DISCOURSES OF RUMI
The Prophet, on whom be peace, said: The worst of scholars is he who visits princes, and the best of princes is he who visits scholars. Happy is the prince who stands at the poor man's door, and wretched is the poor man who stands at the door of the prince.
People have taken the outward sense of these words to signify that it is not right for a scholar to visit a prince, lest he should become amongst the worst of scholars. That is not their true meaning, as they have supposed. Their meaning is rather this: that the worst of scholars is he who accepts help from princes, and whose welfare and salvation is dependent upon and stems from the fear of princes. Such a man first applies himself to the pursuit of learning with the intention that princes should bestow on him presents, hold him in esteem, and promote him to office. It was therefore on their account that he consented to better himself and converted from ignorance to knowledge. When he became a scholar, he was disciplined by the fear of them and was subject to their control. Willy-nilly, then, he comports himself in conformity with the way which they have mapped out for him. Consequently, whether it is the prince who formally visits him or he goes to visit the prince, he is in every case the visitor and it is the prince who is visited.
When, however, the case is otherwise, when the scholar has not become qualified with learning on account of princes but rather his learning from first to last has been for the sake of God; when his way and wont have been upon the path of rectitude because it is in his nature so to comport himself and he cannot do otherwise -- just as a fish can only live and thrive in water -- such a scholar is subject to the control and direction of reason. All men living in his time are held in check by the awe of him and derive succour from the reflection of his radiance, whether they are aware of the fact or no. If such a scholar goes formally to visit the prince, it is himself who is visited and the prince is the visitor, because in every case the prince takes from him and receives help from him. That scholar is independent of the prince. He is like the light-giving sun, whose whole function is giving and dispensing universally, converting stones into rubies and cornelians, changing mountains of earth into mines of copper and gold and silver and iron, making the earth fresh and verdant, bestowing upon the trees fruits of diverse kinds. His trade is giving: he dispenses and does not receive. The Arabs have expressed this in a proverb: 'We have learned in order to give, we have not learned in order to take.' Hence it is they who are in all circumstances the visited, and the princes who are the visitors.
It comes into my mind at this point to comment on a verse of the Koran, although it is not related to the present discourse. However, this thought comes now into my mind and I will express it so that it may go on record. God most High says:
This verse was revealed under the following circumstances. The Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace, had defeated the unbelievers, slaying and plundering and taking many prisoners whom he had fettered hand and foot. Amongst the prisoners was his uncle 'Abbas, may God be well pleased with him. They were weeping and wailing all the night through in their chains and helpless humiliation and had given up all hope of their lives, expecting the sword and slaughter. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, looked at them and laughed.
'Did you see?' the prisoners exclaimed. 'He has the attributes of a man after all. That claim of his, that he was superhuman, was contrary to the truth. There he is; he looks at us and sees us prisoners in these chains and fetters, and rejoices. So it is with all men governed by their passions -- when they get the victory over their enemies and see them vanquished to their will, they rejoice and make merry.'
'Not so,' answered the Prophet, God's blessings be upon him, perceiving what was in their hearts. 'Far be it from me that I should laugh because I see my enemies vanquished to my will, or because I see you come to grief. It is for this reason that I rejoice, indeed I laugh, because I see with the inward eye that I am dragging and drawing a people by main force, by collars and chains, out of the fiery furnace and black smoke of Hell unto Paradise and Ridwan and the Eternal Garden of Roses; while they lament and cry aloud, saying, "Why are you drawing us out of this pit of destruction into that rose-bower and place of security?" So laughter overcomes me. For all that, inasmuch as you have not yet been given the vision to discover and behold this that I say, God commands me: "Say to the prisoners: First you gathered together your hosts and mustered much might, trusting completely in your virtue and valour and panoply. You said amongst yourselves, so we will do; we will conquer the Muslims so, and will vanquish them. You did not see One Omnipotent who is more powerful than yourselves, you did not know of One All-forceful above your force. So inevitably all that you planned to do turned out opposite to your designs. Even now that you are in fear, you have not repented of your old distemper; you are in despair, and do not see One Omnipotent over you. Therefore it behoves you forthwith to behold My might and strength, and to know yourselves to be vanquished to My will, so that all things may be made easy for you. Do not despair of Me, even in your present fear; for I am able to deliver you out of this fear and to make you secure. He who is able to produce out of a white bullock a black bullock is also able to bring forth out of a black bullock a white bullock.
Now, in this present state when you are prisoners, break not off hope of My Presence, that I may take you by the hand, for
Now God most High declares: "O prisoners, if you turn again out of your former ways, beholding Me alike in fear and hope and beholding yourselves as vanquished to My will in all circumstances, I will deliver you out of this present fear. I will likewise restore to you all the property that has been plundered from you and has become lost to you, nay, many times as much, and better than that. Moreover I will grant you absolution, and conjoin felicity in the world to come with prosperity in this world."
'I have repented,' said 'Abbas. 'I have returned from my former ways.'
The Prophet, God's blessings be upon him, said, 'God most High demands of you a token of this claim you now make.'
'In Allah's name, what token do you demand?' asked 'Abbas.
'Give of the properties that remain to you for the army of Islam, that the army of Islam may be strengthened,' answered the Prophet. 'That is, if you have truly become a Muslim and desire the good of Islam and Muslimdom.'
'Prophet of God, what remains to me?' demanded 'Abbas. 'They have taken everything in plunder, leaving me not so much as an old reed-mat.'
'You see,' said the Prophet, God's blessings be upon him, 'you have not become a righteous man. You have not given up your old ways. Tell me, how much property have you got? Where have you hidden it? To whom have you entrusted it? In what place have you concealed and buried it?'
'God forbid!' exclaimed 'Abbas.
'Did you not entrust so much property specifically to your mother?' the Prophet retorted. 'Did you not bury it under such and such a wall? Did you not enjoin your mother in detail, saying, "If I return, you will hand it back to me; and if I do not return safely, you will expend so much upon such and such an object, and give so much to So-and-so, and so much is to be for yourself"?'
When 'Abbas heard these words he raised his finger in token of complete acceptance of the Faith.
'Prophet of God,' he said, 'truly I always thought that you were under the special favour of heaven like the ones of old, kings such as Haman, Shaddad, Nimrod and the rest. Now that you have spoken these words I know of a truth that this favour is of the world beyond, divine and of the Lord.'
