“The Love Religion”
The inner space inside
that we call the heart
has become many different
living scenes and stories.
A pasture for sleek gazelles,
a monastery for Christian monks,
a temple with Shiva dancing,
a kaaba for pilgrimage.
The tablets of Moses are there,
the Qur’an, the Vedas,
the sutras, and the gospels.
Love is the religion in me.
Whichever way love’s camel goes,
that way becomes my faith,
the source of beauty and a light
of sacredness over everything.
Ibn Arabi, a 12th century great Sufi master and saint
When we encounter one of the “great ones,” we tend to believe they are completely original in their thoughts, radically different in their teachings, from everyone who came before them. But when you dig deeper into their history, you often find they are following in the footsteps of another. We are all standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us. In the case of Rumi, Arabi came first.
I appreciate this poem’s definition of the “heart,” not just as an internal organ, but as that sacred space where we find ourselves most at home, most alive to our inner life, soul and consciousness. The heart is a place, a teaching, a community. Most of us find our “heart” in one place, one tribe, or one text, but Arabi knows no such limitation. His heart’s home is anywhere permeated by the scent, beauty and sacred light of Love.
Though born, raised and worshipping in Catholic Christian communities, I found early on that my heart, like Arabi’s, tended to follow “love’s camel.”