing you need to do when you’ve suffered loss or betrayal is to find a way to regain your wise heart so that you can let it hold the aching of your heart. The Zen teacher Karlfried Von Durckheim speaks of the importance of the need to go through our difficulties in a conscious and clear way.
The person who, already being on the way, falls upon hard times in the world, will not as a consequence turn to those friends who offered them refuge and comfort and encourage their old self to survive. Rather, they will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help them to risk themselves, so they may endure the difficulty and pass courageously through it. Only to the extent that a person exposes themselves over and over again to annihilation and loss can that which is indestructible be found within them. In this daring lie dignity and the spirit of true awakening.
Sometimes suffering the losses and the unexpected betrayals and break-ups that befall each of us becomes the places where we grow deepest in our capacity to lead an authentic and free life. Here is where the heart grows in dignity and care. By grieving honorably and tenderly and working our way through our difficulties, our ability to love and feel compassion for ourselves and others deepens, along with the trust that will help us through similar problems in the future.
Breathe. Remember, there are countless others who have suffered in this way and gotten through it. We are not alone. Learning how to survive our present difficulties is one of the few things that will help us to know the right things to say and do when others whom we love suffer as well.
New Age “translations of jalaluddin Rumi’s works have become a type of ‘spiritual colonialism.’ We in the West have been bypassing, erasing, and occupying a spiritual landscape that has been lived and breathed and internalized by Muslims from Bosnia and Istanbul to Konya and Iran to Central and South Asia.” Extracting the spiritual from the religious context has deep reverberations. Islam is regularly diagnosed as a “cancer” by people today and we are loathed to think that the greatness of Sufi Poems are based on the Islamic faith.
In the 1800s, colonialist-minded translators found it difficult to reconcile Rumi’s poetry with their preconceptions of Islam as a “desert religion,” whose followers were forsaken with “unusual moral and legal codes.” In the twentieth century, prominent translators, such as R. A. Nicholson, A. J. Arberry, and Annemarie Schimmel, made limited headway into producing versions that stayed more true to the original Persian prose, but these translations have not been the most widely circulated among Western readers.
by R.A. Nicholson
That title is held by Coleman Barks, the American poet and interpreter responsible for re-introducing Rumi’s poetry for English-speaking audiences in recent decades. Barks, who does not speak Persian and is not trained in Islamic literature, has recast earlier translations of Rumi’s works into “fluid, casual American free verse,” according to Christain Science Monitor.
For his part, Coleman Barks sees religion as secondary to the essence of Rumi. “Religion is such a point of contention for the world,” he told me. “I got my truth and you got your truth—this is just absurd. We’re all in this together and I’m trying to open my heart, and Rumi’s poetry helps with that.” One might detect in this philosophy something of Rumi’s own approach to poetry: Rumi often amended texts from the Koran so that they would fit the lyrical rhyme and meter of the Persian verse. But while Rumi’s Persian readers would recognize the tactic, most American readers are unaware of the Islamic blueprint. Some have said, compare reading Rumi without the Koran to reading Milton without the Bible: even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.
Rumi used the Koran, Hadiths, and religion in an explorative way, often challenging conventional readings. One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love. What we, and perhaps many Muslim clerics, might consider radical today is an interpretation that Rumi put forward more than seven hundred years ago.
Such readings were not entirely unique back then. Rumi’s works reflected a broader push and pull between religious spirituality and institutionalized faith—though with a wit that was unmatched. “Historically speaking, no text has shaped the imagination of Muslims—other than the Koran—as the poetry of Rumi and Hafez,” it is said. This is why Rumi’s voluminous writings, produced at a time when scribes had to copy works by hand, have survived.
“Language isn’t just a means of communication,” the writer and translator Sinan Antoon has said. “It’s a reservoir of memory, tradition, and heritage.” As conduits between two cultures, translators take on an inherently political project. They must figure out how to make, for instance, a thirteenth-century Persian poet comprehensible to a contemporary American audience. But they have a responsibility to remain true to the original work—an act that, in the case of Rumi, would help readers to recognize that a professor of Sharia could also write some of the world’s mostly widely read love poetry.
Jawid Mojaddedi is now in the midst of a years-long project to translate all six books of the “Masnavi.” Three of them” have been published; the fourth is due out this spring. His translations acknowledge the Islamic and Koranic texts in the original by using italics to denote whenever Rumi switches to Arabic. His books are also riddled with footnotes. Reading them requires some effort, and perhaps a desire to see beyond one’s preconceptions. That, after all, is the point of translation: to understand the foreign. As Keshavarz put it, translation is a reminder that “everything has a form, everything has culture and history. A Muslim can be like that, too.”