'Now you have spoken truly,' said the Prophet, God's blessings be upon him. 'This time I have heard the snapping of the girdle of doubt which you had within you, and the noise of that snapping has reached my ears. I have an ear hidden within my inmost soul, and with that hidden ear, I hear whenever any man breaks the girdle of doubt and polytheism and unbelief, and the sound of that breaking reaches the ear of my soul. Now it is true for a fact that you have become a righteous man and professed the Faith.'
The Master said in explanation of the foregoing: I have spoken thus to the Amir Parvana for this reason, that in the beginning you came forward as the champion of Muslimdom. 'I make myself a ransom,' you said. 'I sacrifice my reason, deliberation and judgement that Islam may survive and its followers multiply, so that Islam may remain secure and strong.' But inasmuch as you put your trust in your own judgement, not having God in sight and not recognising that everything proceeds from God, God therefore converted that very means and endeavour into a means bringing about the diminishment of Islam. Having made common cause with the Tartars, you are giving them assistance so as to destroy the Syrians and the Egyptians and to ruin the realm of Islam. God therefore made that very means which would have secured the survival of Islam into the means of its diminishment.
In this situation, turn your face to Almighty God, for things are in a parlous state. Bestow alms, to the end that God may deliver you out of this evil state of fear; and break not off hope of Him, even though He has cast you down out of such a state of obedience into such a state of disobedience. You saw that obedience as proceeding from yourself, and therefore it was that you fell into this disobedience. Now, even in this present state of disobedience, break not off hope, but turn to God in humble petition. He who disclosed disobedience out of your former obedience is also able to disclose obedience out of your present disobedience. He is able to grant you repentance, and to furnish the means whereby you may labour again for the increase of Muslimdom, and prove a tower of strength to Islam. Break not off hope, for
My object in speaking thus (the Master explained) was that the Parvana should understand the matter aright, and in this situation give alms and humble himself to God. He has fallen out of an exceedingly high state into a low state; yet even in this present state he may have hope. God most High is a great deviser; he shows forth fair forms, but in the maw of them are evil forms, lest a man should say in the delusion of his conceit, 'A good idea and a good action took shape in me and displayed itself.'
If everything were in truth as it appears to be, the Prophet, endowed as he was with a vision so penetrating, so illumined and illuminating, would never have cried, 'Lord, show me things as they are.' 'Thou showest a thing as fair, and in reality it is ugly; Thou showest a thing as ugly, and in reality it is lovely. Therefore do Thou show us every thing just as it is, that we may not fall into the snare and that we may not go astray perpetually.' Now your judgement, however good and luminous it may be, is certainly not better than the Prophet's judgement. He used to speak in this fashion; so do you now not put your trust in every idea and every notion. Be ever humble and fearful before God.
This (the Master concluded) was my object. The Parvana applied this verse and this interpretation to his own plans, saying, 'This hour when we move forward the legions we must not put our reliance in them; and if we are defeated, then in that time of fear and impotence we must likewise not break off hope of Him.' He applied my words to his own design, and my object was as I have stated.
Someone was saying: Our Master does not utter a word.
I said: Well, it was the thought of me that brought this person to my presence. This thought of me did not speak with him, saying, 'How are you?' or 'How are things with you?' The thought without words drew him hither. If the reality of me draws him without words and transports him to another place, what is so wonderful in that? Words are the shadow of reality and the branch of reality. Since the shadow could draw, how much more the reality!
Words are the pretext. It is the element of congeneity that draws one man to another, not words. If a man should see a hundred thousand miracles and expositions and divine graces, if there is no element of congeneity in him connecting him with the prophet or the saint concerned, then all those phenomena will be profitless. It is that element which keeps him agitated and restless. If there were no element of amber in a straw, the straw would never move towards the amber. This congeneity between them is a hidden and not a visible thing.
It is the thought of a thing that brings a man to that thing. The thought of the garden brings him to the garden, the thought of the shop brings him to the shop. Within these thoughts, however, is a secret deception. Do you not see how you will go to a certain place and then repent of having done so, saying, 'I thought that it would be good. It was not so'? These thoughts then are like a shroud, and within the shroud someone is hidden. Whenever the thoughts vanish from the scene and the realities appear without the shroud of thought, there is a great commotion. Where such is the case, there remains no trace of regret. When it is the reality that draws you, there is nothing there other than the reality. It would be that same reality which drew you hither.
What occasion is there then for me to speak?
In reality that which draws is a single thing, but it appears to be numerous. Do you not see how a man is possessed by a hundred different desires? 'I want vermicelli,' he says. 'I want ravioli. I want halwa. I want fritters. I want fruit. I want dates.' He enumerates these and names them one by one, but the root of the matter is a single thing: the root is hunger, and that is one. Do you not see how, when he has had his fill of one thing, he says, 'None of these things is necessary'? So it is proved that it was not ten or a hundred things but one thing that drew him.
This 'number' of creatures is a trial appointed by God. They say, 'This man is one and they are a hundred' -- that is, they say the saint is one and mankind are many, a hundred and a thousand. This is a great trial. This view and this thought that makes a man see them as many and him as one is a great trial.
Which hundred? Which fifty? Which sixty? A people without hands and feet, without mind and soul, quivering like a magic talisman, like quicksilver or mercury -- call them if you will sixty or a hundred or a thousand, and this man one, but on the contrary the truth is that they are nothing, whereas he is a thousand and a hundred thousand and thousands of thousands.
A king had given a single soldier a hundred men's rations of bread. The army protested, but the king said within him, 'The day will come when I will show you, and you will know why I did this.' When the day of battle arrived they all fled from the field, and that soldier alone fought. 'There you are,' the king said. 'It was for this purpose.'
It behoves a man to strip his discriminative faculty of all prejudices and to seek a friend in the Faith. Faith consists in knowing who is one's true friend. When, however, a man has spent his life in the company of people who lack discrimination, his own discriminative faculty becomes feeble and he is unable to recognise that true friend of the Faith.
You have nurtured this substance in which there is no discrimination. Discrimination is that one quality which is hidden in a man. Do you not see that a madman possesses hands and feet but lacks discrimination? Discrimination is that subtle essence which is within you. Day and night you have been occupied with nurturing that physical substance without discrimination. You put forward as a pretext that that subsists through this. Yet this likewise subsists through that. How is it that you have devoted all your energies to looking after the physical substance, and have entirely neglected the subtle essence? Indeed, the physical subsists through the other, whereas the other is by no means dependent upon the physical for its subsistence.
That light which shines abroad through the windows of the eyes and ears and so forth -- if those windows did not exist, it would nevertheless shine through other windows. It is just as if you had brought a lamp in front of the sun, saying, 'I see the sun by means of this lamp.' God forbid! If you do not bring the lamp, still the sun will show itself: what need is there of a lamp?
