Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Forty Rules of Love - Elif Shafak


I love reading a good book! This was the most amazing book!  I feel like my soul wrote this book it resonates so with me.

Here are some of my favourite quotes that I highlighted on this first book that I managed to read on my not-so-new Kindle:

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.

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.

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
Personally, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with sadness. Just the opposite—hypocrisy made people happy, and truth made them sad.

Love exists within each of us from the moment we are born and waits to be discovered from then on. That is what one of the forty rules is all about: The whole universe is contained within a single human being—you. Everything that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness both your dark and bright sides, you will arrive at a supreme form of consciousness. When a person knows himself or herself, he or she knows God.”

If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself. Unless you learn to love yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.”

He paused briefly and then added, “How can you blame others for disrespecting you when you think of yourself as unworthy of respect?”

“The past is a whirlpool. If you let it dominate your present moment, it will suck you in,” said Shams as if he had read my thoughts. “Time is just an illusion. What you need is to live this very moment. That is all that matters.”

“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.”

Every individual is self-sufficient in his search for the divine. There is a rule regarding this: We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.”

Life is a temporary loan, and this world is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance. Sufis do not go to extremes. A Sufi always remains mild and moderate.

the breadth and scope of every speaker are determined by those of his audience. Rumi’s words might be like a wild garden, full of teasels, herbs, spruces, and shrubs, but it is always up to the visitor to pick his fancy. While pretty flowers are instantly plucked, few people pay attention to plants with thorns and prickles. But the truth is, great medicines are often made from these. Isn’t it the same with the garden of love? How can love be worthy of its name if one selects solely the pretty things and leaves out the hardships? It is easy to enjoy the good and dislike the bad. Anybody can do that. The real challenge is to love the good and the bad together, not because you need to take the rough with the smooth but because you need to go beyond such descriptions and accept love in its entirety.

seven stages on the Path to Truth—seven maqamat every ego had to go through in order to attain Oneness. The first stage is the Depraved Nafs, the most primitive and common state of being, when the soul is entrapped in worldly pursuits. Most human beings are stuck there, struggling and suffering in the service of their ego but always holding others responsible for their continuing unhappiness. If and when a person becomes aware of the ego’s abased situation, by starting to work on himself, he can move to the next stage, which in a way is the opposite of the previous one. Instead of blaming other people all the time, the person who has reached this stage blames himself, sometimes to the point of self-effacement. Herein the ego becomes the Accusing Nafs and thus starts the journey toward inner purification. In the third stage, the person is more mature and the ego has evolved into the Inspired Nafs. It is only at this level, and not anytime before, that one can experience the true meaning of the word “surrender” and roam the Valley of Knowledge. Anyone who has made it this far will possess and display patience, perseverance, wisdom, and humility. The world will feel new and full of inspiration. Nevertheless, many of the people who reach the third level feel an urge to dwell here, losing the will or the courage to go further. That is why, as beautiful and blessed as it is, the third stage is a trap for the one who aims higher. Those who manage to go further reach the Valley of Wisdom and come to know the Serene Nafs. Here the ego is not what it used to be, having altered into a high level of consciousness. Generosity, gratitude, and an unwavering sense of contentment regardless of the hardships in life are the main characteristics accompanying anyone who has arrived here. Beyond that lies the Valley of Unity. Those who are here will be pleased with whatever situation God places them in. Mundane matters make no difference to them, as they have achieved the Pleased Nafs. In the next stage, the Pleasing Nafs, one becomes a lantern to humanity, radiating energy to everyone who asks for it, teaching and illuminating like a true master. Sometimes such a person can also have healing powers. Wherever he goes, he will make a big difference in other people’s lives. In everything he does and aspires to do, his main goal is to serve God through serving others. Finally, in the seventh stage, one attains the Purified Nafs and becomes Insan-i Kâmil, a perfect human being. But nobody knows much about that state, and even if a few ever did, they wouldn’t speak of it.

A wound that I didn’t even know I had began to bleed.

It was the laughter of a woman who had never learned not to pay too much attention to the judgments of others. “Just go with the flow,” he said. “Let go!”

The more she remained calm and composed, the more her children shared with her. Once she had stopped running after them, they had stopped running away from her. Somehow things were working more smoothly and closer to her liking than in the times when she had tirelessly tried to help and repair. And to think she was doing nothing to achieve this result! Instead of seeing her role in the house as some sort of glue, the invisible yet central bond that held everyone together, she had become a silent spectator. She watched events unfold and days waft by, not necessarily coldly or indifferently but with visible detachment. She had discovered that once she accepted that she didn’t have to stress herself about things she had no control over, another self emerged from inside—one who was wiser, calmer, and far more sensible. “The fifth element,” she muttered to herself several times during the day. “Just accept the void!”

The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each and every one of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it falls upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.

There is such a thing in faith as not being able to see the forest for the trees. The totality of religion is far greater and deeper than the sum of its component parts. Individual rules need to be read in the light of the whole. And the whole is concealed in the essence.

Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.

Is there a worse hell than the torment a man suffers when he knows deep down in his conscience that he has done something wrong, awfully wrong? Ask that man. He will tell you what hell is. Is there a better paradise than the bliss that descends upon a man at those rare moments in life when the bolts of the universe fly open and he feels in possession of all the secrets of eternity and fully united with God? Ask that man. He will tell you what heaven is.

