How would you feel if a friend insisted that you burn down your house? Your first thought would probably be that they needed to get psychiatric help as quickly as possible. But this was exactly what the Sufi sage Rumi suggested that we all do, “Destroy your own house, destroy it now! Don’t wait one more minute! Pull the whole house down!” Why was he so adamant that we get to work immediately? He promises, “A treasure greater than Pharaoh’s is hidden under it,” but there is a catch, “you can only own the treasure if you destroy your house yourself. How can you get the pay if you haven’t done the work?”
Before we question Rumi’s sanity, it’s important to realize that he was using symbolic language. The “house” Rumi wants us to destroy is the “self” that projects the dualistic virtual reality of the material world we think we’re living in. The treasure hidden by this false self is the Self, our true identity that exists in eternal oneness. (For more information on this subject, see the previous blog). Since it’s impossible for duality and oneness to coexist in reality, we must choose one or the other. Either we project the self and trick ourselves into believing we are living in the illusion of duality, or let the self go and wake up to the Self in the reality of oneness. As Rumi explained:
God is so infinitely tender-hearted and so overflowing with grace, that if He could die for you so that duality could vanish, He would. But that is impossible. It is up to you to die so He may reveal Himself to you and so that nothing of duality can remain.
Rumi is not saying that the literal death of the body is necessary, only our attachment to the belief that we are the body and personality. We can release the self more easily when we understand that the personality is little more than an accumulation of social conditioning. Others tell us who and what we are, and we construct a life story based on that information. We identify ourselves by our gender, age, size, shape, education, nationality, religion, political affiliation, friends, family, career, economic status, personal interests, attachments and aversions. We may think that a soul is connected to the personality we’re currently experiencing, but the false mind has created this fiction over and over again during many lifetimes. If we could see every personality we have believed we were, the game would be over quickly and we would understand that the self has offered us nothing of real value.
Since duality is really nothing more than a thought system that allows us to experiment with separation and specialness, changing our thoughts is like lighting the match that burns it down. Rumi recommends, “Keep the Real always passionately and stubbornly in view and duality will dissolve, burn away like a paper-chain in the fire of love.” We don’t have to learn anything new since our understanding of oneness is hidden, but never lost to us. Instead, we burn down the walls that hide it from our vision. We do this by examining our thoughts and deciding which ones take us closer to oneness and which ones support separation and specialness and keep us in duality. This sorting process sounds very simple, and it is, but Rumi likened it to burning down a house because simple isn’t necessarily easy, and can at times be painful.
Since the self can only exist within its dualistic thought system, it resists thoughts of oneness and often uses fear to convince us that a return to oneness means we will be lost within the whole. Divine Presence is not a void, and oneness does not mean the loss of individuality. Source is consciousness, energy, all potential and above all, love. This combination implies endless creativity and interaction. We don’t lose ourselves in oneness, but experience the truth of who we actually are and finally have the opportunity to reach our full potential. Oneness just means the lack of duality that causes the suffering we experience in this world. But until we understand that, the false mind will continue to insist otherwise and tell us to be content with the portion of happiness we’ve experienced.
We can continue living in this house of illusion for as long as we’d like, but once we’ve struck the match and burned the house, the treasure is ours. At that point we can use the personality to navigate in society, but we no longer feel its story is our story. We have a very good reason to trust Rumi’s words; he burned his house to the ground, washed away the ashes and found the treasure. He assures us, “Anyone who gives anything to the Divine will find that it comes back to them turned to gold. No man has ever traveled on this way and had cause to complain.”
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