"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there."
Even centuries later, these beautiful lines written by Jalaluddin Rumi have the power to guide our restless souls. His poems feel like meditation. That writers, poets, and artists all over the world take inspiration from his work is known to everyone. The 13th century Persian poet even had an enduring influence on Coldplay's Chris Martin when he was distressed during his divorce with his wife.
It is safe to say that as long as humankind is, Rumi is always going to be as relevant as he was some 800 odd years ago.
While we know him as a passionate seeker of love and truth whose poetry is a treasure trove of spirituality and wisdom, not much is known about the person behind Rumi's inspiration. Not many know that Rumi wouldn't have been the legend that he is today had he not encountered his mentor, Shams Tabrizi.
Born to a wealthy family, Rumi was a noble man and a traditional Muslim scholar whose family had close connections with the king. Year 1244 marked a turning point in his life when he met Shams Tabrizi, a spiritual wanderer and mystic. Shams was a homeless wanderer who looked nothing like a learned man. Meeting him was the beginning of Rumi's journey towards a passionate search of love and truth.
There are many versions that describe the meeting of Rumi with his guide, but according to one of the most interesting ones, Rumi was reading with a huge pile of books by his side when Shams Tabrizi passed by him. He asked Rumi what he was doing, to which he gave a nonchalant reply saying, "Something you cannot understand."
Upon hearing this, Shams threw all the books in the nearby pool. But when Rumi picked them up from there, to his sheer surprise, the books were all dry. Shocked, when Rumi asked the mysterious man about it, he said, "This is what you cannot understand."
Rumi was 37 years old and Shams was already in his 60s when the two met.
The profound spiritual and philosophical knowledge of Shams Tabrizi was seeking a student of equal extraordinaire and he saw that spark in Rumi. The two struck a close friendship and from there on, began Rumi's impassioned pursuit for truth and love.
It's said that Shams taught Rumi for a total of 40 days in seclusion in Konya, Iran. After that, the master left Konya and flew to Damascus.
Stories tell that Rumi was immensely sad after the departure of his master and close friend who had showed him the path towards a deeper devotion for god and truth, and with whom he had discovered the depths of spirituality. It's also widely believed that Shams was killed by Rumi's youngest son who was jealous of their close companionship.
Rumi couldn't bear the painful separation from his Sheikh and poured his emotions through poetry, writing 70,000 verses. He wrote 3,000 poems for Shams, expressing his love and devotion for his guide whom he referred to as the bird and the sun who showed him the right path.
The tomb of Shams-i Tabrīzī in Iran has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And this is how a noble scholar named Jalaluddin Rumi became Rumi, a mystic whose poems convey the fiercest of the emotions of love and longing.