It behoves us not to break off hope of God. Hope is the head of the road to security. If you do not travel upon that road, at least guard the head of that road. Do not say, 'I have done crooked things'; choose the way of straightness, and no crookedness will remain. Straightness is like the rod of Moses, and those crookednesses are as the tricks of Pharaoh's magicians: when straightness comes, it will swallow up all those tricks. If you have done evil, you have done it to yourself; how should your wickedness reach out to affect God?
When you become straight, all those crookednesses will disappear. So beware, do not break off hope.
The danger of associating with kings consists not in the fact that you may lose your life: one must lose one's life in the end, whether it be today or tomorrow matters not. The danger arises from the fact that when kings enter upon the scene and the spell of their influence gains strength, converting so to speak into a dragon, the man who keeps company with them and lays claim to their friendship and accepts money from them will inevitably speak in accordance with their wishes. He will receive their evil views with the utmost attention and will not be able to gainsay them.
That is where the danger lies, in that it leads to the detriment of the true faith. When you cultivate their interest, the other interest, which is fundamental to the good life, becomes a stranger to you. The more you proceed in that direction, the more this direction, where the Beloved dwells, turns away from you. The more you make your peace with worldly men, the more the Beloved is angry with you. 'Whosoever assists an oppressor, God gives him power over him': your 'going in his direction' renders you subject to this rule. Once you have gone in that direction, in the end God gives him power over you.
It is a pity to reach the sea, and to be satisfied with a little water or a pitcher-full from the sea. After all there are pearls in the sea, and from the sea myriads of precious things may be produced. What worth is there in taking water? What pride can intelligent men have in that, and what will they have accomplished? Indeed, the world is a mere foam-fleck of that Sea; its water is the very sciences of the saints; where is the Pearl itself? This world is but foam full of floating jetsam; but through the turning about of those waves and the congruous surging of the sea and the constant motion of the billows that foam takes on a certain beauty.
Since therefore God has called it decked out fair, it is not truly beautiful; rather its beauty is a borrowed thing, coming from elsewhere. It is false coin gilded; that is to say, this world which is a fleck of foam is false coin, valueless and without worth, but we have gilded it so that it is decked out fair to men.
Man is the astrolabe of God; but it requires an astronomer to know the astrolabe. If a vegetable-seller or a greengrocer should possess the astrolabe, what benefit would he derive from it? With that astrolabe what would he know of the movements of the circling heavens and the stations of the planets, their influences, transits and so forth? But in the hands of the astronomer the astrolabe is of great benefit, for 'He who knows himself knows his Lord.'
Just as this copper astrolabe is the mirror of the heavens, so the human being -- We have honoured the Children of Adam -- is the astrolabe of God. When God causes a man to have knowledge of Him and to know Him and to be familiar with Him, through the astrolabe of his own being he beholds moment by moment and flash by flash the manifestation of God and His infinite beauty, and that beauty is never absent from his mirror.
God has servants who cloak themselves in wisdom and gnosis and grace; though other men have not the vision to behold them truly, yet out of the excess of jealousy these servants cloak themselves, even as Mutanabbi says:
The Parvana said: Night and day my heart and soul are intent upon serving God, but owing to my preoccupations with Mongol affairs I am not able to discharge that service.
The Master replied: These works too are work done for God, since they are the means of procuring peace and security for Muslimdom. You have sacrificed yourself, your possessions and your body, to bring their hearts to a point that a few Muslims are occupied peaceably in obeying God's will. So this too is a good work. God has inclined you towards such good work, and your exceeding ardour is a proof of Divine favour; just as when this inclination flags it is a sign of the denial of Divine favour, God most High not willing that such a momentous good should be realised by means of such a man, so that he should earn the right to that reward and high preferment.
Take the case of a hot bath. Its heat derives from the fuel utilised in the stove, such as dry hay, firewood, dung and the like. In the same way God most High discovers means which, though to outward appearance evil and nasty, yet in reality are the instruments of the Divine favour. Like the bath, the man fired by such means becomes hot and promotes the benefit of all the people.
At this point some friends arrived. The Master excused himself, saying: If I do not attend to you and do not address you or ask after you, this is really a mark of respect. Respect for any thing is what is appropriate to the occasion. When a man is at prayer he should not enquire after his father and brother or make a fuss of them. His inattention to his friends and kinsmen while engaged in prayer is the very acme of attention and courtesy, since he does not on their account break away from his religious performance and absorption and does not become distracted. In that way they do not lay themselves open to Divine punishment and reproach. It is therefore the acme of attention and courtesy when he has guarded against what would involve them in Divine chastisement.
Someone asked: Is there any way nearer to God than prayer?
He replied: Also prayer, but prayer which is not merely this outward form. This is the 'body' of prayer, since formal prayer has a beginning and an end; and everything which has a beginning and an end is a 'body.' The words Allahu akbar are the beginning of formal prayer, and its end is the salutation 'Peace.' Similarly the profession of faith is not merely the formula uttered on the tongue, for that formula too has a beginning and an end. Everything which is expressed in words and sounds and has a beginning and an end is 'form' and 'body'; its 'soul' is unconditioned and infinite, and has neither beginning nor end.
Moreover this formal prayer was invented by the prophets. Now our Prophet, who invented the Muslim prayer, spoke as follows: 'I have a time with God when I am not contained by any prophet sent by God, neither by any angel set near to God.' Hence we realise that the 'soul' of prayer is not this 'form' alone. Rather it is a complete absorption, a state of unconsciousness excluding and not finding room for all these outward forms. Gabriel himself, who is pure reality, is not contained therein.
It is related of our Master, the Sultan of the Learned, Pole of the World, Baha' al-Haqq wa'l-Din (God sanctify his great soul), that one day his companions found him in a state of complete absorption. The hour of prayer arriving, some of his disciples called out to our Master, 'It is time for prayer.' Our Master did not heed their words, so they rose up and occupied themselves with the prayer.
Two disciples, however, bore the Shaikh company and did not stand up to pray. Now one of the disciples who was praying was named Khvajagi. It was shown to him clearly in his inward heart that all those companions who were at prayer were standing behind the imam with their backs turned on Mecca, whereas the two disciples who had borne the Shaikh company had their faces turned towards Mecca. Inasmuch as the Shaikh had passed away from the sense of personal identity so that his self no longer remained, having been consumed in the Light of God -- 'Die before you die' -- he (the inward voice explained) had become the Light of God.
