Konya to Antalya
Western Turkey - Personal Journal
11 - Saturday, 11 April 1998
We had a little time for shopping in the bazaar before we meet at
the mosque and the Mevlana museum. In the mosque, Meli drew us into a corner
and taught us about Rumi. The people who came in to pray found us interesting
and a few sat at the edges of our group to listen for a time. Others stopped
and stared. They stared especially at Meli, this woman teaching in a mosque. It
must have looked strange to them. Or perhaps the whole group did - Americans
seated in a semi-circle in a Turkish mosque, our shoes in plastic bags, the
women wearing scarves purchased along the way.
Meli's Lecture in Konya
When women are in a mosque, men cannot pray behind them. Since
part of the prayer routine involves being on your knees, face to the ground and
buttocks in the air, it is a reasonable thing. The women, for their own
modesty, usually pray at the back of the mosque. Even as Meli was speaking,
some women came in and performed a perfect demonstration for her words. Then
came in three women who went directly to the front of the mosque, unfazed, and
went through all the motions of the prayer as Meli had demonstrated to us only
yesterday in Guzelyurt. There are few people here today, and there is little
fear that any men would be forced to kneel behind them, and so they pray
freely. Prayers finished, they retreived their shoes at the door and went about
their daily routines.
There was a man cleaning the mosque, and his noisy vacuum cleaner
was distracting to Meli. We had trouble hearing her and she wanted to be sure
we could hear. So she went to him to ask him to stop the machine. We giggled to
each other about Meli's control over all situations, even to dictating when a
mosque could be cleaned. But when she came back, she told us about her long
running relationship with this man, whom she called Bubba, meaning father. He
in turn calls her Anna, meaning mother. So perhaps it is not so unusual a
request after all. But we have become quite confident that Meli has no qualms
about asking for whatever she needs to accomplish her work in guiding this
"Rumi," said Meli, "means Man of Rome." And the man, the mystic,
dancing, devoutly religious poet known as Rumi, has followers in all nations.
On the Silk Road in central Anatolia, there was a town called Beth in the
Selcurkian Empire. A man lived there named Baha` ad-Din Walad, who was a noted
mystical theologian, author, and teacher. The approaching Mongols caused him to
leave his home and take his family, including little Jalal, to Anatolia and
eventually to Konya, where he taught at one of the religious schools. Meli said
that he wanted no pressure on what he could or could not teach, and he sought a
faraway place to be free to teach astronomy, theology, literature, and
languages. Was he looking for a guard or a guide? Rumi would later state that
"our faith is our guard and our God is our guide."
The little caravan wandered to Mecca, to Baghdad, to Damascus, and
eventually someone said, "Go to Rum, the land of the Byzantines, where there is
a just religious ruler who has shaken hands with the Christians." The sultan
met them outside the city, and kissed the hem of the teacher's robe. "I want to
be your student," he said, "please come into my palace." "The place of a
teacher is in a school," was the answer, "not in a palace." So the sultan gave
a school and became a student. The subjects taught in the school included
Hebrew, Latin, Greek, math, geometry, Arabian, Persian, astronomy, and
theology. Jalal-ud-din became an excellent teacher also.
The decisive moment in Rumi's life occurred on Nov. 30, 1244, when
in the streets of Konya he met the wandering dervish--holy man-- Shams ad-Din
(Sun of Religion) of Tabriz. He revealed to Rumi the mysteries of divine
majesty and beauty, and said to this respected teacher, "You quote well, but
what do you know?" His point was that intellect could be restricting.
It is said that Rumi threw his books into the well. (Meli hopes
that is not true.) After the two men had talked for 40 years (remember the
Anatolian meaning of 40 is many), Shams left. Some records indicate Rumi's
family murdered him because they feared his influence on Rumi. In any case,
Jalal felt abandoned and raw. But he was told that he was now ripened, and it
was time to fall off the tree.
He sought spiritual purity, and realized that only fools praise
the mosque while opressing hearts full of love. "We are God's creation, and His
reflection," Rumi thought. "How can we be separated? There is no duality. It is
the duty of a holy man to receive from God and give to man, and vice
God gave us a mind to be responsible for ourselves and to overcome
all difficulties. If the world crumbled, we would build a new one. Even if
there are thorns everywhere, the heart is a rose garden.
