Rumi is constantly urging the listener to purify and transcend the bodily senses in order to discover spiritual realities. He began his Masnavi after one of his disciples asked him to compose poetry similar to that of 'Attar's masnavis (that is, wisdom poetry in the form of rhymed couplets--easily memorized) which the other disciples were studying together. It was then, as the story goes, that Rumi pulled out a piece of paper with the first 18 couplets of his masnavi--later known as the Masnavi. Couplet 1:19 urges: "O son, burst thy chains and be free! How long wilt thou be a bondsman to silver and gold?" And couplet 1:34: "Dost thou know why the mirror (of thy soul) reflects nothing? Because the rust is not cleared from its face." And 1:2718: "Our senses and perceptions, such as they are, are (but) a single drop in that pure river." And 1:3125: "Inasmuch as I am dead to the senses of the father of mankind (human sense perceptions), God has become my hearing and perception and sight." And 1:1039: "Wait (patiently) for your (bodily) senses to be transmuted, so that you may see them (the hidden beings), and the difficulty may be solved," And I:3146: "He whose clear breast has become devoid of (any) image (impression) has become a mirror for the impressions of the Invisible." And 1:3154: "(Since) they have polished their breasts (hearts) in commemoration (of God) and meditation, that the heart's mirror may receive the virgin (original) image." And 3:3432: "Beyond (the realm of) the senses, I behold the camp of the (Divine) King thronged with the army of the Light of God," And 3:1151: "The man transcending space, in whom is the Light of God‹ whence (what concern of his) is the past, the future, or the present?" And 6:3218: "Hark, let your (inward) eye and your heart pass beyond (transcend) the (bodily) clay! This is One Qibla (object of worship): do not see two qiblas." And 5:350: Every one (else) has turned his face in some direction, but those holy ones have turned towards that which transcends direction." And 5:1308: "His weeping, his laughter‹(both) are of Yonder (World) and transcend all that the intellect may conceive." (trans. Nicholson, www.masnavi.net)
Rumi composed thousands of ghazal and quatrain poems to be recited in order to elevate participants in the Persian sufi samaa'--spontaneous spiritual movements inspired by mystical poetry and music. These movements included hand-waving, hand clapping, foot-stamping, whirling, and dance-like movements. He urges (Ghazal 1919): "Look! This is love--to fly toward the heavens, to tear a hundred veils in every wink; To tear a hundred veils at the very beginning, to travel in the end without a foot; And to regard this world as something hidden, and not to see with one's own seeing eye!" (trans. Schimmel) And (Quatrain 1782): "You are neither water nor dust, (but) you are something else; You are traveling beyond the realm of water and clay. The body is a stream bed and the soul in it is the Water of (Everlasting) Life. (But) where you are, you are even unaware of both of these." (trans. Gamard & Farhadi, "The Quatrains of Rumi," p. 542)
How do sufis polish the "mirror of the heart" in order to transcend the physical senses?
Mirrors used to be made of polished metal and had to be regularly polished, or burnished to remove rust. The expression, the "rust" [Arabic: râna; Persian: zangâr] of the heart refers to a verse in the Qur'ân: "That which they have earned is rust [râna] upon their hearts" (Q.83:14). The sufis have loved the saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, "Truly for everything there is a polishing, and the polishing for the heart is the recollection of God" [inna li-kulli shay-in Siqâlat-an wa Siqâlatu 'l-qulûb dhikru 'llâh]. Rumi uses the term "mirror of the heart" [âyena-yé del]. The "rust" of the heart's mirror is the result of sins, selfish behavior, and ego-centered thinking. Rumi says: "Do you know why your mirror does not twinkle? Because the rust is not separated from its face." [âyena-t dân-î che-râ ghammâz nêst/ z-ân-ke zangâr az rokh-ash mumtâz nêst--Math. I: 34] "They give the sufis a place (in the prayer row) in front of themselves,/ for they [the sufis] are a mirror for the soul‹and they are better than a mirror,/ (For) they have made polished hearts by (means of ) recollection and meditation,/ so that the mirror of the heart may receive virgin images. [Sûfî-yân-râ pêsh-é rô mawZi` deh-and/ k-ây'na-yé jân-and w-az âyena beh-and/ sîna Sayqal-hâ zada dar dhikr-o fikr/ tâ paZîr-ad ây'na-yé del naqsh-é bikr--Math. I: 3153-54]--From "The Quatrains of Rumi" by Gamard and Farhadi, p. 655-56
What was Rumi's dhikr? Rumi's dhikr/zhikr and, therefore, the zhikr of the Mevlevi Order for the past seven centuries, was "Allâh! Allâh!"
"...one day Mo`în al-Dîn the Parvâna--God have mercy on him--asked Mowlânâ: 'Shaykhs of the past--God illuminate their proof--have had separate litanies and dhikr-formulas, such as the words: 'lâ ilâha illâ'llâh' (There is no god but God!). And some dervishes from Turkestan would say: 'hû hû' (He! He!). And for the dhikr some only said 'illâ'llâh' (but God!). And some ascetics would repeat: 'lâ hawla wa-lâ quwwata illâ bi'llâhi 'l-`alîyu 'l-`azîm' (There is no strength and power save in God, the Sublime, the Magnificent). Some would enumerate one hundred and two phrases: 'subHâna 'llâh' and 'bi-Hamdi-hi' (God is sublime! Praise be to Him!) What then is Khodâvandgâr's way of performing the dhikr?' Mowlânâ replied: 'Our dhikr-formula is 'Allâh Allâh Allâh' (God! God! God!) because we are partisans of God (Allâhiyyân). We come from God and unto God we shall return.'" "...during the long nights Mowlânâ would continually say: 'Allâh! Allâh!', and placing his head against the wall of the madrasa, he would say 'Allâh! Allâh!' so many times in a loud voice that the space between heaven and earth woud become filled with the sound of the uproar of 'Allâh! Allâh!'" --From "The Feats of the Knowers of God (Shams al-Dîn Ahmad-e Aflâkî, Menâqeb al-`arefîn)," translated by John O'Kane, p. 174