Rumi: Poet of the Heart (1998) Movie Script

[Debra Winger] In the town of
Konya, in central Turkey...
in the middle of the 13th century...
a prominent religious scholar named
Jalal ad-Din Rumi...
was suddenly separated from his teacher
and spiritual friend.
In his grief he took hold of a column
and began turning.
Verses of poetry began pouring out of him.
Remarkable poetry.
His students wrote the words down.
700 years later, Rumi's poetry is being
discovered in the west.
He is in fact the best selling poet
in America.
RUMI, POET OF THE HEAR "Come to the orchard in Spring."
"There is light and wine, and sweethearts
in the pomegranate flowers."
"If you do not come, these do not matter."
"If you do come, these do not matter."
Rumi was born September 30th, 1207 near
Balkh, Afghanistan...
which was then part of the Persian Empire.
When Rumi was still a child...
his family was forced to flee the oncoming
armies of Genghis Khan.
After years of travel, they settled
in Konya Turkey...
an important stop on the silk road and a
meeting point of many cultures.
Islamic, Judeo/Christian, Hindu
and Buddhist.
Rumi's father became the head of a
Sufi learning community.
The Sufis are an ancient
spiritual order.
And according to many Sufis...
the essential truths of Sufism exist
in all religions.
The Sufis are a remarkable band...
in the history of religion.
They are the mystics of Islam.
And as the mystics of Islam, the Sufis...
we can connect with because, they're
talking about these...
wonderful, sublime truths...
which have a way of piercing...
directly into the human heart,
wherever it is.
The Sufi's used to walk,
you know, down several roads...
visiting with the Christians, visiting
with Islam...
visiting in all of the great religions, really.
I mean that's part of the nature of
this kind of fluid imagination.
It crosses boundaries. It penetrates and
it even slips by.
It works by way of humor, it works by
way of stunning imagery.
It works in many different ways. As if to...
keep bringing people to some
deep, human well.
[Debra Winger] Upon his father's
Rumi became the head of the
learning community.
His life seems to have been a fairly
normal one for a religious scholar...
Teaching, meditating, helping the
Until the late fall of 1244 when he
met the stranger.
A wandering dervish, Shams of Tabriz.
Rumi's genius was triggered...
by an actual human being.
An encounter with this mysterious
figure, Shams of Tabriz.
He was an intense fierce mountain meditator.
Those kind of people. Like Thoreau
magnified five times.
The connection between
Shams and Rumi is...
one of the great stories of... learning.
And what we nowadays call mentoring.
But it's almost of an order beyond
what people mean...
when they mean to learn from someone.
Because it means to almost, what seemed
to happen was a sudden, knowing...
One can see here in Shams
an older man...
who is outside the orthodox
spiritual community.
Who comes in and helps a younger man
who is...
deeply embedded in that orthodox
spiritual community.
And then there's a kind of explosion.
What Rumi says, is
that he was raw...
then he got cooked, and then he
was burned.
And that means when his heart...
melted through his love for Shams,
his new experience enabled him...
to understand what he was talking
about before.
And he took Rumi's
book knowledge and says...
he said now you have to live what
you've been reading about.
Pushed all his books into the fountain.
That's one story of how they met.
And Rumi and he went off into this
practice called conversation, "sobhet"
Which they disappeared evidently for
weeks at a time.
In this conversation between the
personal and the deep self.
This is the poem "I'm Not Saying This Right"
Which of course might mean that I
might not say the poem right.
So, I'm not saying this right.
"You bind me, and I tear away in a rage..."
"to open out into air, a round
brightness, a candle point..."
"all reason, all love."
"This confusing joy, is your doing, this
hangover, your tender thorn."
"You turn to look, I turn.
I'm not saying this right."
"I am a jailed crazy who ties up spirit-women.
No, I'm Solomon."
"What goes come back. What goes comes
back. Come back."
"We never left each other."
A disbeliever hides all disbelief,
but I will say his secret now.
"More and more awake, getting up at night..."
"spinning and falling in love with Shams,
falling with love for Shams."
