Rumi – “I have passed beyond all thoughts”

by Craig Pearson, Ph.D. on April 10, 2011

1207–1273 • Persia and Turkey

Rumi has been described as “the most popular poet in America” — a Muslim teacher and scholar who lived 800 years ago in a far corner of the world. Jalál al-dín Mahammud Rúmí is considered the greatest poet in the Persian language and one of the greatest in world literature.

Some scholars hold that he was born in the town of Balkh, in present-day Afghanistan. Others now believe he was born further north, in what today is Tajikistan. But because the whole area at that time was Persia, the major portion of which is present-day Iran, Rumi is celebrated in Iran as one of that country’s most illustrious poets.

To escape the Mongol invasion into Central Asia, his father moved the family west, eventually settling in Turkey (Rumi is a nickname, derived from the area in Asia Minor called Rum, where the family lived). Early in their westward journey, as the family passed through Nishapur, in Iran, they met the great poet Attar. Attar, seeing the father walking in front of the son and recognizing the son’s great spiritual depth, declared, “Here comes a river followed by an ocean.”

Rumi was a school director and teacher as well as a scholar, jurist, and theologian. He believed music, poetry, and sacred dance formed a path for knowing God. His disciples organized themselves as the Mevlevi order, the Whirling Dervishes. His poetry — he wrote more than 70,000 verses — has greatly influenced Muslim thought and literature and has been translated into many languages.

rumiAt times my state resembles sleep: a misguided person may think it is sleep.
Know that my eyes are asleep, (but) my heart is awake: know that my (seemingly) inactive form is (really) in action.
The Prophet said, “My eyes sleep, (but) my heart is not asleep to the Lord of created beings.”
Your eyes are awake, and your heart is sunk in slumber; my eyes are asleep, (but) my heart is in (contemplation of) the opening of the door (of Divine grace).
My heart hath five senses other (than the physical): both the worlds (external and spiritual) are the stage (theatre) for the senses of the heart.
Do not regard me from (the standpoint of) your infirmity: to you ’tis night, to me that same night is morningtide.
To you ’tis prison, to me that prison is like a garden: to me the most absolute state of occupation (with the world) has become (a state of spiritual) freedom.
Your feet are in the mud; to me the mud has become roses. You have mourning; I have feasting and drums.
(Whilst) I am dwelling with you in some place on the earth, I am coursing over the seventh sphere (of Heaven). . . .
’Tis not that I am seated beside you, ’tis my shadow: my rank is higher than (the reach of) thoughts,
Because I have passed beyond (all) thoughts, and have become a swift traveler outside (the region of) thought.
I am the ruler of thought, not ruled (by it), because the builder is ruler over the building. . . .
In the view of him that has not experienced (it) this is (mere) pretension; in the view of the inhabitants of the (spiritual) horizon, this is the reality. [1]

The Mathnawí

Rúmí is telling us about a state that may appear to be sleep from the outside — but deep inside, he says, “my heart is awake.” This is the opposite of what people ordinarily experience, he says — they are awake on the outside, but inside they are “sunk in slumber.”


An Afghan Postage Stamp honors Rumi.

Is he thinking quietly about something? No — “I have passed beyond (all) thoughts,” he declares. With a series of vivid images he strives to draw the contrast between this state and ordinary experience.

Then what is he experiencing? “The opening of the door (of Divine grace),” he says. A few lines later he calls it “(a state of spiritual) freedom.” This state lies higher than “the seventh sphere (of Heaven).” At the end he declares, “This is the reality.”

Readers familiar with the Transcendental Meditation technique will recognize that Rúmí has transcended the thinking process and is experiencing what Maharishi calls pure consciousness, unbounded awareness.

Normally our minds are continuously stirred by perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, much as the ocean is constantly swept into waves by winds and currents. This mental activity obscures the mind’s true nature. But like an ocean the mind can settle down. It can become calm, quiet, silent, while remaining awake. When it does, one experiences the mind’s essential reality — unbounded pure consciousness. This inner field lies beyond thought and feeling, even beyond space and time.

The Transcendental Meditation technique enables you to have this experience easily and effortlessly. As your mind’s activity settles inward, you become increasingly awake. Simultaneously your body becomes deeply rested. You experience a unique state of restful alertness, a state of inner silence, peace, and freedom.

This state differs from the familiar states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. In fact, it is a fourth major state of consciousness. Maharishi calls it Transcendental Consciousness.

Every aspect of mind and body benefits from this state. Brain functioning becomes integrated, the body dissolves stress and fatigue, and the whole physiology repairs and rejuvenates itself. Twice-daily experience of this state through the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to amazing benefits — increased creativity and intelligence, better health, more fully developed personality, better relationships, even a more peaceful environment.

Great poetry endures through the century because it conveys something that is true for all time and relevant for every age. This is Rúmí. With his elegant language, he shares an experience that is both simple and profound — and now available to everyone.


[1] The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi, trans. Reynold A. Nicholson, EJ.W. Gibb Memorial Series, n.s. 4 (London: Luzac & Co., 1926), 2:405-406.

Craig PearsonDr. Craig Pearson is Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. He has served the University in a variety of roles over the past 33 years, including Dean of Faculty, Dean of Students, Director of Maharishi University of Management Press, Director of Freshman Composition, and Professor of Professional Writing.

