Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you’re perfectly free.
Acharya Prashant: What is dance? Why is dancing such a favorite of the poets, the saints, the worshipers of freedom? Why? First of all, in the spiritual sense when one uses the word dance, then dancing does not refer to any kind of organized movement of limbs or the body. That would just be a rehearsed system of pre-scripted action, having very little to do with the heart. So we are not talking of the kind of dance one learns in dance classes. We are not talking of organized and named dance forms. We are talking of the dance of the butterfly. We are talking of the dance of the winds. We are talking of the dance of the stars. You look at the stars, how they all have been unevenly scattered on the dark plate of the sky, that dark canopy up there. No organization, no pattern, and yet they are so beautiful. One looks at the way trees, plants grow in a jungle. They have not been planted there in an order. They have not been planted in an order. And yet there is an intrinsic beauty. Probably the absence of order itself contributes to the beauty. Are you getting it?
The dance of the jungle, the dance of the waves, the dance of the stars, the monkey’s dance, the elephant’s dance, the dance of the toddler that is the dance that a Rumi loves.
Not the kind of dance you see on television dance shows and talent shows. Rumi is not talking about those dances. They are ugly. Actually, they cannot even be called a dance. They are something else. Now a Rumi loves the dance of the jungle, or the dance of the river because it is natural.
We will go into that word ‘Natural’. Nature refers to the self, to the truth. So whatever proceeds from truth itself is natural. Whatever comes from nature is natural. A Rumi loves the jungle or the moon or the dances because they come from his beloved. A Rumi loves the truth, and because he loves the truth he also has to love whatsoever comes from the truth. If you love nature, you also have to love what is natural. Dance is natural because dance is the pure action of the unconditioned mind.
When a movement, when an action arises from nothing in particular, then it is called dance.
It is that clean nothingness that is worthy of worship. And therefore dance is so lovable and admirable. If you have something then you will have purposeful action, you cannot have a dance. When there is nothing, nothing to be achieved, no purpose, no regrets, no hopes, then the quality of your movement is called dancing. Therefore, we are saying that dancing emerges from nothingness.
Dancing emerges from nothingness.
Are you getting it? So then dancing becomes a synonym of freedom, as it comes from freedom. One’s nature is freedom, isn’t it? Dancing then is a synonym of freedom. Having come to this point, now what Rumi is saying becomes all the more remarkable.
Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you’re perfectly free.
He’s not talking about perfect conditions. Were he to talk of perfect conditions, only the last line would have been proper. The last line says ‘Dance when you are perfectly free’. He’s saying even when you do not appear to be free, dance. Even when things appear imperfect, dance. And that is beautiful. In that lies the essence of these words, in a lesson for us.
Perfection is not something that you aspire for or wait for. Perfection is not the opposite of imperfection. If perfection to you is the opposite of imperfection, if perfection for you is the end of imperfection or the transcendence of imperfection, then you can keep waiting for perfection as long as time lasts. Perfection is there in the middle of imperfection. In life as it is, nothing that appears, nothing that happens would ever be perfect. Now that can either make you cringe, or you can still dance in the middle of the disorder.
To dance in the middle of the disorder you must be able to look at the essence of things directly. Things are imperfect, their essence is perfect.
Unless you have eyes that look at the essence of things, you will continue to see imperfection, you will never feel free and you will never rise to dance. But to look at the essence of things, to have eyes that look at the essence of things, first of all, you must be looking from your essence. What you see depends on the point from where you are seeing. These two are always one. You look from your imperfections and all you will notice imperfections all around. And having seen imperfections, you’ll get purposes. You’ll get the mental material. You’ll get a direction to move. But you will never get that fulfillment that tells you that all is alright, nothing really is amiss, so a celebration need not be kept pending that would never come.
Rumi is saying dance in the middle of blood. Dance in the middle of your own blood. Dance when you are broken open. Dance when you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fight. Dance when situations are as adverse as they can be.
Imperfection if seen from the heart, if seen from clarity, itself shines as perfection.
Things need not be perfect. Your seeing has to be perfect. You’re seeing is perfect then this or that about things is not going to bother you. Only finally he says All right, you can dance even when you are perfectly free. Dance when nothing is perfect. Dance when you are not feeling free. And having exhausted all the possibilities of imperfection, he finally says Alright, even if everything appears to be okay, proper, you may still dance. But dancing when everything is perfect is not at all as important as dancing when everything appears to be crumbling when everything appears to be going wrong.
