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Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A Spiritual Interpretation

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The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as translated by Edward FitzGerald has long been one of the most beloved, and least understood, poems in the English language. In an illuminating new interpretation, Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, reveals the mystical essence of this enigmatic masterpiece, bringing to light the deeper truth and beauty behind its veil of metaphor. Commonly thought to be a celebration of wine and other worldly pleasures, these lyrical Persian quatrains find their true voice when read as a hymn to the transcendent joys of Spirit. This beautifully illustrated edition of Wine of the Mystic introduces for the first time in book form Paramahansa Yogananda's complete commentaries on an enduring treasure of world literature. Yogananda "One day as I was deeply concentrated on the pages of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, I suddenly beheld the walls of its outer meanings crumble away, and the vast inner fortress of golden spiritual treasures stood open to my gaze. Ever since, I have admired the beauty of the previously invisible castle of inner wisdom in the Rubaiyat. I have felt that this dream-castle of truth, which can be seen by any penetrating eye, would be a haven for many shelter-seeking souls invaded by enemy armies of ignorance. Profound spiritual treatises by some mysterious divine law do not disappear from the earth even after centuries of misunderstanding, as in the case of the Rubaiyat. Not even in Persia is all of Omar Khayyam's deep philosophy understood in its entirety, as I have tried to present it." Winner of the 1995 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Book in the Field of Religion, this edition features 50 beautiful original color illustrations and includes Persian text and spiritual commentary to each quatrain.

248 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1994

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About the author

Omar Khayyám

669 books1,194 followers
Arabic:عمر الخيام Persian:عمر خیام
Kurdish: عومەر خەییام

Omar Khayyám was a Persian polymath, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, physician, and poet. He wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, and music. His significance as a philosopher and teacher, and his few remaining philosophical works, have not received the same attention as his scientific and poetic writings. Zamakhshari referred to him as “the philosopher of the world”. Many sources have testified that he taught for decades the philosophy of Ibn Sina in Nishapur where Khayyám was born buried and where his mausoleum remains today a masterpiece of Iranian architecture visited by many people every year.

Outside Iran and Persian speaking countries, Khayyám has had impact on literature and societies through translation and works of scholars. The greatest such impact among several others was in English-speaking countries; the English scholar Thomas Hyde (1636–1703) was the first non-Persian to study him. The most influential of all was Edward FitzGerald (1809–83), who made Khayyám the most famous poet of the East in the West through his celebrated translation and adaptations of Khayyám's rather small number of quatrains (rubaiyaas) in Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.'

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Robin.
844 reviews21 followers
December 1, 2015
I bought a first edition of “Wine of the Mystic” because it’s such a beautiful book. With numerous stunning full-page color reproductions of paintings, gold scrollwork around every page, heavy paper stock, it’s an aesthetically pleasing experience to read it. The subject is Paramahamsa Yogananda’s spiritual interpretation of the first FitzGerald translation of Omar Khayyam’s poem “The Rubaiyat.” Khayyam was an 11th century Sufi, living in Persia. Much of the poem is about wine, which Yogananda sees as a symbol for spiritual understanding, or knowledge of God. Each of Khayyam’s 75 quatrains is analyzed for spiritual symbolism. Then using these symbols, a spiritual interpretation and practical application for everyday life are given.

This was the final book of my 2015 reading challenge: a book that you started but didn’t finish. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning, with its abundance of illustrations, perfect to help me contemplate Yogananda’s interpretation of the verses. Around the 40th quatrain, where I found my bookmark from last time, I started to lose interest. There are few illustrations, and the text seems repetitive and a bit heavy handed in delivering its message to turn away from physical pleasures in favor of the spiritual. Ironically, this part of Khayyam’s poem seems easiest to understand in a more worldly way. A few more images would have broken up the text more and made this section more enjoyable. I did like the last few quatrains and their interpretations, but I had to push myself to finish.

At the end, there is an illustrated section with Khayyam’s original poem (the first FitzGerald translation), which is very useful for the reader both before and after reading Yogananda’s commentary. There is also an introduction, written by Yogananda, that introduces the poet and his work along with comments on various translations from the original Arabic.

