The first time I read the Tarjuman was as a student at the Beshara School; it was part of the preparation for a solitary retreat; our studies were punctuated with meditation and devotional practices. I remember it seemed as if the sun never completely rose that week. There was an atmosphere of awe, of being in a dangerous place, an inexplicably challenging twilight. I understood nothing in spite of years of study of the Fusûs and other works, in spite of the lucid commentary. The second time was less mysterious. I was now assisting in the supervising of the course with the same aims and format as the one I had attended a year earlier. I was fortunate to be able to follow the insights of my colleague on the course who seemed at the time to have a miraculous way with the text.
The third time something else happened. It is as if the book opened. I do not know what this means but I have heard even physicists talk about this kind of thing; a sudden opening, in which more is given than all your preparation prepared you for. And this opening was not a revelation of its secrets but the awakening of the sentiment – a sense that this inspiration was real and present. The memory of that first reading , that long dark week, became more significant than it had seemed at the time, as if the veiledness was purposeful, disguising a more enduring, more and essential benefit.
The demand of the Tarjuman, the demand of the way that Ibn ‘Arabi prescribes, is like this – it is not the demand to understand so much as to identify as completely as possible with that spirit. I can imagine the sheikh reading these poems and in the reading there being an actual recalling of the condition which inspired them, for this condition is the greatest freedom, the taste of being in this world but really belonging to the next, at a doorway between existence and non-existence and this is where the Poet par excellence stands. What he expresses is not his view of the world or himself, not some private interiority which is merely a self-constructed sub-universe, but rather the play of divine images upon the Divine Mirror, subtle realities still hot from their birthplace.
For Ibn ‘Arabi poetry is the expression of an intensive and prolonged contemplation of God and nothing else. Ibn ‘Arabi is describing in the Tarjuman the manner proper to contemplation of Reality. The images are the images of primordial forms (not archetypes, which are the synthetic product of a collusion between a speculation that the world is real and the conjecture of a higher reality) the modes in which the divine wisdom clothes itself before its descent into the realm of thought. In this respect he is not inviting the reader to contemplate his iconography, but rather to follow the spirit whose footprints the images are. This order underlies the well attested fact that the power in poetry lies in how much is hidden. The less is exteriorised the more intense the exteriorisation. The images are not meant to be explained, they speak for themselves. The images of the visionary imagination are closer to reality than the knowledge derived from them, just as it is said that the child is closer to its Lord than the adult. And this is because the mystic poet aspires to be in the real proximity of the inspiration, the place from which he draws his breath and his primary motivation.
Yet the poetic sensibility is not only about the love of the succinct, the concentrated, the sheer meaning where the fewer the words the better – it is about the actuality of esoteric knowledge, a knowledge which is identical to being. The subject is the self, not by way of reflection, but because of the singleness of the Divine regard and the Divine action, the realisation in the person of the mystery of tawhid.
This taste for the primordial, the original, underlies Ibn ‘Arabi’s clear belief that what is most elevated is what is most real. Hence his confession that the things of the next world are more valuable to him than the things of this world. How many can say this? Without this commitment there is no possibility of the poetic sensibility being expressed as a mode of being. The issue is not the poetry as Jelaluddin Rumi implied when he said: ‘If the guest wants tripe , then give him tripe’, but rather the state of consciousness which it represents and this is a taste beyond theory and practice. The difference between Rumi and Ibn ‘Arabi lies in Ibn ‘Arabi’s formal intensity, the sense of the self-disclosure and self-veiling of reality. Rumi expounds, Ibn ‘Arabi exposes. He also assumes the spiritual integrity of the reader, assumes that misinterpretation is ultimately impossible, because that faculty which interprets according to its own limit will not penetrate the meaning. In this sense somehow the Tarjuman‘s images demand being seen from the inside, its weighty symbolism can only be approached from and in the country of their origin. Thus they appear obscure to the intellect, though curiously native to the heart.