Rumi was influenced perhaps by Heraclitus, who stressed the need
for men to live together in social harmony. Heraclitus is the one who is quoted
as having said, "you cannot wash your feet in the stream in the same water
twice." The actual quote from Heracleitus' famous analogy of life to a river is
"Upon those who step into the same rivers different and ever different waters
flow down." To Jalal ud-Din, 1200 years later, it was time to turn a new
"In the book of Galations," Meli said, "it is said that the law
divides, and love unites." The emphasis for Rumi is on inner faith. You must
have God in your heart. The emphasis is on three things for complete being:
wisdom, feeling and conscience. Maintaining these three in perfect balance is
transcendental, and makes a man a masterpiece of perfect art, and sure of
himself. To follow Rumi is to enter into the "door of love".
Sufi music is Rumi's music; those who follow him practice Sufism.
It is a branch of Islam that is humanistic, ecumenical, universal. The message
is, "Do not fear anything." Meli told us a story of a man who was caught in a
flood and called on God to save him. Three boats came by, and he turned them
all away because he was waiting for God's divine intervention. When he drowned
and came face to face with God, he asked "Why didn't you save me?" God told
him, "I sent three boats and you rejected them all."
Jim Drahovzal reflected on his Grandmother's saying, "Do your best
and trust in the Lord for the rest."
Meli talked about the secular way of looking at theology. The
sultans were composers of music, such as the Sufi music. It is played on a Ney
reed with 11 sections, and is played with the breath, which is life, forced
through the reed.
A dervish is one who has had Sufi training, of the mind and of the
soul. "You can do the dance, but is your mind in line with your feet?" is
Meli's question to those who practice the art. They celebrate union with God by
dancing in a circle, moving around the self and also in an orbit.
A teaching of Rumi is that death is your wedding day - when you
are rejoined to God.
Meli directed us to look for certain things as we went into the
museum. Above the entrance, look for the tree of life painted on the keystone.
Look for three tableaus of Rumi's mentality, the crescent, with the throne
above it, and the hat of Rumi on top. Inside the museum, notice the sarcophogi,
the largest one is Rumi's. Notice that one is standing, near the foot of Rumi's
sarcophagus. The story is that its occupant would not lie down in Rumi's
The museum is filled with people, and one must look carefully to
find the things of importance. One very large bowl caught my eye and I read the
inscription beside it. It is called the Nisan Tasi, the April Rain Bowl. It was
used to collect rain during Nisan (April) and the water then was considered
We leave Konya for Antalya
We checked out of our hotel, ate lunch at the same restaurant as
dinner last night, and loaded into the bus. We are headed for Antalya, another
long bus ride.
For the first time in Anatolia, we saw irrigation pipes in the
fields. Meli talked about the changes happening in these valleys. These are the
people who have always believed, "If we are good to God, He will be good to us
and send rain when it is needed." That attitude is giving way to, "We can
control the water ourselves." Dependence is shifting from God to self.
As the bus climbed up the side of the Taurus Mountains, Meli
talked about the name Taurus being the symbol of power. These mountains have
long stood as a barrier to invasions.
St. Paul would most likely have crossed this same way that we are
going, when he traveled from Iconia to Laodicia.
A rest break near the top gave us a chance to breathe mountain
air, walk or run a bit, pick up rocks and learn more about the geology. Spring
wildflowers are just beginning to pop out. The tour following us will see
breath-taking sweeps of color.
There are three important sights to see in Aspendos, the bridge,
the theatre and the aqueducts. Meli told us the story of three men competing
for the hand of the emperor's daughter, who created these works to try to
impress the emperor. In the amphitheater, the emperor could hear the builder
whispering to himself, "I must have her, I love her so much." The emperor
realized the extremely sensitive acoustics therein, and gave his daughter to
the builder of the amphitheatre. We spent some time exploring it, then went off
to take pictures of the aqueduct in the sunset.
Our next stop was Antalya, where two Pensyons awaited us. The
first and smallest one insisted on offering refreshments, and it would have
been rude to refuse. So after a quick drink, we moved on to the second one,
which has a large lobby. There, Meli could comfortably talk to us, to give us
instructions for the rest of the day and the next morning.
Dinner was "on our own" as half of us got Turkish baths! The other
half will go tomorrow. It was a wonderful experience, one that we could get
used to easily. Sleep came quickly and we slept well. Our bathroom was "en
suite" but up a small flight of steps. It looked quite odd.