The last line of the verse is actually a formality. It is redundant. One could have done without it. The last line is actually never going to be called into question. It is never going to be applicable. Why is it never going to be applicable? Because nothing is ever going to be perfect, and you are never really going to be perfectly free. Given your body, given your age, given all the kind of limitations that you suffer, where is the question of perfect freedom for the person? The person is born bound and dies in bondage. And that is nothing to worry about or regret. That is the definition of the person.
How can you quarrel with the definition of something? A circle is circular, round. What do you mean by not finding this pleasant? A man is limited, full-stop. What do you mean by not adjusting to this fact? Time passes, men change, death arrives. What do you mean by being upset and not accepting? Are you getting it? See freedom in the middle of bondage. Don’t quarrel with your bondages. And to see freedom outside you’ll firstly have to identify with the free one inside of you. If your identification is with everything that is little about you, all that you will see outside is littleness. If you are identified with flesh, whichever direction you look at, all you will see is flesh. If you are identified with fear, wherever you will go you will only find fear. If you are identified with money, doesn’t matter what you are looking at, you will only be thinking of money – How more money can be made? How costs can be reduced? How a new project can be conceptualized? How the world comes to you? How the world appears to yours depends on which layer of yourself, which depth of yourself you relate to. The world in that sense is your follower. Your eyes decide what they will see. Are you getting it?
Dance in the middle of chaos. Dance in the middle of deprivation. Dance in the middle of death and destruction. Dance exactly when there is no reason to dance.
Dance here is a synonym of Truth, God, Faith, everything. Hold on to them exactly when it is the most difficult to hold on. Have faith when you have all the reasons to doubt. Stand firm when it appears commonsensical to drift away. Stay awake when it seems pardonable to doze off. Are you getting it? I’ll go to the extent of saying that if you are not dancing in your blood, you’re not dancing at all. Dancing is possible only in your own blood. The one who thinks of dancing at the pleasurable activity will never know what dancing really is like.
A fighter, a warrior somehow making his way through a gristle battlefield, hurt, cut open, broken, bleeding, wading through his own blood and the blood of his comrades, his walk is a dance. Look at his gait, he is dancing. You say he can’t even walk properly, his bones are broken, and he has twenty-two cuts in his legs. Sir, he can’t even walk properly, he is stumbling, falling over and he takes time to get up. He is exhausted. Yes, and he’s dancing that is dance. When you are walking when you can’t even walk. With all your broken bones and cuts and exhaustion, if you are even standing then you are dancing that is dance. Not when a trained performer comes and after months of going through the same motions, planned rehearsals, comes and repeats the same steps in front of an audience who has come prepared in advance to see exactly those steps that is not dance.
When Shiva dances the world collapses.
And if you can move when your world is collapsing around you, then you are dancing. That is the only definition of dance. Shiva for good reason is called the first dancer.
Look at the so-called artists performing organized dances. Their dances consist of hundreds of well-sculpted steps, polished and polished through repetition, through practice. I repeat that one baby step, one struggling step, one uneven and uneasy step, one raw step that the man of truth takes is more beautiful, more admirable than the millions of steps that all the dancers of the world take.
This man, the man of truth is really dancing. Your eyes may suggest otherwise, don’t listen to your eyes. You’ll see he’s taking only half a step. Even half a step was not needed. We said that had he been standing, just standing motionless at his place even that would have qualified as the most enchanting dance. To dance is to surrender your action to an agency bigger than yourself. To dance is to let somebody else decide who you are and what you are doing. And mind you, who that somebody else it would not be decided by you. Otherwise, you’re just playing clever tricks. Isn’t it a clever trick? To say that my actions would be decided by somebody else but that somebody else would be decided by me.
I surrender to a God, and that God has been constructed by me. Now to whom have, I surrendered? So when in dancing, you let somebody else decide who you are and how your steps are, how your actions are, remain careful that you do not start deciding who that somebody is. To dance therefore is to surrender to the unknown. To dance therefore is to remain peaceful even when your mind is unable to offer you an argument in favor of peace.
We look for reasons for peace. There are many who appear apparently peaceful. Don’t they? If you go to the road, if you go to people’s houses, you’ll sometimes find them agitated. And sometimes you’ll find them peaceful. Even when people appear peaceful, they are peaceful for a reason. Aren’t they? Some comforting news has arrived. There’s a reason to relax. So people feel peaceful. They can retire, go to bed, talk calmly, be a little silent. And as soon as the reason reverses, the behavior also reverses.