Have we hi-jacked Rumi and moulded him to our own understanding – Yes indeed, is that a bad thing? No! Indeed no. We have not destroyed the original Rumi and who would want to? We have expanded on his wonderful poetry and by so doing, opened him and his works to an international audience and an entirely new generation. I think we have done good!
Excerpted from Rozina Ali’s recent article The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi
What happens, then, when the guru dies or goes away? How do disciples cope with the absence of the one whose living and loving presence has opened for them the door to their own heart, the one through whom all reality has been filtered, and their own self understood? The disciples of Jesus, Palestinian Jews living at the beginning of the Common Era, and the disciples of the Indian Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, both Indians and Americans in 1970’s India, were both forced to negotiate the absence of the guru. These two groups of devotees, separated by almost 2,000 years in time and more than 2,500 miles, in land mass, inhabited very different cultures. They told stories about their gurus that help us understand the evolving meaning of the body of the guru—both in its presence and its absence. It is an interesting tale of sameness.
In looking at what devotees have chosen to recall we come to see what the disciple community finds destabilizing in the guru’s physical absence as well as how that absence can be overcome; how the pain of loss of the “non-dual reciprocity” of guru and disciple is eventually transcended through a new understanding of the body of the guru. A process that many people face today while recovering from the loss of Sathya Sai Baba, who many worshipped and adored.
In the Absence of the Body: Discipleship When the Guru Has Gone
An ancient axiom holds that when the disciple is ready, the guru will appear. Much less is said about what happens when the guru disappears—and for this, disciples are rarely ready. It is often a more traumatic event than the death of a parent or spouse or child, because the relationship between disciple and guru is of a different nature than relationships with parents, lovers, friends, or one’s own children. While all these relationships can involve deep and selfless love, the love of the guru (in both the genitive and objective sense) becomes the lens through which the disciple understands the self, the other, and the world. And at least initially, the locus of this love is the bodily presence of the guru.
The guru not only shows the way, but is that very way. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” is how Jesus’ disciples remembered him.
Abhishiktānanda, a modern Roman Catholic monk initiated into Indian advaita by his guru, Gnānānanda, writes that “Guru and disciple form a dyad, a pair, whose two components call for each other and belong together. No more than the two poles (of a magnet) can they exist without being related to each other. On the way towards unity they are a dyad. In the ultimate realization they are a non-dual reciprocity.”
How and Why We Remember
Gospel scholars talk about the “messianic secret” that describes how Jesus in the Gospels tells his disciples not to talk about his deeds of power or identity as the Christ, but to keep these things silent. Scholars often interpret this “secret” as a literary device (especially in Mark) employed to explain why, if Jesus was working all the wonders reported in the narrative, all of Israel did not come to believe in him, or at least know of him in his lifetime.3
In collecting the early stories of Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass encountered a modern corollary of the messianic secret. He writes that it took a number of years for Neem Karoli Baba’s Indian disciples to openly share their stories of Maharajji (as Neem Karoli Baba was known) due to his own directive that he should not be spoken about to others. There are stories of Maharajji ordering the burning of a collection of stories about him and of his tearing up a manuscript of an article on him. Neem Karoli, much like Jesus, ordered those who witnessed miracles effected by or through him never to speak of them. In the case of Neem Karoli Baba, this reticence is certainly not a literary device. Can it be that for Jesus, too, the “messianic secret” was real—and not a device of the Gospel authors?
We have similar instances of both teachers rebuking those who would compliment or draw attention to them. When his contemporary, Deoria Baba, said that Neem Karoli was an incarnation of love, Maharaji responded, “Why, that wicked man! What does he know? Who does he think he is?” Jesus, when called “good teacher” by an inquiring outsider, answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Both of them were opposed having their deeds recorded, and yet their disciples felt the need to do so when they were gone.
Both maharaj and Jesus often complained that their disciples did not truly understand their message, or even who they were. Yet, in spite of the guru’s admonitions, the community of disciples feels responsible for interpreting him to one another after his disappearance, and for preserving/creating a body of material through which the guru will become known by others. The gathering together of such stories offers those who experienced them a way to process the events of the past and gives new generations the possibility of experiencing an awakening similar to that of those who lived in the presence of the guru. In theological language this is called anamnesis, a remembering that makes real in the present the being or event that is being recalled. Anamnesis is one attempt at making the disappeared body of the guru present again.