Whoever turns his back on the Light of God and faces the wall of the prayer-niche has assuredly turned his back on Mecca. For God's Light is the 'soul' of the Mecca-ward direction. After all, these people who turn their faces to Mecca -- it was the Prophet who made the Kaaba to be the place of turning in prayer for all the world. How much the more is He the place of turning, for whose sake Mecca was appointed.
The Prophet, God's blessings be upon him, once reproached a friend, saying, 'I called you. How is it that you did not come?' The friend replied, 'I was occupied with prayer.' The Prophet said, 'Well, did I not call you?' The friend answered, 'I am helpless.'
The Master said: It is good if you are helpless all the time and at every moment, and see yourself helpless in the state of capacity just as in the state of incapacity. For above your capacity there is a greater Capacity, and you are vanquished to God's will in every state. You are not divided into two halves, now capable and now helpless. Pay regard to His Capacity, and know yourself to be helpless always, without hand and foot, poor and utterly incapable. What indeed is the plight of feeble man, seeing that lions and tigers and crocodiles, all are helpless and tremble before Him? The heavens and the earths likewise are helpless and subject to His decree.
He is a mighty Emperor. His Light is not as the light of the moon and the sun, in the presence of which a thing abides in its place. When His Light shines forth unveiled, neither heaven remains nor earth, nor sun nor moon; nothing remains but that King.
A certain king said to a dervish. 'In the moment when you are granted revelation and propinquity in the Court of God, remember me.'
The dervish answered, 'When I come into that Presence and the light of the sun of that Beauty shines upon me, I shall no more remember myself. How then should I remember you?'
When, however, God has chosen out a servant and caused him to be utterly absorbed in Him, if any man takes him by the skirt and makes a request of him, even without that worthy mentioning him before God and representing his need God fulfils his request.
It is related that there was once a king who had a favourite and highly confidential servant. Whenever that servant set out for the royal palace, people who had a request to make presented him with their histories and their letters, begging him to submit them to the king. He would place the documents in his wallet. On coming into the king's presence he could not endure the splendour of his beauty, and would fall down dumbfounded. The king would then in a loving manner put his hand into his purse and pocket and wallet, saying, 'What has this dumbfounded servant of mine, who is utterly absorbed by my beauty?' In this way he found the letters and would endorse the petitions of every man and then return the documents into the wallet. So he would attend to the needs of every one of them, without that servant ever submitting them, in such manner that not a single one was rejected; on the contrary their demands were granted many times over, so that they attained far more than they had asked for. But in the case of other servants who retained consciousness, and were able to present and indicate to the king the histories of people in need, out of a hundred affairs and a hundred needs only one perchance would be fulfilled.
Someone said: Here is something I have forgotten.
The Master said: There is one thing in this world which must never be forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, but did not forget that, then there would be no cause to worry; whereas if you performed and remembered and did not forget every single thing, but forgot that one thing, then you would have done nothing whatsoever. It is just as if a king had sent you to the country to carry out a specified task. You go and perform a hundred other tasks; but if you have not performed that particular task on account of which you had gone to the country, it is as though you have performed nothing at all. So man has come into this world for a particular task, and that is his purpose; if he does not perform it, then he will have done nothing.
'We offered that trust to the heavens, but they were unable to accept it.' Consider how many tasks are performed by the heavens, whereat the human reason is bewildered. The heavens convert common stones into rubies and carnelians; they make mountains into mines of gold and silver; they cause the herbs of the earth to germinate and spring into life, making a veritable Garden of Eden. The earth too receives the seeds and bears fruit; it covers up blemishes; it accepts and reveals a hundred thousand marvels such as can never be told in full. The mountains too give forth all those multifarious mines. All these things they do, yet that one thing is not performed by them; that task is performed by man.
God did not say, 'And We honoured heaven and earth.' So that task which is not performed by the heavens and the earth and the mountains is performed by man. When he performs that task, 'sinfulness' and 'folly' are banished from him.
If you say, 'Even if I do not perform that task, yet so many tasks are performed by me,' you were not created for those other tasks. It is as though you were to procure a sword of priceless Indian steel such as is to be found only in the treasuries of kings and were to convert it into a butcher's knife for cutting up putrid meat, saying, 'I am not letting this sword stand idle, I am putting it to so many useful purposes.' Or it is as though you were to take a golden bowl and cook turnips in it, whereas for a single grain of that gold you could procure a hundred pots. Or it is as though you were to take a dagger of the finest temper and make of it a nail for a broken gourd, saying, 'I am making good use of it. I am hanging the gourd on it. I am not letting this dagger stand idle.' How lamentable and ridiculous that would be! When the gourd can be perfectly well served by means of a wooden or an iron nail whose value is a mere farthing, how does it make sense to employ for the task a dagger valued at a hundred pounds?
God most High has set a great price on you, for He says:
The poet says:
God says, 'I have bought you, your moments, your breaths, your possessions, your lives. If they are expended on Me, if you give them to Me, the price of them is everlasting Paradise. This is your worth in My sight.' If you sell yourself to Hell, it is yourself you will have wronged, just like the man who hammered the dagger worth a hundred pounds into the wall and hung a jug or a gourd upon it.
To return: you put forward your excuse, saying, 'I expend myself upon lofty tasks. I am studying jurisprudence, philosophy, logic, astronomy, medicine and the rest.' Well, for whose sake but your own are you doing all these things? If it is jurisprudence, it is so that nobody shall steal a loaf out of your hands or strip you of your clothes or kill you, in short it is for your own security. If it is astronomy, the phases of the sphere and its influence upon the earth, whether it is light or heavy, portending tranquillity or danger, all these things are connected with your own situation and serve your ends; if the star is lucky or unlucky, it is connected with your own ascendant and likewise serves your own ends. When you consider the matter well, the root of the whole business is yourself; all these other things are but branches of yourself.
If these things, which are a branch of yourself, are so multifarious and comprise so many marvels, phases and worlds both wonderful and without end, consider what phases you may pass through, who are the root! If your branches have their ascensions and descensions, their lucky and unlucky aspects, consider what may transpire to you who are the root, what ascension and descension in the world of spirits, what luck and unluck, what profit and loss! Such a spirit possesses this property and produces that; such a one is suitable for such a task.
For you there is other food, besides this food of sleep and eating. The Prophet said, 'I pass the night in the presence of my Lord, He giving me to eat and drink.' In this lower world you have forgotten that heavenly food, being occupied with this material sustenance. Night and day you are nourishing your body. Now this body is your horse, and this lower world is its stable. The food of the horse is not the food of the rider; the rider has his own kind of sleeping and eating and taking enjoyment. But because the animal and the bestial have the upper hand over you, you have lagged behind with your horse in the stable for horses and do not dwell in the ranks of kings and princes of the world eternal. Your heart is there, but inasmuch as the body has the upper hand you are subject to the body's rule and have remained its prisoner.