To dance is to be peaceful and relaxed without reason. The mind is not coming up with any good news and yet you’re feeling good, that is dancing. The mind is not supplying you with an argument in favor of moving, in favor of acting, yet you are full of energy to act. That is dance. When your energy is directed towards preservation of your little petty self, then you are running, walking, achieving, reaching, racing and when your energy expresses itself without the motive to achieve, without being a servant to the little self, without the objective of fulfilling the needs of your little person, then it is a dance. So you are moving, but you are not moving to preserve yourself that is dance. You are moving but you are not moving to reach anywhere that is dance.
Real dance then is so similar to madness.
First of all the fellow does not have a life-defining purpose that is madness. Secondly, he is investing all his energy in movement even without a purpose. That is an even bigger madness. Are you getting it? The trouble with the mind is, when it feels that it is getting something, then it is getting only within the domain of its limited feeling. Hmm? When the really big comes to it, the mind cannot sense it. And hence it does not feel that it’s getting anything.
The mind is like a radar that is designed to detect only small and slow-moving objects. Hmm? So it can detect a stone. If a stone is hurled towards a mind it can detect it. It’s a small thing. And smallness is the quality of the mind. The mind resonates with smallness wherever it sees it. Smallness and slowness, both are compatible with the mind. A stone comes towards the mind, the mind can detect it. An asteroid comes towards the mind, the mind says ‘Well, nothing is coming’. There is no detection happening. A tiny pebble would raise ripples in the mind. And if an asteroid, an entire mountain range is hurtling towards the mind from outer space, the mind takes no cognizance at all. Do not be unnecessarily excited when the mind feels that it has obtained something.
If the mind is able to say with certainty that it has obtained something, it is certain that the mind has obtained something very small. Whenever the real will come to you, it will be outside the purview of your measure. You will not be able to take count of it. You will not be able to fathom it. You will not be able to come to grips with the immensity of it. You will not feel something big is happening. So you won’t feel excited. And that is alright. Just don’t resist. Just as Rumi says – Dance even when you are broken open, Dance even when you are bleeding profusely. Similarly, keep listening even when the mind makes no sense of what you are listening or who you are listening to. What Rumi is saying would be worthless if you could understand it. When I’m saying would be a waste of your time if you can make sense of it. So just stay put. Don’t run away, that’s all.
Oh, of course, you won’t run away on your legs, that’s too impolite. You’ll fly away on the wings of dreams. Keep some water with you so that you can keep washing your face that’s the battle you are fighting that’s the blood Rumi is talking of. Gone are the battles of the old when there were swords and maces, when your physical body was pierced. The battle in which you are embroiled is different. You are not being physically attacked. Of course, it’s a bloody situation, but the attack on you in mental. You don’t realize it. When your body is attacked and hurt then the wound is visible, palpable. You can point a finger at it. You can say ‘I’m bleeding’. But when your mind is attacked, then you feel ‘Oh! It’s not that bad a situation. It’s not really scary.’ You don’t realize that you’re in the middle of a war. You don’t realize that you’re being taken away. You don’t realize that you are being dispossessed of the most precious thing that you can have, that you can get. You don’t realize that the enemy is so cunning that he’s depriving you of everything without even letting you know that you are being deprived of everything. You’re losing it and not even realizing that you are losing it. So smart is your enemy.
Rumi is not talking about some other world. He’s not talking about to exotic battles. This poem is not applicable only in an utopian environment. You look at it and you read it and you say “It says ‘Dance when you are broken open’. But rarely am I broken open. In fact, I’m never broken open.” When was the last time I was broken open? Oh that was fifteen years back when my little sister hit me on the head with a cricket bat. Since then I have not really been broken open, so this line does not apply to me. ‘Dance if you have torn the bandage off’. Am I so stupid to do this? Why would I ever tear the bandage off? First of all I am rarely bandaged because I am a well-adjusted being who does not get into physical altercations. Why should I ever wear a bandage? So even this line does not apply to me. ‘Dance in the middle of the fighting’.
