[A-List] Eastern rationality

Sabri Oncu soncu at pacbell.net
Thu Feb 27 21:07:46 MST 2003

I posted this to PEN-L today. I am not a mystic, nor I think
Yunus is a reprentative of the East, nor I have illusions about
the East in the sense that it is superior in any way, although I
don' t think it is inferior in any way either, but I hold that we
need to act differently than the way we do now, both in the East
and the West, and the South and the North, if we are going to
change this world for the better, whatever that better is.

If only I knew how!




Yunus Emre (ca. 1238 - 1320)

There is a strong challenge inherent in any attempt to describe a
great and influential personality like Yunus Emre in a condensed
form such as this. We will, therefore only make an attempt to
give an introduction to the man and his philosophy which will
tempt you into further reading. Wherever possible we will allow
Yunus to speak for himself.

Mystic is what they call me,
Hate is my only enemy;
I harbor a grudge against none,
To me the whole wide world is one.

Yunus Emre was a great folk poet, a Sufi (Islamic mystic), a
troubadour and a very influential philosopher who had an effect
on the Turkish outlook on life that has stayed alive and vital
for 700 years. Above all, and in an age of religious repression,
he was a humanist who’s love for God was integral to his love for
humanity. His abhorrence for conflict and his dismissive attitude
to riches and material assets have been echoed through the ages,
not least in the ’flower power’ era of the 1960s and 70s.

I am not here on earth for strife
Love is the mission of my life.

Yunus Emre was more concerned with the reason for living than
with the details of how life should be lived. Essentially he
thought that people should live modest lives filled with love and
friendship, aspiring towards spiritual purity and an indivisible
unity with God. He despised the pursuit of fame and riches
because none of these could mean anything after death.

Death is a recurring theme in his poetry but without morbid
overtones. He wants us to accept that death is inevitable, so
that we don’t squander our time on earth, but also to realize
that death is not the end of the road. For each of us death will
demonstrate the futility both of pursuing riches and of filling
life with hatred, war and grudges. Our only worthwhile legacy is
the product of a life filled with friendship and love.

Firm hands will lose their grip one day
And tongues that talk will soon decay:
The wealth you loved and stored away
Will go to some inheritor

Yunus Emre was the epitome of tolerance in a world dominated,
from East and West, by fanaticism and by the idea that human
beings are born in sin and have to spend their lives trying to
rise above their base natures.

See all people as equals,
See the humble as heroes.

According to the traditional outlook the only path to redemption
is a difficult one, narrow and dangerous, and can only be
negotiated with the help of qualified guides, the leaders of
organized religions. Most religions, moreover, insist that their
path is the only possible route to heaven and that the followers
of other paths, no matter how well intentioned, are destined for
the other place. Yunus Emre rejected this single path approach.

For those who truly love God and his ways
All the people of the world are brothers.

We regard no one's religion as contrary to ours,
True love is born when all faiths are united as a whole.

True faith is in the head, not in the headgear.

His beliefs were rooted in religion, and he was undeniably an
Islamic Sufi, but his philosophy was independent and he taught
that every belief and every idea, religious or otherwise, that
leads to the creator is sacred.

You better seek God right in your own heart
He is neither in the Holy Land nor in Mecca

Yunus Emre’s idea of God (the 'Friend' of his poetry) is that God
is everywhere and within each of us. The love of humanity and the
love of God are therefore indivisible.

We love the created
For the Creator's sake

In his poems Yunus Emre shows himself to be a humane, sensitive
and modest person firmly grounded. His poems were, and remain,
great because he uses language beautifully but simply, his images
are rich but extremely clear. Yunus Emre wrote in Turkish and his
words can be read today in the original with very little
difficulty. That is one reason why his influence has remained so
strong, his work is accessible to ordinary people, appreciated
and kept alive by them. His hymns are still being sung, and his
words quoted, by thousands of people in Turkey today while his
popularity is growing world wide.

Come, let us all be friends for once
Let us make life easy on us,
Let us be lovers and loved ones,
The earth shall be left to no one.

Yunus Emre and His Mystical Poetry
By Talat Halman (ed)
Indiana University Turkish Studies


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