A year ago, my partner and I discovered the works of Thich Nhat Hanh (“Thay”) on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, and in the months that followed, we studied Thay’s teachings together.

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Thay had taught us some very beautiful lessons about love, sorrow, forgiving and the impermanence of life. We love his quiet wisdom and compassionate views of the world, and someday, we may visit Plum Village where Thay now resides.

But a few weeks ago, we began a new chapter in our relationship: we started studying Rumi (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī) together.

What’s so magical about Rumi? He was a Muslim cleric, born in the 13th century in Persia. He came from a wealthy family and was a nobleman. As a cleric and a scholar, he found success in his neighbourhood. And then he met a wise, wild, holy man, a wandering dervish by the name of Shams of Tabriz. And Rumi changed irrevocably…..

One day, the provocative dervish Shams sent Rumi to a tavern full of drunks to buy two bottles of wine, though alcohol was strictly forbidden by Rumi’s religion. At the tavern, Rumi got chatting to a drunk who had been ostracised by the pious people of the neighbourhood.  Time flew by. The news of Rumi’s visit to the tavern spread….

It was one of the catalysts of change within Rumi. Within a very short course of time, Rumi was conflicted, tormented, ravaged, and rebirthed.  From a cleric and a scholar, Rumi morphed into a force that is much, much deeper and a whole lot more powerful.  Today, he is one of the most read poets in the modern world, so many centuries later.

My partner and I are enrolled in a couple of online courses about Rumi.  Here is Lesson 17, written by Rumi perhaps in memory of the day he went to the tavern:

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There are quite a few engaging, intense people in our Rumi study group, and they add to our education:

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One of the most amazing phenomenon about the human body is as we grow old physically, our capacity to grow spiritually increases: our learning does not stop the moment we leave university.  Our learning never needs to stop, and now is especially a good time to venture into esoterics, so that we begin to learn a little more about ourselves. And the best thing about this technological age is, we no longer have to leave our comfortable homes and jobs to travel to remote caves to find spiritual teachers : we can learn with a click of an icon and a commitment to travel within.

A long article about Rumi in New York Times can be found here.