"spinning and spinning, falling in love
with Shams..."
"falling with love for Shams, falling,
with love for shams."
And so Rumi became a poet then,
became a real poet.
Became infused. The whole spirit came
into him.
And um...
so it's one of the great love affairs,
of the world.
The one between Shams and Rumi.
And they loved each other, not sexually
but they loved each other in the heart.
Why does it impress people so much?
Because it's a love...
that is beyond gender, beyond age,
beyond sex, beyond species.
It is the essence of love.
The two oceans met each other.
And the force of love of god.
Because the earth has many oceans.
All the time they meet, and...
once happened two will meet...
in the land of Konya, Turkey,
700 years ago.
[Coleman Barks] "When you feel your
lips becoming infinite and sweet..."
"like a moon in a sky..."
"when you feel that spaciousness inside..."
"Shams of Tabriz will be there too."
"Something opens our wings."
"Something makes boredom and hurt disappear."
"Someone fills the cup in front of us..."
"We taste only sacredness."
The relationship between
Rumi and Shams...
is actually a reminder to us that
all relationships...
have that potential and that when we
fall in love...
then we actually are entering a spiritual
domain of awareness.
Romantic lovers are confused. That's a
very spiritual state to be confused.
Rumi says himself, he says...
"label me and define me"...
"and you starve yourself of yourself."
"Nail me down in a box with cold words"...
"and that box will be your coffin."
"Because I don't know who I am. I'm an
astounding, lucid, confusion."
That's the state of love.
There was a lot of jealousy among
Rumi's students, over this.
Jealousy is one of the main...
impulses in the human race, you know.
So no one knows exactly the truth, but...
some feel that what happens is that the
students killed Shams and hid the body.
Rumi then went out in the backyard and
there's a pole there.
And in his grief he kept going round and
round and round the pole.
And this is the beginning of the
Whirling Dervishes.
And it was done out of grief which is
terrifically interesting.
That's how all that great poetry
started was in grief.
The thing that we avoid the most.
And in that time he would begin to
speak the lines, speak them out...
they'd all appear in rhyme and meter,
perfectly done.
And then...
When he came out the students would
say, oh my God, that's tremendous.
Write that down. No he said, let's
keep dancing. Let's don't.
That's only words.
Rumi says everything is for the beloved.
Everything is for the friend.
And my understanding of that...
is that there is... a presence...
that we feel in the beauty that we
see outside of us.
We feel it in a November sunset.
We feel it in a child sleeping, in a
child dancing, playing soccer...
We feel it in a group of friends making
supper on Sunday night.
He would say that feeling, is a presence.
That it's both outside of us, intending us,
and inside us.
When we feel the jewel like quality
of our own inner awareness.
That also is the friend. And this
inner/outer presence...
is addressed directly in many of
Rumi's poems.
When one says that wonderful pronoun
"you" and you don't quite know who it is...
it's that presence.
"When it's cold and raining, he says,
you are more beautiful."
"And the snow, brings me even closer
to your lips."
"The inner secret, that which was
never born..."
"you are that freshness, and I am
with you now."
"I can't explain the goings or
the comings..."
"you enter suddenly and I am
nowhere again..."
"inside the majesty."
"I... you..."
"he... she..."
"In the garden of mystical lovers..."
"are not true... distinctions."
"I... you..."
"he... she..."
I feel very grateful to Coleman Barks
for having introduced me to a world...
that I knew existed, that I yearned for.
There was an agony of wishing in
my heart.
but I didn't know how to find it.
I'd found it through other means,
through other poets...
but never with the intensity and passion
of Rumi. So...
I owe a great debt of gratitude
to Coleman Barks.
for bringing me to that world.
We know Rumi through his poetry.
But in a sense that isn't his poetry...
because his poetry was in Persian, Farsi.
And we read him in English.
And the difficulties, the problems...
are also the mysterious connection
that occurs...
but also a difference in translation
is an abiding fester...
for all translators, but especially
for poets.