I am quite nonviolent. I leave the fighting to the goons and to the police. I don’t fight. At most, I debate. Fighting is for the bad boys, is it not? I’m not a bad boy. I’m a civilized run. I’m an MBA actually. Am I going to be seen fighting on the streets? So even this line does not apply to me. All in all it appears what Rumi is saying has no relevance to me, because all these lines are probably for somebody else. They don’t apply to me. ‘Dance in your blood’. Hell! Why? Dance in your blood. Such a gory and grotesque image. So this line does not apply to me. ‘Dance when you are perfectly free’. Haan this one applies to me. I am perfectly perfect. And I am perfectly free so I can dance“. Except the last line all other lines apply to you. The blood is symbolic. The war is symbolic. The bandage is symbolic. The wounds are symbolic.
If at this moment something is preventing you from listening then you are at war. If at this moment attention is being sapped out of you then you are drenched in your blood. If at this moment half your mind is elsewhere then the mind is divided, broken, that is called being ‘broken’. The defenses of mind have been broken open. Somebody has intruded forcefully and taken away a part of yourself that is called being broken open.
And Rumi is saying even when the situations are so horrific, dance.
Stay with the truth and know that the world, the situations, howsoever good or bad they are, are nothing but an expression of the truth.
It doesn’t matter whether the leaves are green or brown, whether the flowers are dull or shiny, whether the branches are few or numerous. All of them are a pointer towards the presence of the roots. What does a red flower indicate? It indicates that there indeed are roots. And what does a blue flower indicate? It again indicates that there are roots. So if you come across opposites do not get swayed away. The existence of a thing indicates truth. The existence of the opposite of that thing also indicates the truth. Flowers indicate that the root is there. What the thorns indicate? That the root is there. So do not be misled. Do not think that if flowers mean roots, then thorns must mean the absence of roots or something other than roots. They both mean the same. So dance whether it is flowers or thorns because they both mean the same. And what do they both mean? Roots. So dance.
Dance whether it is flowers or thorns because both of them indicate the presence of the underlying firmament. On the same plant grows happiness, and on the same plant grows sadness. So whether it is happiness or sadness, you keep dancing. The roots are the same. And time changes everything.
The young mango is so sour. Have you ever tasted a raw green mango? How does it taste? And then time changes it. What happens? It becomes sweet. The color changes. The size changes. The whole personality, the whole milieu changes. Do the roots change? When the mango is still raw and green, the roots are as they are. And when the mango is ripe and yellow and sweet and big, the roots are still as they are. So even as things are changing, you must know that there is something beneath them that is not changing. And because it is not changing so you can take its support and freely dance. You need not wait. You wait only when you want something to change. Right? When there is the certainty of something that does not change, that cannot change, and hence offers you unconditional support, why would you wait? No better time is going to come. There is something that is already perfect and hence it cannot get better.
So how to read the verse? Read the first four lines as if they are the fifth one. Read each of the first four lines as if they are the fifth one. Dance when you are broken open. Dance when you are perfectly free. So even when you are broken open, you are perfectly free, and dance accordingly. Each of the first four has to be read as the fifth one. The fifth one is already present in the first four. It is the essence of each of them.
We talk of the Sun so much, don’t we? And in the discourses, in the spiritual realm, we talk of clarity so much. Don’t we? The open sky, the cloudless sky. Yes? We talk so much about the clarity. And the open sky is the symbol of clarity. And when the clouds come we say that the clarity has been obfuscated. And we say that clouds keep coming and going, clarity remains and such things.
I was looking at pictures of one of the camps, and somebody, I do not know who, probably Krishna Ji, had taken beautiful pictures of the clouds. Now that beauty wouldn’t have been possible had there been no clouds, had there been just the clear and perfect sky. You must be able to see beauty even in imperfection. And I tell you, when Sun is behind clouds, do you know how many colors arise from that? Great colors that you can never see in a clear sky. It is the clouds that bring forth the colors.
In imperfection lies great beauty.
Do you want to curse the clouds? Do you want to say that they are enemies of clarity? Clarity keeps shining from behind, and when clarity shines from behind the clouds what you get is the various colors of life. Without those colors how would you live? Why do you want to curse happiness, sadness? Why do you want a bland life? Why do you want to kill attraction, repulsion, attachment? Why are you an enemy of the body? Why do you want to tame and subdue the mind? All of these are clouds.
Clouds make for beautiful pictures. Of course, the clear sky and the sun shining in the clear sky also makes for beautiful pictures. But why must one quarrel with the clouds? Dance when it is cloudy. Dance when it is not. Dance when it shines. Dance when it rains. The sky stay still there. When you are sure that the earth under your feet isn’t going to collapse then you can run around to any corner of the room, securely, in trust.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: On Rumi – Dance amid your own
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