Even so when Majnun was making for Laila's dwelling-place, so long as he was fully conscious he drove his camel in that direction. But when for a moment he became absorbed in the thought of Laila and forgot his camel, the camel which had a foal in a certain village profited of the opportunity to return in its tracks and came to that village. On coming to his senses Majnun found that he had gone back a distance of two days' journeying. For three months he continued on his way thus. Finally he exclaimed, 'This camel is the ruin of me!' So saying, he jumped off the camel and continued on foot, singing:
The Master said: Saiyid Burhan al-Din Mubaqqiq, God sanctify his lofty spirit, declared: Someone came and said, 'I heard your praises sung by So-and-so.' Burhan al-Din replied: 'Wait until I see what sort of a man he is, whether he is of sufficient rank to know me and to praise me. If he knows me only by word of mouth, then he does not truly know me. For these words do not endure; these syllables and sounds do not endure; these lips and this mouth do not endure. All these things are mere accidents. But if he likewise knows me by my works and if he knows my essential self, then I know that he is able to praise me and that that praise belongs to me.'
This is like the story they tell of a certain king. This king entrusted his son to a team of learned men. In due course they had taught him the sciences of astrology, geomancy and so forth so that he became a complete master, despite his utter dullness of wit and stupidity.
One day the king took a ring in his fist and put his son to the test.
'Come, tell me what I am holding in my fist.'
'The thing you are holding is round, yellow and hollow,' the prince answered.
'Since you have given all the signs correctly, now pronounce what thing it is,' the king said.
'It must be a sieve,' the prince replied.
'What?' cried the king. 'You gave correctly all the minute signs, such as might well baffle the minds of men. Out of all your powerful learning and knowledge how is it that this small point has escaped you, that a sieve cannot be contained in the fist?'
In the same way the great scholars of the age split hairs on all manner of sciences. They know perfectly and have a complete comprehension of those other matters which do not concern them. But as for what is truly of moment and touches a man more closely than all else, namely his own self, this your great scholar does not know. He pronounces on the legality or otherwise of every thing, saying, 'This is permitted and that is not permitted, this is lawful and that is unlawful.' Yet he knows not his own self, whether it is lawful or unlawful, permissible or not permissible, pure or impure.
Now these attributes of being hollow and yellow, inscribed and circular, are merely accidental. Cast the object into the fire, and none of them will remain. It will become its essential self, purified of all these attributes. So it is with the 'signs' they give of any thing, whether science, act or word; they have no connexion with the substance of the thing, which alone continues when all these 'signs' are gone. That is how it is with their 'signs'; they speak of all these things, expound them, and finally pronounce that what the king has in his fist is a sieve, since they have no knowledge at all of that which is the root of the matter.
I am a bird. I am a nightingale. I am a parrot. If they say to me, 'Make some other kind of sound,' I cannot. Since my tongue is such as it is, I cannot speak otherwise; unlike one who has learned the song of the birds. He is not a bird himself; on the contrary, he is the enemy of the birds and their fowler. He sings and whistles so that they may take him for a bird. Order him to produce a different kind of note and he is able to do so since that note is merely assumed by him, and is not truly his own. He is able to make other notes because he has learned to rob men of their household goods and to show a different kind of linen filched from every home.
He said: How gracious it was of our Master to honour me in this manner! I never expected, and the thought never entered my mind, that I should be worthy of such an honour. By rights I should have been standing night and day with hands folded in the ranks and company of his servants and attendants. Now I am not worthy even of that. How gracious it was!
The Master said: That is all because you have such lofty aspirations. The higher and greater your rank and the more you are occupied with important and exalted affairs, the more you consider yourself to have fallen short of your lofty aspirations and are not satisfied with what you have achieved, reckoning that you have many other obligations. Though my heart was always intent on serving you, for all that I wanted to pay you formal honour as well. Form too possesses great importance, its importance residing in the fact that it is associated with substance. Just as a thing fails if it lacks a kernel, so too it fails without a skin. If you sow a seed in the earth without its husk, it fails to germinate, whereas if you bury it in the earth with its husk it does germinate and becomes a great tree. So from this viewpoint the body too is a great and necessary principle, and without it the task fails and the purpose is not attained. Yes, by Allah! The principle is the reality in the eyes of him who knows the reality and has become a reality. The saying, 'Two inclinations in prayer are better than the world entire and all that is in it,' does not apply to everyone. It is true only of the man to whom the failure to perform two inclinations means more than the world entire and all that is in it. To miss two inclinations is for him harder to bear than to lose the empire of the world which is entirely his.
A dervish once entered the presence of a king. The king addressed him, 'O ascetic.'
'You are the ascetic,' the dervish answered.
'How should I be an ascetic,' the king demanded, 'seeing that the whole world belongs to me?'
'Ah, you see things the opposite of what they are,' replied the dervish. 'This world and the next and all that there is to possess, these all belong to me. I have seized the whole world. It is you who have become satisfied with a mouthful and a rag:
That is a 'face' which runs and extends infinitely and for ever. True lovers have sacrificed themselves for the sake of that 'face'; they look for no compensation. The rest of men are like cattle.
The Master said: Though they are cattle, yet they are deserving of favour. Though they are in the stable, yet they are acceptable to the Lord of the stable. If He so desires, He transfers them from this stable and brings them into His private pen. So in the beginning when man was non-existent God brought him into existence, then transferred him from the pen of existence into the world inanimate, then from the pen of the world inanimate into the vegetable, then from the vegetable to the animal, then from the animal to man, then from man to angel, and so ad infinitum. Therefore He manifested all these things to the end that you may be sure that He has many such pens loftier one than the other.
God revealed this present world in order that you may acknowledge the other stages which yet lie ahead. He did not reveal it so that you should disbelieve and say, 'This is all that there is.' A master craftsman demonstrates a craft and an art in order that the apprentices may have faith in him, and acknowledge and believe in the other arts which he has not yet demonstrated. A king bestows robes of honour and presents and lavishes kindness on his subjects so that they may look forward to receiving other gifts from him and may hang hopefully upon future purses of gold. He does not give them these things for them to say, 'This is all that there is. The king is not going to confer any other blessings,' and so make do with that amount. If the king knows that any subject is going to say that and take that for granted, he will never confer any blessing whatsoever upon him.
