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A disciple who had fallen behind on the path appealed

with sighs and inner pain to a master whose heart was aware:

“What is love and what is the love story?” he asked. “Which is 

the right path, and who is the true traveler on the path of love?

Vague and cryptic discourses on this subject abound,

but none is illuminating or provides an answer to my problem.

No one has disclosed the secrets of love

or the part desire plays in the venture of love. 

Reveal the truth about the heart and love;

address and expound on the role of desire.”

                    * * * * *

To this, his master replied with these words,

lifting the veil from the mystery:

“The source of God’s creation was love; it was by means 

of love that God’s breath bestowed life to all.

Love’s work involves many stages,

which not all are fit to attain.

In the beginning desire had a share in love; 

it was a stream in the realm of the heart.

Desire is like a river, and love is 

the ocean that most rivers seek.

Many of these, however, dry up 

in the desert before reaching the ocean. 

Many kinds of love are merely carnal desires;

however beautiful, they are no more than games.

Though desire may lead to love’s shore, 

it has no access to the ocean’s inner depths.

Desire is lust, chatter and flirtation; it is 

only an expression of the self in its neediness.

Desire arises from one’s instinct and has 

many hundreds of ordinary modes of expression.”

                    * * * * *

“Desire is sometimes like the behavior of a donkey; 

bestial lust is its most primitive expression. 

One who becomes as base and crude as a donkey 

is transformed into a creature of obsessive lust.

Sometimes the deceiving, lustful person

becomes fanatically opposed to any rival.

He becomes like a self-righteous rooster, 

unrivaled in voicing its desire.

He does not use force like the donkey, 

for he is not blinded by lust.

He is playful and mischievous, with coquettish airs, 

like the rooster displaying its plumes in lustful desire. 

When this desire embraces flirtation 

and affection, it may satisfy carnal love.”

                    * * * * *

“There are many kinds of worldly love; 

most are forms of verbal persuasion and games of passion. 

One example is the approach of the nightingale, 

who seems to dote on the rose.

Its practice of loving is neither sincere nor pure; 

its love is neither affectionate nor loyal.

Night and day it warbles plaintive appeals, 

broadcasting its secret everywhere.

The rendan pay no attention to its moans when 

it makes a clamor due to separation from the rose.

All its ranting and raving are immature conduct, 

which true lovers consider a disgrace. 

The rose is wary of the frenzied nightingale, 

for no fidelity exists in its brand of love.

Wherever roses bloom, the nightingale

turns its heart and gazes in their direction.

It perches near a rose flirtatiously, while sharing 

secrets and showing interest in another bloom.

Then at dawn it becomes the lover of the narcissus, 

wooing it with amorous glances and declarations.

Yet again, it loses interest and flies away 

from there and pines for another flower.

Since no real burning and acceptance reside 

in its breast, its mournful cries are just a ruse.

This is a carnal and futile love, for the nightingale 

seeks nothing but the hue and scent of the rose.” 

                    * * * * *

“The rose’s love is carnal as well, 

for it has no passion or depth.

The rose seeks a playful lover;

the zephyr is unaware of the rose’s plot, 

so the rose uses its color and sweet 

scent to draw the zephyr near.

It shows its face with grace and coquetry, 

while rank desire is hidden beneath its petals.

Once the zephyr is aroused and loses control, 

the rose tries to capture it through a hundred different ruses

so that the zephyr will become crazed with desire

and head for the garden to find union.”

                    * * * * *

“These sensual games of lovers, however, 

are not all there is to love.

The zephyr sets the rose’s heart aflutter, 

rendering it frenzied and restless.

It, too, is full of doubt and hypocrisy, 

for such love is guided by mere desire.

Without this desire, there would be no flirtation; 

the zephyr would not drift toward roses.

If the lover tears his garment to express longing, 

he is only showing off in love’s marketplace. 

This clamor and crying are merely trickery and deception, 

for true love has no hunter, prey or snare.

In the eyes of the rendan, the love enjoyed by 

the rose and zephyr is mere desire and has no worth.”

