The Pea Boiling in the Pot (part two)

Mathnawi III: 4191-4211

4191 (The lady continued),1 "The caravan (of spirits) is constantly
arriving from the heavens, so that it may do business (on earth and
then) go back.

"So, go sweetly and agreeably with deliberate choice -- not with
bitterness and hatred, like a thief.

"I keep telling you these bitter sayings so that I may wash (all)
bitternesses from you.

"The frozen grape escapes2 by means of cold water (and then) puts
away coldness and iciness.

4195 "When, because of the bitterness (of suffering), (your) heart
(is) filled with blood,3 then you will go beyond all bitternesses."

The example of the believer's becoming patient when he
becomes aware of the good and evil4 (consequences) of
[Divinely sent] trials and afflictions.

(The lady continued), "The dog (which) is not (trained) for hunting
has no collar.5 (And) raw and unboiled (food) is without taste."

The pea replied, "Since it is such (as you say), O my lady, I will
boil willingly-- (but) really, give me help!

"You are like my architect6 in this boiling: stir me (with) the
ladle, since you stir very pleasantly.

"I am like an elephant: strike blows and (make) scars upon my
head, so that I may not dream of India7 and (its) gardens,

4200 "So that I may give myself to the boiling, (and) so that I may
find release in that embrace.8

"Because, (when possessed of) wealth and independence, man
becomes rebellious (and) becomes hostile, like the dreaming elephant.

"(For) when the elephant sees India in a dream, it won't listen to
the elephant-driver (and) becomes vicious."

How the lady of the house apologized to the pea and (explained)
the wisdom in keeping the pea in (a state of) boiling.

The lady says to it,9 "Before this, I was part of the earth, like

"When I drank the fiery (cup of) spiritual struggle,10 I then became
accepted and worthy.11

4205 "For a while, I was boiling in Time,12 then for another period
in the pot of the body.13

"By means of these two boilings, I became strength for the
senses. I became (animal) spirit (and) then became your master
and teacher.

"In the mineral state, I used to say (to myself), 'You're running
(forward) so you may become knowledge and abstract qualities.'14

"Since I have become (animal) spirit, 'Then you should boil again,
(I said to myself), another time and pass beyond animality!'"

Keep asking (help) from God, so that you don't stumble over
these subtle sayings15 and (so that) you may reach the end (of the

4210 Because many have wandered astray because of the Qur'an,16
(and) because a (whole) people have gone (and fallen) into the well
because of (holding) that rope.

4211 O stubborn one! The rope is not at fault. (It is) because you
lacked passionate desire for ascending to the top.

--From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1930 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 7/13/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (4191) The lady continued: This is the continuation of the story of
the pea boiling in the pot, how it became agitated and demanded to
know why it was being tortured. The lady of the house explained
that it was not a punishment, but to make the pea sweet, and so that
it could attain a higher level of existence by becoming part of a
human body. According to the commentaries reviewed by
Nicholson, the lady of the house represents the spiritual guide and
master [murshid], the pea represents the spiritual seeker and
disciple [murîd], and the fire represents strict training, austerity,
and spiritual hardship [riyâzat].

2. (4194) The frozen grape escapes: Nicholson translated, "is
thawed," and explained, "Literally, 'is freed,' i.e. its juice is made
to flow." (footnote)

3. (4195) (your) heart (is) filled with blood: means, filled with the
misery of having suffered cruelly. Nicholson translated, "When,
from (having endured) bitterness (self-mortification), thy heart is
filled with blood (like the grape)..."

4. (Heading) the good and evil: means when the believer (in God)
realizes that the difficult trial is sent by God and that patient
acceptance will lead to blessings and greater nearness to God, and
that impatient rejection of the trial may lead to rejection and
distance from God. Nicholson did not accept the reading in the
earliest manuscript ("the good and evil of trials") and noted that all
other manuscripts had "sirr ú manfa`at-i balá," which he translated
as, "when he understands the inward meaning and the beneficial
nature of tribulation."

5. (4196) has no collar: a metaphor of lacking spiritual training. In
Islam, ownership of dogs trained for hunting is allowed; all other
dogs are considered to be useless and filthy. "The dog's collar
shows that he is prized and well cared for: similarly God lays the
burden of spiritual tribulation on none but His elect." (Nicholson,

6. (4198) like my architect: means, "You are not destroying me, but
designing me to be built as something better."

7. (4199) not dream of India: means not to desire to go back to an
earlier stage, in this case a vegetative one. "Here the proverb píl
yád-i Hindústán kardah-ast [= The elephant is remembering India]
is applied to the muríd [= the spiritual seeker and disciple] who
would indulge in worldly thoughts and fall into temptation unless
he were subjected to severe discipline by his murshid" [= spiritual
guide and master]. (Nicholson, Commentary)

8. (4200) in that embrace: Nicholson read the line differently and
translated,"to the end that I may find a way [rahê] to that embrace
(of the Beloved)." Chittick translated, "and be delivered to the
embrace of the Beloved."

9. (4203) tells it [mê-gôy-ad wa-râ]: the oldest manuscript has the
archaic form of the singular pronoun, usually spelled alif waw; it is
similar to the archaic "wây," or "way."