The ascetic is one who sees the hereafter, while the worldling sees only the stable. But the elect ones of God who have true knowledge see neither the hereafter nor the stable. Their eyes are fixed on the first thing, and they know the beginning of every matter. When the expert sows wheat he knows that wheat is going to grow; in short, he sees the end from the beginning. So it is with barley and rice and so forth; since he sees the beginning his eyes are not fixed on the end; the end is known to him in the beginning. Such men are rare. Those who see the end are of the middling kind; while those who are in the stable are the cattle.
It is pain that guides a man in every enterprise. Until there is an ache within him, a passion and a yearning for that thing arising within him, he will never strive to attain it. Without pain that thing remains for him unprocurable, whether it be success in this world or salvation in the next, whether he aims at being a merchant or a king, a scientist or an astronomer. It was not until the pains of parturition manifested in her that Mary made for the tree:
Those pangs brought her to the tree, and the tree which was withered became fruitful.
The body is like Mary. Every one of us has a Jesus within him, but until the pangs manifest in us our Jesus is not born. If the pangs never come, then Jesus rejoins his origin by the same secret path by which he came, leaving us bereft and without portion of him.
The soul within you is needy, the flesh without is well fed: The devil gorges to spewing, Jamshid lacks even for bread. See now to the cure of your soul while Jesus is yet on earth; When Jesus returns to heaven all hope of your cure will have fled.
These words are for the sake of that person who is in need of words in order that he may understand. But as for the man who understands without words, what need has he of words? The heavens and earth indeed are words to him who understands aright, being themselves engendered by words, namely Be! and it is. The man therefore who hears a low sound, what need has he of shouting and screaming?
An Arabic-speaking poet once came into the presence of a king. Now the king was a Turk, and did not even know Persian. The poet had composed in his honour some brilliant verses in Arabic and had brought these with him. When the king had taken his seat on the throne and the courtiers were all present and duly stationed, commanders and ministers each in his place, the poet rose to his feet and began to recite his poem. At every passage meriting applause the king nodded his head, while at every passage provoking astonishment he looked amazed; similarly he took note of every passage expressing submission. The courtiers were astounded.
'Our king did not know a word of Arabic,' they murmured amongst themselves. 'How is it that he nodded his head so appositely? He must have known Arabic all these years and kept it secret from us. If we have ever uttered any incivilities in Arabic, then woe betide us!'
Now the king had a favourite slave. The courtiers therefore assembled together and gave him a horse and a mule and a sum of money, and engaged to present him with as much again.
'Just inform us whether or no the king knows Arabic,' they said to him. 'If he does not, how was it that he nodded just at the right places? Was it a miracle? Was it divine inspiration?'
Finally one day the slave found his opportunity. The king was out hunting, and he perceived that he was in a good humour because much game had been taken. He therefore asked the king point blank. The king burst out laughing.
'By Allah, I don't know Arabic,' he said. 'As for my nodding and applauding, I knew of course what his object was in composing that poem and so I nodded and applauded.'
So it was realised that the root of the matter was the object in view; the poem itself was merely the branch of that object. If it had not been for the object, the man would never have composed that poem.
If the object is kept in view, duality vanishes. Duality characterises the branches: the root is one. So it is with the Sufi shaikhs. Though to outward form they are of various kinds and differ widely in their states and acts and words, from the standpoint of the object it is one thing only, namely the quest of God.
Take the case of the wind. When it blows through a house it lifts the edge of the carpet, and the rugs all flap and move about. It whisks into the air sticks and straws, ruffles the surface of the pool until it looks like a coat of mail, sets trees and twigs and leaves a- dancing. All those states appear distinct and different, but from the standpoint of the object and root and reality they are one thing only inasmuch as they are all set in motion by the one wind.
Someone said: I have been remiss.
The Master replied: When this thought enters a man's mind and he reproaches himself, saying, 'Ah, what am I about, and why do I do these things?' -- when this happens, it is a sure proof that God loves him and cares for him. 'Love continues so long as reproof continues': one reproves friends, but one does not reprove a stranger.
Now there are degrees in kind of such reproof. When a man is hurt by it and is thus made aware of it, that is a proof that God loves him and cares for him. But if the reproof flows over him and does not hurt him, then this is no proof of love. When a carpet is beaten to get rid of the dust, men of sense do not call that a 'reproof'; but if a man beats his own child and darling, then that is called a 'reproof' and is a proof of love. Therefore so long as you perceive pain and regret within yourself, that is a proof that God loves you and cares for you.
If you perceive a fault in your brother, the fault which you perceive in him is within yourself. The learned man is like a mirror in which you see your own image, for 'The believer is the mirror of his fellow believer.' Get rid of that fault in you, for what distresses you in him distresses you in yourself.
He went on: An elephant was led to a well to drink. Perceiving himself in the water, he shied away. He supposed that he was shying away from another elephant, and did not realise that it was from himself that he shied away.
All evil qualities -- oppression, hatred, envy, greed, mercilessness, pride -- when they are within yourself, do not pain you. When you perceive them in another, then you shy away and are pained. A man feels no disgust at his own scab and abscess; he will dip his affected hand into the broth and lick his fingers without turning in the least squeamish. But if he sees a tiny abscess or half a scratch on another's hand, he shies away from that man's broth and has no stomach for it whatever. Evil qualities are just like scabs and abscesses; when they are within a man himself he is not pained by them, but when he perceives them even to a small degree in another he is pained and disgusted.
Just as you shy away from your brother, so you should excuse him if he shies away from you and is pained. The pain you feel is his excuse, because your pain comes from perceiving those faults, and he perceives the same faults. 'The believer is the mirror of his fellow believer': that is what the Prophet said, he did not say, 'The unbeliever is the mirror of the believer.' The unbeliever does not possess that quality, for he is not a mirror to another and only knows what he sees in his own mirror.
A certain king was seated dejected on the bank of a river. The generals were nervous and afraid of him. His face would not clear up by any means whatsoever. Now he had a jester whom he treated as a great favourite. The generals engaged with him that if he should make the king laugh they would give him a certain sum. The jester therefore approached the king, but despite all the efforts the fellow made the king did not so much as look at him, so that he might make a face and cause the king to laugh. The king kept staring into the river and did not lift his head at all.
'What do you see in the water?' the jester asked the king.
'I see a cuckold,' the king replied.
'King of the world,' the jester said, 'your slave is also not blind.'
So it is in your own case. If you see something in your fellow which pains you, after all he also is not blind; he sees exactly what you see.