Now we have the same with Sathya Sai Baba, while alive he complained that his followers failed to understand him. He called himself an enigma, one who could not be known. His passing six years ago, came as a surprise to his community and left them in shock. How did they deal with his passing? On the surface, not very well. While some carried on just as before, holding on to their past habits and routines they had build up during their time with the guru, others floundered. Many left to find another guru or to find solace in a former student and imposter. Although, I feel that a certain Anamnesis has taken place and the steadfast following will overcome the humbug following, in making the guru’s Temple and Ashram, the guru himself.
Excerpted from Parabola: Where Spiritual Traditions Meet,Vol. 37, No. 3 (2012).
By James H. Reho
The key is in understanding that the physical body is only an instrument of the divine. It is not forever. What was it that Sathya Sai Baba said so well ? “You are not the body.” “Drop all attachments to the body and its desires.” I feel that includes all physical attachment to Sai Baba’s form also. ~ More importantly He said and I quote: “At first, name and form are essential, that is the reason why Avatars come, so that God can be loved, adored, worshiped, listened to and followed, and finally realized as nameless and formless.” And to end on a happy note, a beautiful video of darshan with Swami to the huanting music of Secret Garden.
“I remember when we first got an automatic washing machine. We all sat on the floor and watched it go round for one full load. It was better than watching t.v. We had only three channels and no way of recording programmes. You watched live or not at all. The audience for the most popular programmes was enormous, in a way that’s inconceivable now except for things like the Olympics and state funerals/weddings.Taping things off the radio when they played the charts on a Sunday night, trying not to get the D.J. talking over the intro.I was trying to explain to my son that there were no mobile phones, no internet, no iPods or iPads, no computers when I was a child. TV only had 3 channels and closed down half the day and all night, and we didn’t have videos in any homes that I knew of, either. He couldn’t begin to get his head around it. With such limited entertainment available, people developed a real fondness for what was on offer. We had lots of good adverts on TV – The Milk Tray man and the man sneaking down in the middle of the night to get R. White’s lemonade out of the fridge.
Those weird foreign children’s serials the BBC put on (although that may have been more in the 60s) – Belle and Sebastian,White Horses and the daddy of them all – The Singing Ringing Tree. I think they dubbed them, as you couldn’t really expect tiny children to read subtitles. But somehow you could still hear the original dialogue underneath – is that right?!”
Calling Swap Shop on 01 811 8055. Or, in reality, watching “Swap Shop” and being really envious of those children that were actually allowed to use the phone.
And where were your Parents? Parenting methods were more laissez-faire. My mum and dad used to drive to the pub and leave me in the car with a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps whilst they sat inside.I always travelled alone on flights, mum and dad went straight down the back to smoke and drink in the rear seats. I saw them at take off and landing.
“And no-one had a clue when it came to health and safety. Sitting on my mum’s lap in the front seat of the car. No seat belts. Ever. Standing up in the car with head out the sunroof. Or sitting in the back of the car close to the rear window. Our local play park was a death trap. The slide was very, very, very high and there was no padded stuff or even grass – just rock hard concrete or tarmac. The climbing frame looked like it had been constructed using scaffolding poles. Also, 1970s style had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi‘ about it. Dad wore medallions and drove a Firebird Trans Am with an eagle on the bonnet. Mum said you could hear it coming five minutes before arrival. Flicked-out hair-dos done with curling-tongs and before any sort of gel or mousse had been invented. People describe the 70s as the decade that taste forgot. Au contraire. It was massively stuffed with taste. Just not, well…the best.”
A time of simple Pleasures:
It was a time of simple pleasures such as The Blue Peter Christmas lantern that was a tinsel-covered pair of wire hangers with actual candles. Jackie postersthat came in 3 parts so you got David Cassidy’s legs one week, torso the next and his head the next! Queueing up to watch Star Wars (Matinee) aged 7 in Manchester with my brother and parents was a real treat! British gastronomy attained truly dizzying heights.
I remember making my Mum breakfast for her birthday with an orange juice that came in a packet and you added water to it. I thought it the height of sophistication. I can remember the awful orange juice we had that used to stick to the bottle. I’m sure this was not good for us. Rice paper at 1p per sheet – it was a novelty to have paper you were allowed to eat.”Ice Magic” (went stiff when you put it on the ice cream).
The Bad Things:
“Of course, that’s not to say it didn’t have its bad points Those terrifying public safety films they used to show you in schools. Phone boxes – always smelled of pee (you didn’t dare stand on the floor if there was water on it) and the receiver always smelled of ciggies. Buses regularly on strike and having to walk home six miles from school all alone in the rain. I remember getting REALLY horribly burnt in the summer. Kids didn’t really wear sun cream back then. Even the tarmac bubbled up in the 1976 heatwave.”