He holds a PhD in Maharishi Vedic Science from MUM and is the author of two books on the development of full human potential, The Complete Book of Yogic Flying and The Supreme Awakening: Developing the Infinite Potential Within (forthcoming). He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment.

Other posts by Craig Pearson:

“The kingdom of God is within you”

Henry David Thoreau – “We become like a still lake of purest crystal”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson – “A state of transcendent wonder”

Helen Keller – “I feel the flame of eternity in my soul”

Laozi – “His mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky”

Walt Whitman – “The luminousness of real vision”

Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty”


Related posts:

  1. “Speak Well of Others” – Maharishi
  • Ted Smith

    Wonderful; the only confusion that can rightly arise; and by this, I mean that it is a legitimate, thoughtful question, is “who” exactly, precisely is the “I” that is mentioned. “I” have passed beyond all thoughts. I suggest that this “I” , from Rumi’s comment, is HUGELY and distinctly different from the “I” used in our vernacular. This is a significant post, an enlightened report; but we should exercise caution in its interpretation until we know what Rumi “means” by “I”.

    • Craig Pearson

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment and the important question you pose. The only way we could know, finally, what Rumi means by “I” would be to ask him. Since that is not possible, we can only speculate, based on our own understanding.

      Maharishi distinguishes between a “lower self” and a “higher self.” The lower self is the self of our everyday waking state consciousness, concerned with perceiving, thinking, feeling, and deciding, with an ego providing some continuity of experience. The higher Self (which he distinguishes with an uppercase “S”) is pure consciousness, unbounded awareness, the silent field of consciousness that lies beyond time, space, and causation. The higher Self forms the foundation of the lower self, as the ocean is the foundation for the waves on its surface.

      When Rumi says, “I have passed beyond all thoughts,” he would seem to be referring to the lower self, because only the lower self is capable of passing anywhere. The higher Self, pure consciousness, is eternally beyond thought, unchanging in itself.

      But when Rumi says, “I am the ruler of thought,” he would seem to be speaking from the vantage point of the higher Self, because only the higher Self truly has this status.

      In either case, it seems clear that Rumi is talking about the experience of transcending. In this experience, mental activity settles down and one transcends the thinking process. The lower self merges into the higher Self, as the waves merge into the ocean when the ocean becomes silent. This is a state of consciousness quite distinct from the ordinary waking state, and Rumi goes to some lengths to make this distinction clear.

      Thanks again for the comment.


  • Parsi

    Iran,Persia …not just Tajikestan and Turkey in the subject( or not mention any country)
    Many thanks

  • Buddha Burke

    i loved reading this… Rumi has been an inspiration in our household, and as a spiritual being having a human experience, his words ring very true… as a human being contemplating spirituality, it only sounds like far reaching concepts… i also love your metaphor of the ocean… thanks for this article!

  • Chett Breed

    “To you ’tis prison, to me that prison is like a garden: to me the most absolute state of occupation (with the world) has become (a state of spiritual) freedom.”
    I wonder if the parenthetical qualifiers here might deal not with a world/spirit duality but another one, ambivalence about the nature of what we call “pure consciousness”?–awareness without thought–and the contrast between seeing this as an absence or a fullness? Does the individual attention become occupied by or dominated by transcendental consciousness, or is it fulfilled and freed in recognizing its own nature? Does Rumi often evoke the mundus/spiritus duality, so that the larger context of his work justifies that reading here?

  • Behr

    Just to point out that at the time of Rumi’s birth, what is Tajikistan today was part of Iran. Rumi’s (his nickname) was actually Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī or commonly known as Molavi. All his poetry were in Persian. What happened subsequently was that Turks not having any quality poets of their own, used the context that Molavi lived and died in Rum (Eastern Roman Empire) to claim him as one of their own. Funny thing is, none of his work was ever in Turkish.

  • Adham

    ” I am coursing over the seventh sphere (of Heaven). . . .”.. you said that “Rúmí has transcended the thinking process and is experiencing what Maharishi calls pure consciousness, unbounded awareness”… i think he’s way above that state.. perhaps you should speak about him dwelling upon CC or even GC.. what do you think?

    • Craig Pearson

      There are other passages in Rúmí that suggest he experienced higher states of consciousness, including God Consciousness and Unity Consciousness. This would be a good topic for the future. Thank you.

  • puresue

    Thanks for this beautiful reading…it is exactly as it is!

  • Serter

    He was a very famous Turkish poet and a theologist as well as a spritual character who brought a different thought and a reformist way of understanding Islam. He was only born in Afghanistan but, lived and died as a Turk.

    • Joe

      I just wonder why didn’t he write his poems in Turkish instead of Persian?

      • Ebru Arslan

        In that time, Persian was the used common language in the Turkish region as we know it now. Turkish was implemented in 1928 by Ataturk and was one of the reforms, that came with the beginning of Turkey as an independant country.

  • Ismael

    Hi Craig,
    It seems to me that “I” is universal intelligence, which follows us wherever we are, but normally we are not aware of it because we are not able to connect ourselves to it. Rumi was able to connect to it and experienced it wherever he was. I finished my Transcendental Meditation primary course recently and I wish to experience it very soon.
    Excellent article.

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