This is the divine action inspired by its own ever transient self-revelation. Thus this other-worldly-ness expressed in the highly formal imagery brings the reader to that threshold between worlds, where what seems like the architecture of a mausoleum, a graveyard, a desert, is precisely the place where the inspiration is to be received. That it is a ruin, a desert, emphasises the transience of the images that appear in it, and their starkness, the power of their self-definition, the brightness of their colours, the very fact that they are of the order of self-revelation. Blake said: ‘Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy’.
Reading the Tarjuman for the first time is like arriving at the gates of a ruin; from the outside there is nothing happening, because it is all happening inside. You cannot see it from where you are. You are brought to your knees. You are invited to leave thought and take up contemplation.
I have to leave an in depth analysis of the language of the Tarjuman to another more versed in these matters, but one point can be drawn out even in principle because it seems essential when talking about poetry or any art. Anyone who prays knows that in prayer you are brought closer to yourself and to your origin, your Lord. The only craft in art or poetry is the stripping away of what does not belong to that origin – so poetry is the stripping of language to its song-like origins – as if the sounds themselves, like the sounds of a prayer, are the re-cognition of the very origins of speech. Again, the poet by nature is at the door between the worlds, all he does is witness the movement of the news that passes through – and what appears there is according to its original beauty, and the one who witnesses this is also completely himself, according to his original beauty. In this respect Ibn ‘Arabi’s greatness is not as a poet, but as a witness. And as a witness he joins the reader not at the reader’s level but as a guide to the reader’s potential. We are all in the same position in reality though not in the same degree. Ibn ‘arabi does not tell us how things are because he does not turn away from the object of his own journey. His poetry possesses the same integrity as all his writing and in this way the Tarjuman is nothing but the image of a door to be stood at and seen through.
Many of the images in the Tarjuman seem to be also in transition between worlds. It is a twilight world, of reddish-white camels, subtle beauties, treacherous because they are at the very brink of form, un-containable spirits, henna tipped fingers – a place where the soul in its ultimate mirroring reaches the throat, the very edge of departure. But it is at the edge of life that life begins.
The mystic pitches his tent in this place because this is the ground where the Real descends according to Its own descent, the private place, the land of the living, the dwelling place of the Uncontainable. And ‘she is wild’ because the Divine Love does not condition, does not love for its Self, it is given for loves sake, not for what can be derived from it. The ultimate interpretation of Ardent Desire is that it is the very spirit that brought us into being and is that same spirit that returns us.
In the pen-ultimate poem of the Tarjuman, Ibn ‘Arabi seems to address us for the first time. Until now it is as if we were looking at his back, or over his shoulder and now he makes explicit the invitation.
“Approach the dwelling place of the dear ones who have taken covenants – may clouds of incessant rain pour upon it! And breathe the scent of the wind over against their land, in desire that the sweet airs may tell thee where they are. I know that they encamped at the ban tree of Idam, where the arar plants grow and the shih and the katam.”
Extracts from a talk by Aaron Cass, on the Tarjuman, given at the Ibn Arabi Symposium on Poetry in Oxford 1998.
Aaron Cass (this is him in around 90’s, when I met him in 2019 he looked even much wiser and more mature than this), one of my mentors in Beshara School — thanks for all the shared wisdom, Aaron; God bless you, chef, serious joker, boat maker, thorough thinker, artist and facilitator of thinking
Smiling at a weekend Makes air fresher and lighter. A place that’s choking—
My best friend in Ubud is an active committee member of Bali Spirit Festival; she invites me to enjoy one day free pass after my Tapa Brata for today.
She knows very well I don’t enjoy crowd well yet she insisted that I try to experience an ambiance that might enrich my life. Thank you, I am now in.
I collected my wristband at the entrance, met my friend at the media center she managed then browsed around. A lot I didn’t imagine before. Not only the offered activities and products but also the visitors and participants.
While the activities and products are still easy for me to digest, the way the visitors dress is more shocking to me; half-naked might not be for myself but I can still understand that many bule (the white people in Indonesian language) are half-dressed due to hotter temperature in South East Asia, but almost naked…
Anyway my best friend has changed my curiosity into smiles— very wide smile….