First time I ever heard of Rumi was at one
of Robert Bly's conferences in 1976.
When he handed me a book of
scholarly translations...
by A.J Arberry and said these poems need
to be released from their cages, you know.
And so I began rephrasing Arberry's English...
and in the course of that a sequence of
coincidences happened...
and I met a Sufi teacher...
Abdullah Nujaladeen.
And he told me to do this work.
And if I had not sat in his presence
for about 9 years on and off...
I would have no idea what Rumi was
about or what he did.
I believe in both translations and versions.
In the translation...
one has to know the language, for
example Spanish.
when you translate Neruda. And then
Neruda's a contemporary and so...
you can feel the turns and you can feel...
the sorrow, where it is in the sentence
and which words have tremendous sorrow...
even in Spanish and continue them.
And then you follow the emotional mood
of that line... and um...
Then there's a translator. I'm responsible
for the accuracy.
I still may make many mistakes I'll
always find a speaker who...
knew Spanish and English in the cradle.
Because that's where the sounds are
first heard.
Version is a different thing for me.
I found Kabir and I thought that
was so fantastic.
I thought what it would it sound like
if it were written today.
So I made a guess at the lines, and they
are not accurate.
You're making a guess. You're bringing
it up to modern times, you're putting in...
But the aim of those translations, the
aim of versions...
is to bring in poets so unusual,
so amazing...
that you'd rather have an inaccurate
translation then none at all.
I work with scholars who give me
literal versions...
of poems from the Persian. The more
literal the better for me.
So John Moyne's and evidently
Reynold Nicholson's...
version of the... I mean translation
of the "Mathnawi" is very literal.
I take what they give me, which is ...
literal English, and then try to make a poem
that's valid in American, right now.
So I put it into our tradition, which is...
most attuned to spiritual
and that is the free verse, of Whitman
and Emily Dickinson...
and Gary Snyder.
In terms of the musicality of the
we don't try to reproduce that at all.
It's densely rhymed within words and
within the middle words...
and uh...
that's almost unreproducible in English.
Speaking in Persian.
Continues in Persian.
Continues in Persian.
I don't know. It's quite difficult to
understand and easy as well.
The more translators who work on
the text, the better...
because every version gives you
something else.
Because it's through the eyes of that
particular poet or translator.
He sees more this word or that version.
But somehow the cork comes out of
the bottle again.
And the Genie is out so to speak.
A reference to an old story where it
gets uncorked...
and the spirit of the thing comes
to life again...
which certainly happened to Coleman
Barks, Robert Bly and the other translators.
Rumi can keep a lot of trans... should
keep a lot of translators busy.
Because he is a kind of universe, and with
a lot of different moods and modes...
and I may be missing a lot of them.
"This is the story told by the reeds."
Speaking in Persian.
There's no "at".
Both speaking Persian.
I was born in Afghanistan, the land
where Rumi came from.
When I was a little girl, my father, I
remember him reading Rumi or...
or conversing through Rumi
with his friends in the moonlight until
2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.
I connected back to Rumi after my
father passed away, actually.
Speaking in Persian.
I went and found... bought a nice book
of Rumi's Mathnawi...
I came home and started reading it. I
realized that...
this is not something that I can do
by myself.
Who has not this love, it's nothing.
- It's nothing.
- Yeah.
- Like a wind.
- Yeah.
- Might as well die.
- Exactly.
Speaking in Persian.
I knew I needed a teacher, so I found
Zeri, through a friend.
And it's been really wonderful working
with her.
Somebody who has knowledge of the
and Rumi and the culture...
- It's a metaphor for...
- It's wine...
but it's just all about love.
She's a very tough teacher, yes.
Have to do it right.
You know you can't deviate.
Maybe I should say it's the Afghan way. It
was the same way back home too.
"Listen to the story, told by the reed,
of being separated."
"Since I was cut from the reed bed I
have made this crying sound."
"Anyone apart from someone she loves
understands what I've said."
"Anyone pulled from the source longs
to go back."
Rumi, the dominant note in his
is of course, longing.