Love is the reason. Love is the goal.

And when you love God so much, when you love each and every one of His creations because of Him and thanks to Him, extraneous categories melt into thin air. From that point on, there can be no “I” anymore. All you amount to is a zero so big it covers your whole being.

“Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi or zen. Not any religion or cultural system. I am not of the East, nor of the West.… My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless.”

Is there a way to grasp what love means without becoming a lover first? Love cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. Love cannot be explained, yet it explains all.

“If we can embrace the universe as a whole, with all its differences and contradictions, everything will melt into One.”

“The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back—not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile,” he murmured. “This is what one of the forty rules reminds us.”

This world is like a snowy mountain that echoes your voice. Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbors ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of forty days, because you will be different inside.”

The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.

Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to leave everything to fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. “The music of the universe is all-pervading and it is composed on forty different levels. “Your destiny is the level where you will play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.

Prophet Muhammad said, “In this world take pity on three kinds of people. The rich man who has lost his fortune, the well-respected man who has lost his respectability, and the wise man who is surrounded by ignorants.”

The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked, and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only 

faith and love turned human beings into heroes because they removed all the fear and anxiety from their hearts.

“Numbing the pain is not the same as healing it,” Master Sameed said. “When the anesthesia wears off, the pain is still there.”

“If the wine drinker Has a deep gentleness in him, He will show that, When drunk. But if he has hidden anger and arrogance, Those appear, And since most people do, Wine is forbidden to everyone.”

“If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss, or fright, one way or another, we all are faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental, and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before. The only way to get closer to Truth is to expand your heart so that it will encompass all humanity and still have room for more Love.”

“Religious rules and prohibitions are important,” he said. “But they should not be turned into unquestionable taboos. It is with such awareness that I drink the wine you offer me today, believing with all my heart that there is a sobriety beyond the drunkenness of love.”

Nothing should stand between yourself and God. Not imams, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters, not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. “Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.”

This world was full of people obsessed with wealth, recognition, or power. The more signs of success they earned, the more they seemed to be in need of them. Greedy and covetous, they rendered worldly possessions their qibla, always looking in that direction, unaware of becoming the servants of the things they hungered after. That was a common pattern. It happened all the time.

“He wants us to know Him with every fiber of our being. That is why it is better to be watchful and sober than to be drunk and dizzy.”

“I didn’t go out and seek love,” Ella muttered, more to herself than to him. “Rumi says we don’t need to hunt for love outside ourselves. All we need to do is to eliminate the barriers inside that keep us away from love.”

“Well, if Sheitan is as wicked and indomitable as you are saying he is, then we human beings have no reason to blame ourselves for our wrongdoings. Whatever good happens we’ll attribute to God, and all the bad things in life we’ll simply attribute to Sheitan. In either case we’ll be exempt from all criticism and self-examination. How easy that is!”

“The message is that the torment a person can inflict upon himself is endless. Hell is inside us, and so is heaven. The Qur’an says human beings are the most dignified. We are higher than the highest, but also lower than the lowest. If we could grasp the full meaning of this, we would stop looking for Sheitan outside and instead focus on ourselves. What we need is sincere self-examination. Not being on the watch for the faults of others.”

“The Sufi says, ‘I should mind my inner encounter with God rather than judging other people.’ An orthodox scholar, however, is always on the lookout for the mistakes of others. But don’t forget, students, most of the time he who complains about others is himself at fault.”

I wouldn’t trade the dust off of the old shoes of a real lover of God for the heads of today’s sheikhs.

This is the conflict between the scholar and the mystic, between the mind and the heart.

While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.”

Life is about perfection. Every incident that happens, no matter how colossal or small, and every hardship that we endure is an aspect of a divine plan that works to that end. Struggle is intrinsic to being human. That is why it says in the Qur’an, Certainly we will show Our ways to those who struggle on Our way. There is no such thing as coincidence in God’s scheme.

Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission—a power that comes from within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquillity and peace even when the whole wide world goes through turbulence after

Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission—a power that comes from within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquility and peace even when the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.

In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of Insan-i Kâmil, the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.

This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. Fear not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs outside God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does beautifully.”

“God is a meticulous clockmaker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.”

“It is never too late to ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?’ “Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.”

You think you cannot live anymore. You think that the light of your soul has been put out and that you will stay in the dark forever. But when you are engulfed by such solid darkness, when you have both eyes closed to the world, a third eye opens in your heart. And only then do you come to realize that eyesight conflicts with inner knowledge. No eye sees so clear and sharp as the eye of love. After grief comes another season, another valley, another you. And the lover who is nowhere to be found, you start to see everywhere.

While the parts change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every decent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes. For every Sufi who dies, another is born somewhere.

“A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western.… Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. “Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! “The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

4 comments:

  1. I have just finished it and loved it too :)

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  2. first my son read and recommend it. I loved it...

    shewket

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  3. thnk u for sharing your thoughts -- all the quotes you put up there, have inspired me to take on the book :)

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  4. If you want to learn beyond this book, you should read "Masnavi" of Rumi and visit Konya city in Turkey.

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