THE GUEST HOUSE – the Buddha probably inspired Rumi’s great poem



Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet from a Persian family, has deservedly won a place in our hearts for his sublime capacity to nourish the depth of our being with his perceptive insights into love, sensuality, spirituality and intimacy with the immediate world.

His poems strike a chord in the depths of our meditative being. Not surprisingly, insight meditation teachers delight to read Rumi’s poems to spiritual practitioners. One of his best loved poems is The Guest House. The Buddha used the same analogy around 1700 years earlier in two talks entitled The Guest House.

The words of the Buddha probably inspired Rumi to write The Guest House.

by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

The Buddha, whose teachings took deep root in Afghanistan, gave two talks called The Guest House. (the Pali Canon of the words of the Buddha were written about three centuries after his death.


by The Buddha

The Buddha’s teachings extended over much of Asia including deep into Afghanistan, the neibouring country of Iran (formerly Persia), where Rumi spent most of his life. Huge statues were built in Afghanistan to mark the life of the Buddha. Hospitality is a central ethic, a foundation stone of the rellgious life of the worldwide Muslim community. Rich and poor Muslims alike regarded their home as a guest house for family members, friends and strangers.

The words of the Buddha would have struck a deep note of resonance for millions of Muslims.

The Buddha often commented that the whole world is found in our body. The body is a guest house.

In one discourse, the Buddha said that suppose there is a guest house and people from the four castes come from all directions to stay in the guest house.

The guests experience various feelings – pleasant, painful and neither pleasant or painful.

He said these feelings may be worldly or spiritual turn up at the guest house.

The Buddha takes our responsibility as the host a step further.

In another discourse on The Guest House, the Buddha said  people to the guest house from all directions from all castes/classes. The wise guests have developed the path.

They fully understand that which need to be

  • understood through direct knowing.
  • let go of what is to be let go of ,
  • realise what is to be realised 
  • and develop what is to be developed 

Such guests have

  • understood non-clinging,
  • let go of problematic desires,
  • realised liberation   
  • developed calm and insight

The Buddha and Rumi remind us that guests turn up as as different kinds of feelings/experiences, welcome and unwelcome.

The Buddha knows we cannot always be grateful for our guests, as Rumi suggests, whether they arrive from within or without. Instead, the Buddha encouraged us to give the guests our fullest attention to see and understand their presence.

You can find

The Guest House in The Connected Discourses of the Buddha.

Volume 2, pages 1273, 1557.

3 thoughts on “THE GUEST HOUSE – the Buddha probably inspired Rumi’s great poem”

  1. Hello,

    I would like to make a correction. Rumi is a sage from Anatolia which is Turkey right now. He is not from Afghanistan. Please amend your website.

    Thank you.

    1. Rumi was born in what was known as Greater Balkh which is in Afghanistan, to a Persian family. So by birth, Rumi was Persian. Rumi was also known as ‘Mawlana Balkhi’. … They settled in Konya which is in present day Turkey and Rumi lived in Konya most of his life.

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