In God's presence two I's cannot be contained. You say 'I' and He says 'I': either do you die before Him, or He will die before you, so that duality may not remain. But as for God's dying, that is both impossible and inconceivable; for He is the Living, the Immortal. So gracious is He, that if it were at all possible He would die for your sake, so that duality might vanish. Now since it is not possible for Him to die, do you die so that He may reveal Himself to you and so that duality may vanish.
Tie two birds together, and despite their congeneity and the fact that their two wings have been changed to four they will not fly. That is because duality persists. But if you tie a dead bird to a living bird it will fly, because duality no longer remains.
The sun is so gracious that it would gladly die before the bat. But as that is not possible the sun says, 'O bat, my grace is universal. I desire to favour you too. So do you die, since it is possible for you to die, so that you may partake of the light of my glory and be metamorphosed out of your bathood and become the Simurgh of the Mount Qaf of propinquity.'
There was a servant of God who had the power to destroy himself for the sake of a friend. He prayed to God for such a friend, but God did not accept his petition. 'I do not wish that you should see him,' came a voice. That servant of God persisted, and would not refrain from his petition, saying, 'O God, Thou hast implanted this desire for him, and it does not depart out of me.' Finally a voice came saying, 'Do you desire that this should come to pass? Sacrifice your self, and become nothing. Do not tarry, and depart out of the world.' 'Lord, I am well content,' that servant cried. So he did: he gambled away his life for the sake of that Friend, so that his desire was accomplished.
If a servant of God can possess such grace as to sacrifice such a life, one day's portion of which is worth the life of all the world from first to last, shall not the Creator of grace also possess this grace? It would be absurd to suppose otherwise. But since it is not possible for Him to pass away, at least do you pass away.
A bore came and sat himself down above one of the great saints. The Master said: What difference does it make to them whether they are above or below the lamp? If the lamp seeks to be on high, it does not seek that for its own sake. Its purpose is to be of benefit to others, so that they may enjoy their share of its light. Otherwise, wherever the lamp may be, whether below or above, it is the lamp, which is the Sun Eternal. If the saints seek worldly rank and elevation, it is for this purpose: they desire to snare the worldlings, who have not the vision to behold their true elevation, in the trap of worldly rank so that they may find their way to that other elevation and fall into the trap of the world to come.
In like manner the Prophet, God's blessings be upon him, did not conquer Mecca and the surrounding lands because he was in need of that. He conquered them in order that he might give life and vouchsafe light to all men. 'This is a hand which is accustomed to give, it is not accustomed to take.' The saints beguile men in order to bestow gifts on them, not in order to take anything from them.
When a man lays a trap and by cunning catches little birds in his trap so as to eat them and sell them, that is called cunning. But if a king lays a trap so as to capture an untutored and worthless hawk which has no knowledge of its own true nature, and to train it to his own forearm so that it may become ennobled and taught and tutored, that is not called cunning. Though to outward seeming it is cunning, yet it is known to be the very acme of rectitude and bounty and generosity, restoring the dead to life, converting the base stone into a ruby, making the dead sperm into a man and far more than that. If the hawk knew for what reason men seek to capture it, it would not require any bait; it would search for the trap with soul and heart and would fly on the king's hand.
Men pay regard only to the outward significance of the words of the saints and say, 'We have heard plenty of this. Our hearts are stuffed full of words of this kind.'
The unbelievers would say, 'Our hearts are a foreskin for words of this kind. We are stuffed full of them.' God most High answers them, 'God forbid that they should be full of them! They are full of whisperings and vain conceits, they are full of evil and doubt, nay, they are full of cursing.'
Would that they were empty of those ravings! Then they would be open to receive these words. But they are not open to receive them; God has set a seal upon their ears and eyes and hearts. Their eyes see things other than as they truly are; they see Joseph as a wolf. Their ears hear things other than as they truly are; they count wisdom for gibberish and raving. Their hearts have been transformed into a lodging for whisperings and vain conceits. A winter's tangle of dark shapes and vain conceits has possessed them; they are congealed with ice and frost.
How likely is it indeed that they should be full of these true words? They have never caught so much as a whiff of them; they have never heard them in all their lives, neither themselves nor those in whom they glory, nor their miserable household. It is a pitcher which God most High shows to men. To some He shows it full of water, and they drink of it till they are sated; but to some He shows it empty. What thanks shall the latter sort render for the pitcher? He renders thanks for it to whom God shows this pitcher full.
When God most High fashioned Adam out of earth and water -- 'He kneaded the clay of Adam forty days' -- He fashioned his body complete and perfect. For some while he remained thus upon the earth. Then Iblis, God's curse be upon him, came down and entered Adam's body. He went about all his veins and examined them, and perceived those veins and sinews to be full of blood and diverse humours.
'Ah!' he exclaimed. 'It would not be surprising if this were the Iblis whom I saw at the foot of the Throne was to be manifested. If Iblis exists, he must be this.'
And peace be upon you.
The son of the Atabeg entered.
The Master said: Your father is always occupied with God. His faith is overmastering, and reveals itself in his words. One day the Atabeg said: The Rumi infidels have urged me to give my daughter in marriage to the Tartars, so that the religion may become one and this new religion which is Muslimdom may disappear. I said: Why, when has this religion ever been one? There have always been two or three, and war and fighting have always gone on between them. How do you want me to make the religion one? It will be one only in the next world, at the resurrection. As for this present world, here it is not possible, for here each one has a different desire and design. Here unity is impossible; it will be possible only at the resurrection, when all men will be one and will fix their eyes on one place, and will all have one ear and one tongue.
In man are many things. There is mouse, and there is bird. The bird carries the cage upwards, while the mouse drags it downwards. A hundred thousand different wild beasts are together in man, except that they are proceeding to the point when the mouse will renounce its mousehood and the bird its birdhood and all become one. For the objective is neither above nor below; when the objective becomes manifest, it will be neither above nor below.
A man has lost something. He keeps on seeking left and right, in front and behind. When he has found that thing he no more seeks above or below, left or right, before or behind, for he becomes tranquil and collected. Similarly, on the resurrection day all men will be one of eye and tongue and ear and understanding. When ten men share a garden or a shop in common their speech is one, their concern is one, their preoccupation is with one thing, since their objective has become one. So on the resurrection day, since the affair of all will be with God, they will all be one in this real sense.
In this world every man is preoccupied with a separate affair. One is in love with women, one is in love with wealth, one is engaged in acquiring possessions, one in acquiring knowledge. Every single one of them believes that his cure, his joy, his pleasure and his repose consist in that one thing. And that is a Divine mercy. When he proceeds thither and seeks, he does not find; so he returns. When he has tarried for a little he says, 'That joy and mercy must be sought after. Perhaps I have not sought well. I will seek again.' When he seeks again, still he does not find. So he continues, until such time as Mercy shows its face without a veil. Then he knows that that was not the right way.