The longing of the soul for the
the divine.
His favorite image for this was
the reed flute.
That flute is noted for the plaintive
sound that it makes.
And the reed was played on by
human beings...
but the reed was once in the mud
of the river bottom.
Then it was pulled out.
So it carries with it the grief of having
once been in the river bottom..
and now it's just in the air.
And he said all of us were once in the
Mother God...
we have now been pulled out.
So every time someone plays, or does
any poem...
it'll always have in it that grief of
having lost the mud...
of the river bed god.
"A craftsman pulled a reed from
the reed bed."
"Cut holes in it and called it a human being."
"Since then it's been wailing a tender
agony of parting."
"Never mentioning the skill that gave it
life as a flute."
Boy that changes the whole idea of
being a victim in the world.
It changes the entire suggestion of what
the lament of being alive is about.
"The tender agony of parting."
We live parting from something.
That's great.
Then he says the reed can't make the
noise, can't make the reed music...
Can't make the flute music, until it is
plucked from the reed bed.
And carved with nine wholes, like
the human body.
And then it can make language, when
it's separated.
Therefore language, is a proof that
we're separated.
The fact that we use language, is uh...
is part of our nostalgia for union.
Every soul has their own broken heart...
because if the soul is not united,
it's the essence of it...
of itself of course has broken heart.
Love is the goal of all other goals,
you know.
Some time ago I read some Nobel
laureate won the prize...
and he said: "This is a consolation
prize, I was looking for love. "
"In the early morning hour, just before dawn,"
"lover and beloved wake and take
a drink of water."
"She asks..."
"Do you love me or yourself more?"
"Really... tell the absolute truth."
"He says..."
"there's nothing left of me."
"I'm like a ruby, held up to
the sunrise."
"Is it still a stone..."
"or a world made of redness."
"It has no resistance, to sunlight."
"This is how Hallaj said I am God
and told the truth".
"The ruby and the sunrise are one".
"Be courageous and discipline yourself".
"Completely become, hearing... and ear,"
"and wear this sun-ruby as an earring."
"Work. Keep digging your well."
"Dont think about getting off from work."
"Water is there somewhere."
"Submit to a daily practice."
"Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door."
"Keep knocking, and the joy inside..."
"will eventually open a window"
"and look out to see whos there."
"At the time of night prayer as the sun slides down,"
"the route the senses walk on closes,
the route to the invisible opens."
"The angel of sleep then gathers and
drives along the spirits,"
"just as the mountain keeper gathers his
sheep on the slope."
"And what amazing sights he offers to
the descending sheep."
"Cities with sparkling streets, hyacinth
gardens, emerald pastures."
"The spirit sees astounding beings,
turtles turned to men,"
"men turned to angels, when sleep
erases the banal."
"I think one could say the spirit goes
back to its old home;"
"it no longer remembers where it lives,
and it loses its fatigue."
"It carries around in life so many
griefs and loads"
"and trembles under their weight."
"They are gone. And it's all well."
They're gone and it's all well.
So that's lovely.
In the Sufi order, the one that was generated
by Rumi, the Mevlevi order...
their distinctive ritual is a circling
motion which has caused...
those Sufi's to be called the
"Whirling Dervishes".
It comes from Rumi himself who
found himself drawn to...
circle pillars in his mosque.
He would cup his hand around
the pillar...
and leaned back and found the best
for some... who knows what the
symbolism is...
maybe planets circling the sun...
would just release a torrent
of ecstatic poetry.
And much of his poetry just came
spilling out of him in that motion.
Now that took hold and his followers
a similar ritual of circling...
in their case their Sheik, rather than
a poem.
"A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn."
"Head unaware of feet,
and feet head."
"Neither cares. They keep turning."
"A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn."
It's an image of surrender and
discipline, at the same time.
If you've seen it done, you see
that. They go...
and then they just open flower out
but they... and they never fall.
They're always in total synchrony.
They know where they are.
They're in concert with the
galaxies and the molecules...
and all these things that go like this.
That's what I always loved about the Sufis.
