It Doesn’t Matter If You’ve Broken Your Vow A Thousand Times
When I first read those lines, it literally knocked the breath out of me.
At the time, I struggled and suffered with guilt and depression about many things that had gone wrong in my life. I was blamed by others and I took that blame on myself. I was sure they were right and I had failed, miserably, at being a good human being.
Simultaneously, I was intensely into spirituality and was trying to understand what spirituality even meant. I grappled continuously with this question, trying to understand what enlightenment was and if it was actually possible. I wanted to understand what Buddha figured out. And Jesus. And other genuine “spiritual” or “religions” leaders and teachers.
Despite years of study and practice (meditation, 8 limbs of yoga, holistic health, ayurveda, acupuncture, vegetarianism, various buddhist and hindu practices, prayer, devotion to a spiritual teacher, etc. ad infinitum), I still had no idea what I was doing, what it was all for, where I was going or how to get there. My failure at figuring this out felt like another brick in the wall of my overall unworthiness.
One day, someone I knew was getting rid of a book, The Illuminated Rumi, so I took it. I had heard the poetry of the Sufi mystic known as Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi before. I liked it, but I had never paid a whole lot of attention to it.
I opened the first page of the gorgeous book, illustrated by Michael Green to match the translation by Coleman Barks, and was immediately drawn into its mystical beauty. The very first poem, at the front of the book, said this:
Come, come, whoever you are!
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving, come.
Ours is not a caravan of despair. It doesn’t matter if you’ve broken your vows a thousand times, still, come,
and yet again, come!
Like I said, it made me gasp, audibly. I felt the invitation in those words. It was palpable. It was personal. I felt relief and I immediately wanted to know if it was true. Was I really invited? Were all my failures and broken vows to improve myself actually so easily released?