I am enjoying my weekend!
the pink wristband for one day pass – got it free; thank you, De Nov!
the inner entrance inside Puri Padi Hotel where the festival is taking place
art is dominating the venue — loving it!
hungry? never worried 💝 — more choices other than this one
still heliconia 💝
one of those blinding me (the mildest for my eyes, that almost naked lady with backpack) — this is not a beach please…. 😎 i don’t have the heart to take more pictures 😏 i know what my friend will say to me “that’s why you can’t live in Bali, stay in Singapore, safer for your brain and mind”
stage for the (spiritual) music performance later afternoon — not being arrogant but after so much to learn and unlearn and relearn, to me all is spiritual without label so let me skip this spiritually-labeled music
this is the safest place for me to just drink tea and browse around aromatherapy oil in the market — will spend my time here until I meet my friend again ❣️
on a beanie bag under a young durian tree 💝
will i be back next time? 😁 Yoda said “your path you must decide, Jedi” 😂
There is great mountain Not deserved to climb How much ever best view will be up there. There is good hill Deserved to walk up How much ever others give up its ordinary view.
She decided to walk up the hill And found some big trees With singing birds and hopping squirrels Enjoying the breeze. There is enough space to have a picnic Until the sun sets beautifully.
there is elevator in Osaka Castle so i should not skip climbing the castle as in Himeji Castle (said my colleague); yet i still didn’t as the queue was too long — walking the garden then having a fine dining with a good friend was a much better choice 🌸
thanks for your Osaka vibe; proven that Osaka is much warmer than Tokyo 💝 see you again in June
I don’t need a place. They can build a palace To place me. I’m not a queen, Please gift it to someone more beautiful and loving luxury.
I deserve just a space. It can be a table for two To chat with me. I’m a traveler, Please go on a quest with me through joy and challenges to be.
Let me clean my place For a little space. Now and here With or without You—
Linguistically melukat is derived from the old Javanese word “lukat” which means to “cleanse” or “purify”.
Melukat itself is understood as bathing or cleansing with water that aims to cleanse both body and mind, to refresh the spirit and dissolve away any negative influences. It is also believed to cure non medical diseases and sickness of the spirit and whether it does or not, a session bathing in holy waters will certainly make you feel good.
It is a symbol of letting go or releasing something burdening within us. It is a ritual that can be performed many times, in fact the more, the merrier as it can only lead to good things. It is also a kind of self purification that is very common by Indonesians of Hindu and Javanese Muslim in different ways as ritual.
Hindu in Bali will do it as frequent ritual, even for tourist attraction in some way.
Muslim have daily ablution (washing face/nostrils/earlobes/hands/feet) and mandatory bathing for women after menses or married couples after sexual intercourse. They also have another self purification affected by original Javanese tradition called “Adus Suran” or “taking a bath in Assyura/Suro month” in which they will do bathing in Javanese New Year’s Eve called “1st night of Suro”. Muslims are also suggested to do cleansing ritual (normal bathing with strong intension) before Ramadhan.
While in Bali why not I committed myself to self-purify? My best friend did it for Seclusion Day. I did for Ramadhan. Both of us did it for health, happiness and joy. 💝
Met In a circle Glowing In their own lights. No disco ball, No loud music, No expensive wine, No trendy bar, No dancing floor, No smoke, No things fancy, No luxury, None— Oh! They are not that innocent. They gossip those funny facts, They laugh at each others And at others, They munch baskets of food, They drink gallons of water, They sip wine to tipsy, They speak loud and lots, They enjoy some music, They gather humbly. They oopsy WE do it worse Just differently from other decent parties. Ordinary we—
What can a gift do? Dance in the heart of friendship, Rest in the friends’ soul—
Kinokuniya has much bigger collection than the bookstore in Changi airport; yet the books I buy for my friends are all from this airport. Is it because my search of books wanted by friends is always ready here? Or is it impulse buying? 😂
It doesn’t matter which one as long as it is for a good friend.
It is easy to say “that I should love all”; yet it is not that easy as to finally love easily in life as it takes a long process, including to understand what love is, how to express the love, to whom I should express it, how much love I should share, etc before it becomes my commitment to love.
To me everyday is love day, no matter how much love I can feel flowing in my veins. Today several love wishes came from some friends. Good to share with more people.