                    * * * * *

“Yet another form of love is the commotion of the moth, 

who is said to be captivated and crazed by the candle.

As soon as the moth spies the candle’s flame, 

it darts towards it from every corner.

It hurls itself upon the flame till it dies, 

delivering its heart and sweet soul to this beloved.

Such love, too, is not a pure love;

it is only by deception that this love shines.

When the moth offers its soul to its beloved in the flame,

it is showing off with this display of fireworks. 

Then at dawn with the fervor it once had for the flame, 

the moth takes flight towards the garden.

It is neither faithful to one beloved nor love-crazed at all, 

for it becomes drunk in the garden as well.

Its object of love is the rose by day, 

and it burns with love for the candle’s flame by night.

In the realm of the real lovers this is not true love, 

for love allows no pretense or self-display.”

                    * * * * *

“The candle expresses yet another form of love, 

its head being consumed by love’s passion.

It appears to be a sincere and God-seeking lover 

that burns with a feverish fire.

But this love’s zeal comes from its head; 

the candle spends a lifetime in thought. 

The candle’s passion is all in its head; 

below, its heart is cold and depressed.

Openly its head blazes brightly, 

but its heart, hidden away, is not radiant.

Its love is like that of the philosopher, 

who seeks the eternal by reason’s light.

He does not know that it is the heart’s fire, 

not the fervor in his head, that is both guide and way.

The path is traversed through the heart’s love.

What use is life if it is just burnt away?” 

                    * * * * *

“Another example of this kind of artful deception

is the refined love between man and woman.

In this love, the lover yearns with a heart 

committed passionately to the beloved. 

All the lover’s hopes and thoughts are concerned with union; 

such a lover thinks of nothing but the beloved.

But this love is transitory; 

no one will find rest in such a love.

Once the loved one is dead and buried, 

sighing and moaning are of no use.

However lofty this love may be, 

it is not worthy of a love-crazed rend.”

                    * * * * *

“Though there are many cases of worldly love, 

all are no more than desire; they are not true love.

Yet they can serve to fashion a ladder, 

leading to the heart and its engagement in true love.

Suffering the pains of carnal love

may serve as the means to purify one’s love. 

When the lover flees the trap of desire, 

he is unmatched in the realm of the heart.

He surmounts in one moment all the hurdles and trials, 

and reaches the station of those with committed hearts. 

In a divine manner, the lover merges with God

and drunkenly inspires the whole world.

He becomes a sincere lover, totally consumed by love

in the realm of drunkards with illuminated hearts.

All this is admissible and fair by love’s decree, 

but only if the heart is drunk and love-crazed.

True love is unlike carnal love; 

it is utterly free of deception, need or greedy desire.

Love is true when self-existence is no more, 

when all is fervor, intoxication and the craziness of love. 

If you arrive in the world of the heart, 

your soul will learn of the Sufi’s love.

You’ll learn that this love is higher than all the others, 

being based upon direct perception and conviction.

The Sufi does not trill like the nightingale; 

his pain is concealed in his heart and not expressed.

He does not hop from branch to branch, 

but spends his life prostrate before one prayer niche.

He is not attached to color and scent like the rose, 

for colorlessness is his own color.

He is not a show-off like the moth,

for the Sufi is not concerned with anyone but the Beloved.

His fervor is not in his head like that of the candle; 

his heart is aflame, and his soul is burning.

The heart of the Sufi is consigned solely to the One

by whom many are stupefied and bewildered.

Though he has no knowledge of the Essence of God, 

his heart is drunk with the wine of God’s Attributes.

He is happy with God’s grace and wrath; 

he is content while inside the fire.

He wants from God neither this world nor the hereafter; 

with Him, the Sufi has no need for words.

Since the Beloved is eternal and immortal, 

the Sufi’s love increases every day.

Such a Sufi is detached from self and both worlds

and is attached to God alone. 

He becomes acquainted with his Lord,

Who becomes the Sufi’s guide towards Himself.”

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