One great Sufi poet, Omar Khayyam, has written in his RUBAIYAT, his world-famous collection of poetry: “I am going to drink, to dance, to love. I am going to commit every kind of sin because I trust God is compassionate — he will forgive. My sins are very small; his forgiveness is immense.”
When the priests came to know about his book — because in those days books were written by hand, there were no printing presses…. When the priests discovered that he was writing such sacrilegious things, that he was saying, “Don’t be worried, go on doing anything you want because God is nothing but pure compassion and love. How much sin can you commit in seventy years of life? — in comparison to his forgiveness, it is nothing.”
He was a famous mathematician too, renowned in his country. The priests approached him and said, “What kind of things are you writing? You will destroy people’s religiousness! Create fear in people, tell people that God is very just: — if you have committed a sin, you will be punished. There will be no compassion.”
Omar Khayyam’s book was burned in his day. Whenever a copy was found, it was burned by the priests, because this man was teaching such a dangerous idea. If it spreads among human beings and everybody starts rejoicing in life, what will happen to the priests? What happen to the saints? What will happen to their mythologies of hell and heaven and god? All will disappear in thin air.
At least with me, Omar Khayyam is one of the enlightened Sufi mystics, and what he is saying has immense truth in it. He does not mean that you should commit sin. What he means simply is that you should not feel guilty. Whatever you do — if it is not right, don’t do it again. If you feel it hurts somebody, don’t do it again. But there is no need to feel guilty, there is no need to be repentant, there is no need to do penance and torture yourself.
– The Hidden Splendor, Chapter #11
The songs of Omar Khayyam were translated by Western writers, but were not correctly understood. Edward Fitzgerald, who did an admirable rendering of Khayyam’s songs, was not a Sufi. He took the word `wine’ literally, for example. He also took the word `lover’ literally, and did the same with `wineshop’. He read the Rubaiyat and tried to understand it with the help of a dictionary. Omar Khayyam was a Sufi fakir, a Sufi saint. When he speaks of wine he is speaking of the wine about which Kabir is speaking:
AND I’M DRUNK WITH BOUNDLESS YOUTH.
Omar Khayyam is speaking of this too. The wineshop is the temple, the lover is the master, the guru, and the wine is none other than the wine of God. Fitzgerald made a great mistake when he translated the songs of Omar Khayyam literally, and many people in the West thought Khayyam was a drunkard and had written these songs in praise of wine.
Many adaptations of the Rubaiyat were made from these translations of Fitzgerald’s and were published all over the world, and so the wineshop of Omar Khayyam became world-famous. This was a great blunder on Fitzgerald’s part. But this was bound to happen, because to understand an enlightened person it is necessary to be enlightened oneself. To understand a madman one must be mad, so if you wish to understand an enlightened man you will have to become enlightened yourself. The sign-language used by a dumb person can only be understood by another who is dumb. Fitzgerald did not realize this. If Omar Khayyam were to return to the world he would not be so displeased with anyone as he would be with Edward Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald made Khayyam’s name famous throughout the world, but he did it in a very wrong way.
– The Great Secret, Chapter #3
I also forgot the RUBAIYAT. Tears are coming to my eyes. I can apologize for forgetting everything else but not the RUBAIYAT. Omar Khayyam… I can only cry, weep. I can only apologize with my tears, words won’t do. The RUBAIYAT is one of the most misunderstood and also one of the most widely read books in the world. It is understood in its translation, it is misunderstood in its spirit. The translator could not bring the spirit to it. RUBAIYAT is symbolic, and the translator was a very straight Englishman, what in America they would call a square, not hip at all. To understand RUBAIYAT you need a little bit of hip in you.
The RUBAIYAT talks of wine and women and nothing else; it sings of wine and women. The translators — and there are many — are all wrong. They are bound to be wrong because Omar Khayyam was a Sufi, a man of tasawuf, a man who knows. When he talks of the woman he is talking about God. That is the way Sufis address God: “Beloved, O my beloved.” And they always use the feminine for God, this should be noted. Nobody else in the world, in the whole history of humanity and consciousness, has addressed God as a woman. Only Sufis address God as the beloved. And the ‘wine’ is that which happens between the lover and the beloved, it has nothing to do with grapes. The alchemy which happens between the lover and the beloved, between the disciple and the master, between the seeker and the sought, between the worshipper and his God… the alchemy. the transmutation — that is the wine. RUBAIYAT is so misunderstood, perhaps that is why I forgot it.
– Books I Have Loved, Chapter #2