It’s impossible to really know whether Omar Khayyam wrote “The Rubaiyat” to reflect physical or spiritual life. I suspect that, like the best modern poets, he was referencing both, a double meaning that reflects life. Yogananda was a great uplifter of humanity, particularly in the US, and his interpretation is worth considering. Spiritual seekers, art lovers, and fans of “Autobiography of a Yogi” will enjoy this volume. Perhaps the best way to experience it, instead of reading it straight through like I did, is to concentrate on one verse per day, or to pick up the book and contemplate a verse at random when the inspiration hits.
Profile Image for Emily Henke.
1 review9 followers
March 22, 2013
I have just started reading this book and so far love it! A new friend, actually a couple of them, suggested, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" to me and I tried a couple versions of the book. The first edition printings were the ones I liked best, which are used in this book as well. I feel this book is helping me understand it a whole lot more since the Persian sayings didn't really make sense and thought they were people, which it turns out they were not in most cases. I also like how it talks about what they can mean for you in your everyday life.
Profile Image for Neil Baesel.
2 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2013
I can already tell this will be one of the best books I will ever read! The famous collection of quatrains, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam" as interpreted by the 20th century Indian mystic Yogananda. A winner of the Benjamin Franklin Book Award, this edition features each verse of the Rubaiyat followed by a short "riff" by Yogananda that unpacks/explains it. It really brings this ancient classic to life, and each section features wonderful full color artwork as well. Really, really good.
Profile Image for Yesenia.
13 reviews
January 31, 2015
These poems celebrate life and tis little pleisures. Just beautiful.
Profile Image for Lena Riemersma.
306 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2018
One of the most famous books of verse in the world by the 11-12th century Persian poet, mathematician, astronomer advocating wine and relaxation.
Profile Image for Sofya Mamedova.
72 reviews16 followers
October 31, 2017
Ömər Xəyyam kimi bir dahinin rübayiləri haqqında ne deyə bilərəm ? Üzərindən 10 əsr keçməsinə baxmayaram yenə də bizim qəlbimizə təsir etməsi onların gözəlliyinin göstəricisidir
Profile Image for an.
764 reviews22 followers
July 24, 2009
Membaca bait” itu memang menarik, tapi melihat telaah na... ntar dulu. Puisi itu bebas diapresiasi ’n pemaknaan na tserah pembaca, cz makna or kesan yg ditangkan bukanlah nilai paten.
Namun dg ada na telaah tsb rhe jd spt diarahkan utk melihat, menilai makna 75 bait itu spt yg dikatakan penelaah ma editor na. Serasa g punya kebebasan dalam memaknai sesuatu. Seakan didoktrin bahwa bait itu mo ngomong seperti ini. Jadi mengganggu kesan puisi itu sendiri.
Toh... klo tu penulis mo ngomongin yoga, buat buku yoga... ya buat aja. G plu menelaah bait Omar Khayyam yg diarahkan ke yoga. Sungguh, mengganggu pemaknaan rhe terhadap bait” tersebut. Cz kesan setiap org adl relatif. Makna yg rhe ambit dr tiap bait pun relatif, g semua na spt yg penelaah tuliskan.
Profile Image for Ivan Granger.
Author 4 books38 followers
June 3, 2012
A 20th century Indian Yogi commenting on the spiritual meaning of an 11th century Persian Sufi’s poetry. That combination yields both perfume and controversy — but plenty to contemplate. Lovely artwork and border scrollwork. And Fitzgerald’s delightful translation of this classic. Recommended.
Profile Image for Ramesh VK.
30 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2013
The book makes a lot more sense for those familiar with the Indian schools of philosophy. An atheist would find some of the arguments tenuous at best but anyone interested in Eastern philosophy will likely enjoy the clever connections made.
218 reviews55 followers
February 18, 2016
Explains different perceptions by eastern and western readers of this wonderful classic.
8 reviews
August 17, 2019
"Una misma suerte corren el justo y el impío, el que sacrifica y el que nunca ofrece sacrificios"
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

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