10. (4204) spiritual struggle [jihâd]: this word is often mistranslated as
"Holy War" (a Christian term). The word means "struggle," and in
Islam means various kinds of struggle for the sake of God and the
community of Muslims, only one of which is defensive warfare.
The sufis emphasize the Tradition in which the Prophet
Muhammad returned from a battle (with the Arab polytheists) and
said, "We have returned from the Lesser Combat [jihâd al-aSghar]
to the Greater Combat [jihâd al-akbar]." He defined the latter as
"the struggle against the ego [nafs]" and also said, "The warrior
[mujâhid] is the one who struggles against his ego for the sake of
God." Nicholson translated, "After I had drunk a (cup of) fiery
self-mortification..." Chittick translated, "When I tasted the fire of
spiritual warfare..."

11. (4204) I then became accepted and worthy: means accepted by
God and worthy of rising to the next level on the arc of ascent-- the
return journey to God.

12. (4205) in Time: means the spirit's descending journey from the
heavens, prior to its ascent back, starting in physical form on the
mineral level.

13. (4205) the pot of the body: Means within a physical form. "This
verse alludes to the 'mineral' (elemental) and 'vegetive' stages in
the life-history of Man." (Nicholson, Commentary)

14. (4207) knowledge and abstract qualities: means that the spirit,
which was in mineral, plant, and animal form is rushing ahead to
acquire the qualities of intellect, reason, and wisdom. Nicholson
translated, "Thou art running (to and fro in agitation) to the end
that thou mayst become (endued with) knowledge and spiritual

15. (4209) so that you don't stumble over these subtle sayings: "No
doubt the poet's caveat [= warning] has a special reference to the
heresy of tanásukh [= the doctrine of transmigration of souls from
human bodies to animals, and vice verse], which he repudiates in
common with all authoritative Súfí teachers. It is incorrect to
describe the ideas set forth in the preceding passage as 'a kind of
doctrine of transmigration.'." (Nicholson, Commentary)

16. (4210) wandered astray because of the Qur'an: refers to those who
approach the Holy Qur'an with the wrong attitudes and motives.
"According to Qur. III 98 (wa-'tasimú bi-habli 'lláhi jamí-an),
interpreted by a well-known Hadíth (al-Qur'ánu hablu 'lláhi
'l-matínu), the Qur'án is a rope to which every true believer must
cling for safety; yet God lets it be the means of casting him into
error and destruction perverse interpreters of the truth contained in
it (Qur. II 24)." (Nicholson, Commentary)


4191 kârawân dâyîm ze-gardûn mê-ras-ad
tâ tajârat mê-kon-ad, wâ mê-raw-ad

pas be-raw shîrîn-o khwash bâ ikhtiyâr
na ba-talkhî-wo karâhat dozd-wâr

z-ân hadîS-é talkh mê-gôy-am to-râ
tâ ze-talkhî-hâ ferô shôy-am to-râ

z-âb-é sard angûr-é afsorda rah-ad
sardî-wo afsordagî bêrûn neh-ad

4195 tô ze-talkhî chûn-ke del por khûn shaw-î
pas ze-talkhî-hâ hama bêrûn raw-î

tamSîl-é Sâbir-shodan-é mû'min chûn bar sharr wa
khayr-é balâ wâqif shaw-ad

sag shekârî nêst, ô-râ Tawq nêst
khâm-o nâ-jôshîda joz bê-Zawq nêst

goft nakhkhod chûn chon-în-ast ay sitî
khwash be-jôsh-am, yâriy-am deh râstî

tô dar-în jôshesh chô mi`mâr-é man-î
kafchalêz-am zan ke bas khwash mê-zan-î

hamchô pîl-am, bar sar-am zan zakhm-o dâgh
tâ be-bîn-am khwâb-é hendostân-o bâgh

4200 tâ ke khwad-râ dar deh-am dar jôsh man
tâ rahî yâb-am dar ân âghôsh man

z-ân-ke insân dar ghinâ Tâghî shaw-ad
hamchô pîl-é khwâb-bîn yâghî shaw-ad

pîl chûn dar khwâb bîn-ad hend-râ
pîl-bân-râ na-shenûd, âr-ad daghâ

`aZr goftan-é kadbânû bâ nokhûd wa Hikmat dar
jôsh-dâshtan-é kadbânû nokhûd-râ

ân sitî gôy-ad wa-râ ke pêsh az-în
man chô tô bûd-am ze-ajzây-é zamîn

chûn be-nôshîd-am jihâd-é âZarî
pas paZîrâ gasht-am-o andar khwarî

4205 maddatê jôshîda-am andar zaman
maddatê dêgar darûn-é dêg-é tan

z-în dô jôshesh quwwat-é His-hâ shod-am
rûH gashtam pas to-râ ustâ shod-am

dar jamâdî goft-amy z-ân mê-daw-î
tâ shaw-î `ilm-o Sifât-é ma`nawî

chûn shod-am man rûH pas bâr-é degar
jôsh-é degar kon ze-Haywânî goZar

az khodâ mê-khwâh tâ z-în nokta-hâ
dar na-laghz-î-wo ras-î dar muntahâ

4210 z-ân-ke az qurân basê gomrah shod-and
z-ân rasan qawmê darûn-é chah shod-and

4211 mar rasan-râ nêst jurmê ay `anûd
chûn to-râ sawdây-é sarbâlâ na-bûd

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)