A stroke of a brush is how universe started. A surprise that lasts—
Certain friend is good at the same time destroyer of mood. I have one who can leave me“ouch ouch ouch oooouuuuch” for at least one week. This person loves ouching friends as an ice breaker but to some of us he has made it to the next level. This time he ouched me romantically, the worst of all my ouch experience from him. Call one “ouch caller”.
OC: Ready for a forced holiday? Have fun! Don’t work every night, just every two nights.
Me: (1st ouch) Hmmm ok, Sir.
…. Blah blah blah
OC: How is your romance? Get rid of him. He doesn’t even care about you. Don’t be stupid. You are not a door mat.
Me: (2nd ouch)
OC: What type of man do you want? Am I not good enough?
Me: (3rd ouch, but I have to say something) Hey, hey! Not a good time to talk about romance. Painting here and don’t want to lose vibe in the head.
OC: Tell me then. Handsome? Healthy? Rich? Hard working? I… Am… Everything!
Me: (Laughing like crazy as this person was very right about himself) Are you a sales person of your own product?
OC: Yes! And I’ve been selling my quality to you for the past how long with no buy in. You’re getting older and older.
Me: (OUCH OUCH OUCH) Ok, ok. I have to explain. I want someone whom I can be comfortable being with even when both of us don’t like the same things. Can you, Mr Cruel Oucher?
OC: What! Of course not! When I go to party, you have to go to party with me. When I go to the gym, you have to go with me. When I cook, you have to cook all what I want. Blah blah blah…. You have to do what I like to do! If necessary you should give up what you like to like what I like.
Me: (Still couldn’t stop laughing) You are not. You are not that right person. You are just my ouch person.
OC: Is he still that person?
The next is the most ouched one but probably the most accurate to describe a fact.
OC: Then you have thin hope, thin chance. Not compatible. You don’t even know how to party. You don’t even know how to drink except that weak wine. You don’t even know how to flirt. He might not like reading. He might not like art and literature and walking. He might not like biking. He might hate you singing. He might hate you writing. He might hate you touching your hair again and again. You are not his physical type of beauty. He might hate you with your job. He might hate you being honest and independent. He just doesn’t like you as you. Oh! So relief I could say all these finally.
Me: (OUCH OUCH OUCH OOOOUUUUCH and this will last long) You’re right. Very right. Time to stop your ouches, Sir.
OC: Then you still say no to me?
Me: (Mild ouchbut I got impatient) You? I can’t tolerate a die hard nerd like you. You cook better than women. You manage money too well; you are stingy! You love your nephews and nieces more than anyone else, you won’t care about me. You work too hard. You eat too much healthy food, I love deep fried. You ouch people too much. Listen. Don’t call me just to ouch me.
OC: Ok, ok. How are you?
OC: Broken heart still?
Me: (ouch) Not really, just a bruise and scratch. Will get over it soon.
OC: It will be gone. For you not too soon though because you are not intelligent in romance. Be patient with yourself. (He was calming and that is when everyone likes him, a calm nice guy — unfortunately came too late after too many ouches happened.) Describe how you think about that person and let’s start the real conversation of today.
Me: My universe
OC: I want to throw up! You imagine him as a Chris Martin? Hahaha!
Me: Never heard of him singing hahaha!
Then we started to chat without ouches for almost two hours — a very nice two hours. A good friend to me is that who ouches me but still makes me comfortable with her/his genuineness.
Thank you! 🤝
Disclaimer: blogged with this ouch caller’s consent with one condition “no exaggeration” which is not accepted like he never said “I want to throw up” and never said that he is handsome and rich although he is rich but not handsome 😊
See this pendulum Swinging between two far poles Knowing each other—
Someone called me and asked if we could have a dinner. We hadn’t met for many years. Knowing this person was in Singapore, I excitedly agreed to meet. Meeting this person, I was given a shock. This person looked weary and older than one’s age. The excellent appearance and posture was totally gone. That time I felt so blessed for for being me.
Me: I am not a marriage advisor, dear. Not even ever married yet! (That’s after a very long ranting from the friend stopped).
SO: But I know you are the most suitable one I can talk to.