They say that the great world is inside.
This world, that looks so huge and
magnificent, is the microcosm.
The macrocosm is our inner life.
It just reverses science.
Or maybe the new science is saying
something like that.
That the inner world is the giant place.
And the outside world that we see...
is the language that we use to
speak of the inner.
If you look deeply enough actually,
into the heart of science itself...
we might discover that what Rumi and
other great seers and sages...
and the wisdom traditions were saying,
was actually true.
At the heart of creation there
is only love.
That ultimately even our material
success comes...
from the ability to love and
have compassion.
Comes from the capacity to experience
joy and ecstasy and share it with others.
"Inside water, a waterwheel turns."
"A star circulates with the moon."
"We live in the night ocean wondering,"
"What are these lights?"
"I am so small I can barely be seen."
"How can this great love be inside me?"
"Look at your eyes."
"They are small,"
"but they see enormous things."
Rumi says "On Resurrection Day your
body testifies against you."
"Your hand says, I stole money.
Your lips, I said meanness."
"Your feet, I went where I shouldn't.
Your genitals, me too."
"These voices will make your
praying sound hypocritical."
"So let the body's doings speak openly now,
without your saying a word"
"as a student walking behind a teacher
"This one knows more clearly
than I the way."
That's the amazing thing at the end
that your body in certain ways...
knows your way to the spirit better
than your mind does.
And the body forgives.
Rumi gives the way to live better,
to love more.
To be more comfortable in this world.
That you have a lot of difficulties
for everything.
But with Rumi, you feel more safe.
You love it. You see the world
in other ways.
With love. It opens your eyes.
Ready? Okay.
"Inside water, a waterwheel turns."
"A star circulates with the moon."
"We live in the night ocean wondering,"
"What are these lights?"
"You have said what you are."
"I am what I am."
"Your actions in my head,"
"my head here in my hands"
"with something circling inside."
"I have no name for what circles
so perfectly."
Yeah, yeah. I heard a Sufi say once,
he said...
He asked me what religion I was and
I just threw up my hands.
He said "That's good".
The universe is... love is the religion...
and the universe is the book. So
just read it. Your experience.
The signs of God are in the world,
and the world is in your heart.
Yeah, yeah. But I love books.
The manuscript of nature.
- It is the only scripture.
- Yeah.
Some of us are just hooked on
books, you know.
"and everything outside is growing,"
"even the tall cypress tree."
"We must not leave this place."
"Around the lip of the cup we share,
these words,"
"My Life Is Not Mine."
"If someone were to play music,"
Okay... okay.
I'll tell you a little story about
my granddaughter, Briney.
Here she is. This is the beloved.
We have an organization that we belong
to, Briney and I...
It's called "Club" and we meet every
Monday night after dinner.
And we do science experiments and
we draw pictures.
And one day we were going up to her
room in the new house...
that they were going to move into soon.
And there was nothing in that room but
just an office desk.
Some students had been renting
out the house...
and there's just this metal office desk.
And we were gonna sit on the floor
there and draw pictures... for Club...
She reached into the desk and pulled
off a bit of adding machine tape...
and ripped it off...
she says "Grandaddy, this is your
permanent ticket to Club".
I said "I never had a permanent
ticket before".
I put it in my pocket and while we
were drawing pictures...
I pulled it out and noticed it had this
very careful calligraphy, on it.
And it turns out that adding machine roll,
some student had copied out...
The entire book, every poem in "Bird Song"...
these little poems, on that thin
adding machine roll.
And she had ripped that off, the first
three and a half poems...
and given it to me as my permanent
ticket to Club.
There's this old celtic thing...
that's there's very little difference
between a song, and a poem...
between a poem and a story...
between a story and prayer.
So that anytime someone is singing a song,
or telling a story...
or telling or reading poetry to a child...
they're also inviting the child
into a prayer.
And there's never a need to take that
down to the level of the child, at all.
Because something in the child
already knows all this...
and is waiting to hear it again...
so that parents or teachers that give
great poetry...
or stories to children...
are feeding this old soul that is in
this child...
and are reassuring the child that they
have come to the right world.