Me: Oh…. (damn wrong, whispered to myself)
SO: …. A broken marriage… !@#$%^&*()_+=-::’<>,./?~~~~~~~~~~ What should I do?
Me: Oh…. (proven wrong talking to me, whispered to myself)
SO: …. Divorce is painful…. !@#$%^&*()_+=-::’<>,./?~~~~~~~~~~ What should I do?
Me: Oh…. Ummm (starting to show sympathy) I understand how you feel in this situation. Must be painful. Your own stress, the other one’s stress, your children, other people’s impression and words about you, your work….. Everything seems not at your side. I can understand you feel unwanted, useless, bad, irresponsible. Yet decision was made. You just should face it. How? Not sure if my word is reasonable and responsible but I think you just need to keep being you: working as before, doing activities that are still accessible, talking to your children like before, talking to your ex about the children….
SO: You don’t know! It is not that easy!
Me: Oh…. I am so sorry. I might not fully understand it is not that easy. I am so sorry for my ignorance. (told ya I am not the right person, whispered to myself)
SO: How would you survive alone all this time? You seem so happy with your life. Sometimes I regret for getting married too young. Look at you and X and Y and Z. All the singles are happy.
Me: (Oh! A sudden death! I know this would come but too soon, too soon. Let me find the right words. Whispered again to myself ) Ummm…. I think it is not that easy too…. Ummm…. I am happy, yes. Not always, but most of the time I am. Yet I also probably started hard.
SO: You don’t seem ever in hard time.
Me: That’s what you see. !@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@&%%%%%%%%%%%%%.
SO: So do you think I can survive?
Me: Of course. Although our problem is not the same, I am sure you can. Don’t underestimate your ability to cope with the hardship of life. You are stronger than you think. You just don’t know it yet.
SO: You really don’t want to get married?
Me: (This question I never like, never like, never like; whispered to myself, but need to find the best words that won’t cause any further question.) This is out of context; you should not ask me this question. Not that I don’t want. It’s just about time.
SO: Do you fall in love?
Me: Ok, now you are asking me question about me.
SO: I feel good when knowing I am not alone.
Me: (Make sense, but why me oh my God!) Ok. Ok. I can make you feel better. Yes I fall in love and break my heart. And I don’t want to break my heart again.
SO: So you don’t want to fall in love again?
Me: Of course not like that. I fall in love again and again.
SO: With whom?
Me: With my eyes. With my lips. With my hair. With my morning. With my job. With my…. (I saw the person got annoyed but I continued with more things) Hahaha….
SO: Is it that easy?
Me: Nothing is easy automatically. It takes practice and time.
SO: What if I don’t get married again in the future?
Me: That’s too far away. Think about what you can do today.
SO: Do you think I still have a chance to get married?
Me: Of course if you want! Just find the right person.
SO: How can I find it? How?
Me: (Oh my God, help me before I can help others. Whispered to myself while finding the best words for this troubled person; even an intelligent person can be as dumb as this in one’s bad time) Hey, hey! If I know how to get the right person, I would have been married much earlier. This question is irrelevant.
SO: Hahaha……! Sorry, sorry! Hahaha……..!
Me: (Ok, at least I made you happy, whispered to myself.Mostly smiling among listening to the ranting, I enjoyed a perfect night — no rain, enough breeze…. Hours can feel like minutes…. On and on and on and on until midnight. Whispered to myself.) Cinderella has to go home, my friend. Or else, she will be back to be Cendrillon.
SO: I feel so much better. It feels like I find myself again. Maybe I was too preoccupied with not important things that I thought I lost the person I had known so long, myself.
Me: I might be like that in the same situation, maybe worse.
SO: Thank you very much.
Me: (I didn’t do anything. Just sat down and listened and responded to you. Whispered to myself for how many times heaven knows) The least I can do. It is good to meet long lost friend. Welcome back.
Dear friend, I know you’ll read this with a smile. Get better. See you some day. When meeting me again, make sure you look nicer.
Lesson learnt: Be patient with those facing fresh-from-the-oven problem. Don’t judge. Be a good listener. Don’t try to be a perfect advisor because you are not. Be yourself. Don’t get offended, someone in trouble may unintentionally disturb you.
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