That yes it may be confusing, and the world
may be increasingly chaotic...
but this is the world, where those
words are said.
I think if you bring back poetry into the
lives of our children...
we will transform the world.
We look for all kinds of solutions for
our everyday problems...
Most of the solutions are
purely materialistic.
If you want to take care of the elderly...
have better old folks homes with
more money in them.
If you want to take care of inner
pour in the funds over there and
it'll solve.
That's not the crisis of our age.
and even if you do see poverty over there...
that's the expression of a deeper
And that impoverishment is the soul
and the spirit screaming...
for nourishment. And that nourishment
can come from poetry.
Poetry as TS Eliot said is a raid
on the inarticulate.
On the level of 1 to 10,
it's about a 2 to read...
great works on the spirit from the page.
On the level of 1 to 10, it's like a 9
to hear a human being speak it...
especially one you love.
That brings the spirit inside the house,
inside the family...
inside your genetic line.
It's gorgeous, fantastic.
So I would rather read... have
someone read to my children...
three poems then for them to read
30 on the page.
To read a poem privately is
a beautiful...
can be a devotional, prayerful thing.
But to have the poem fall on the drum
of the ear, that's different.
Etheridge Knight, the great African-American
poet used to say...
"The words from my mouth are beating
on the drum in your ear".
So don't think this is casual.
I don't know why he should come back
and be so prevalent...
700 years from his lifetime.
It may be a simple thing.
It may be it's because he's telling a truth,
that we are ready to hear.
And he tells it so clearly, and with such
and with such elegant images....
that we delight to hear his stories.
When something is true,
it can live 700 years or more.
Read Homer or read people that
are older than Rumi, and...
their beauty is just as new today as
it was then.
Very hard to understand for ordinary people.
But they can feel the smell, the fragrance.
Or feel the touch.
Another saying, it's a connection
with the soul.
Even 700 years later, they can
touch the human hearts.
And they do and they will.
Rumi is like bread. It's not like caviar...
that you can have it once in a while,
or never in your life...
but Rumi, like a bread, you
will have it once...
twice, three times, four times, five times,
all the day.
For that your passing every day with Rumi,
not once a day.
I pass now as well, I pass maybe 2 hours,
3 hours.
It's like this with Rumi. And I feel in paradise.
I fly with Rumi. I go to sky.
I will forget that I'm on the earth.
He said: "I go into the Christian church
and I go into the Muslim mosque"...
"and I go into the Jewish synagogue
and I see one altar."
He saw a single impulse to worship...
at the core of all religions.
When he died, members of every
faith in Konya...
came to his funeral, honoring him...
as they felt that a way of deepening
into their own faith.
That is the reason everyone was there.
Maybe every nation, they love their
own prophets.
Every order they like their own Sheiks.
But everyone loved Muhammad Jall ad-Dn.
He says "I'm not Christian, not Jew
not Muslim"...
"not Hindu not Buddhist."
"I belong to the beloved, have seen the
two worlds as one"...
"and that one, call to and know"...
"first, last, outer, inner"...
"only that breath breathing
human being."
"This we have now is not imagination"
"This is not grief or joy."
"Not a judging state, or an elation,"
"or a sadness,"
"those come and go."
"This is the presence that doesn't."
"It's dawn, Husam,"
"here in the splendor of coral,"
"inside the Friend,"
"in the simple truth of what Hallaj said."
"What else could human beings want?"
"When grapes turn to wine
they're wanting this."
"When the night sky pours by,
it's really a crowd of beggars,"
"and they all want some of this!"
"This that we are now"
"created the body, cell by cell,"
"like bees building a honeycomb."
"The human body and the universe
grew from this,"
"not this from the universe and
the human body.
"This that we have now is not imagination"
"This is not grief or joy."
"Not a judging state, or an elation,
or sadness."
"Those come and go. This is the presence
that doesn't."
"It's dawn, Husam,"
"What else could human beings want?"