But God most High has certain servants who are like that even before the resurrection: they see truly. 'Ali, God be well pleased with him, said: 'Even were the veil removed, I would not be increased in certain faith.' That is to say, 'When the body is removed and the resurrection appears, my certain faith will not become greater.' The like of this is a group of people on a dark night, within a house, at prayer: they have turned their faces in every direction. When day comes they all turn themselves about, save for that one man who through the night was facing towards Mecca: why should he turn himself about? For all are now turning towards Him. So those special servants of God keep their faces towards Him even in the night and have turned their faces away from all else. Hence with regard to them the resurrection is already manifest and present.
There is no end to words, but they are imparted according to the capacity of the seeker.
Wisdom is like the rain. In its store it is unlimited, but it comes down according to what the occasion requires, in winter, in spring, in summer, in autumn, always in due measure, greater and less; but there whence it descends, there it is unbounded. Druggists put sugar or drugs in a screw of paper; but the sugar is not the amount which is in the paper. The stocks of sugar and the stocks of drugs are unlimited and unbounded; how are they to be contained in a piece of paper? Certain men uttered taunts, saying, 'Why does the Koran come down upon Muhammad word by word? Why not chapter by chapter?' Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him) answered, 'What do these fools say? If it were to come down upon me all at once I would dissolve and vanish away.'
For he who is truly apprised of a little understands much; of one thing, many things; of one line, whole volumes. It is like when a company of men are seated listening to a story, but one of them knows all the circumstances, having been present at the event. From a single hint that man understands it all; he turns pale and crimson, changes from state to state. The others understand only as much as they have heard, for they are not apprised of all the circumstances. But he who is apprised understands much from the amount that he hears.
To return: when you come to the druggist he has sugar in abundance. But he sees how much money you have brought, and gives accordingly. By 'money' is here meant resolution and faith. The words are imparted according to one's resolution and faith. When you come seeking sugar, they examine your bag to see what its capacity is, then they measure out accordingly, one bushel or two. But if a man has brought strings of camels and many bags, they order the weighmen to be fetched.
So one man comes along whom oceans do not satisfy; another man finds a few drops enough, and more than that would be harmful to him.
This applies not only to the world of ideas and sciences and wisdom. It is true of every thing. Property, gold, mines -- all are unbounded and infinite; only they are imparted according to the capacity of the individual, since he would be unable to support more and would be driven mad. Do you not see how Majnun and Farhad and the other famous lovers took to mountain and desert for the love of a woman when they were loaded with passion beyond their power to control? Do you not see how Pharaoh, when empire and wealth were showered upon him excessively, laid claim to divinity?
'Naught there is, whether good or evil, but treasures of it unlimited are with Us and in Our treasuries, but We send only according to the capacity appropriate.' Yes indeed: this person has faith, but he does not know what his faith is in. In the same way a child has faith in bread, but he does not know what thing he has faith in. So with all things that grow: a tree turns yellow and dry of thirst, but it does not know what thirst really is.
The substance of man is like a flag. He first sets the flag fluttering in the air, and then sends troops to the foot of that flag from every direction as God alone knows -- reason, understanding, fury and anger, forbearance and liberality, fear and hope, states without end and qualities unbounded. Whoever looks from afar sees only the flag, but he who beholds from close at hand knows what essences and realities reside in it.
Someone came in and the Master said: Where have you been? We have been longing to see you. Why have you kept away?
The man replied: So things conspired.
The Master said: We for our part have been praying that this conspiracy of things might change and cease to be. A conspiracy of things that produces separation is an improper conspiracy. Yes, by Allah, it too comes from God, only in relation to God it is good. It is a true saying, that all things in relation to God are good and perfect, only in relation to us it is not so. Fornication and purity, not praying and prayer, unbelief and Islam, polytheism and unitarianism -- with God all these are good; in relation to us fornication and thieving, unbelief and polytheism are bad, while unitarianism and prayer and good works in relation to us are good. But in relation to God all are good.
A king has in his realm prison and gallows, robes of honour and wealth, estates and retinue, feasting and making merry, drums and flags. In relation to the king all these things are good. Just as robes of honour are the perfect ornament of his kingdom, so too gallows and slaying and prison are the perfect ornament of his kingdom. In relation to him all these things are the perfect ornament; but in relation to his people how should robes of honour and the gallows be one and the same?
Someone asked what there was that was superior to prayer. One answer is what I have already said, that the 'soul' of prayer is better than prayer, as I then explained. The second answer is that faith is better than prayer.
Prayer consists of five times' performance, whereas faith is continuous. Prayer can be dropped for a valid excuse, and may be postponed by licence: there is this other advantage which faith has over prayer, that faith cannot be dropped for any excuse and may not be postponed by licence. Again, faith without prayer is beneficial, whereas prayer without faith confers no benefit. Another point: the prayer of hypocrites and the prayer of every religion is of quite a different kind, whereas faith does not change in any religion; its states, its locus and the rest are invariable.
There are also other differences; according to the attractive power of the listener they become evident. The listener is like flour in the hands of a dough-maker; words are like water, which is sprinkled on the flour according to what is required in the circumstances. The poet says:
'Mine eye is fixed on another'; that is, it is seeking another listener apart from you. 'What shall I do? For that eye's light is you': because you are with yourself; you will not have escaped from yourself until your light is a hundred thousand times you.
There was once a skinny person, feeble and contemptible as a sparrow, exceedingly contemptible to behold, so much so that even contemptible forms looked on him with contempt and gave thanks to God, though before seeing him they used to complain of their own contemptible form. For all that he was very rough in his speech and bragged enormously. He was in the court of the king, and his behaviour pained the vizier; yet for all that he swallowed it down. Then one day the vizier lost his temper.
'Men of the court,' he shouted, 'I picked this creature out of the gutter and nourished him. By eating my bread and sitting at my table and enjoying my charity and my wealth and that of my ancestors he became somebody. Now he has reached the point of saying such things to me!'
'Men of the court,' cried the man, springing up in his face, 'and nobles and pillars of the state! What he says is quite true. I was nourished by his wealth and charity and that of his ancestors until I grew up, contemptible and ignominious as you see me. If I had been nourished by someone else's bread and wealth, surely my form and stature and worth might well have been better than this. He picked me out of the gutter; all I can say is, O would that I were dust. If someone else had picked me out of the gutter, I would not have been such a laughing stock.'
The disciple who is nourished at the hands of a man of God has a clean and chaste spirit. But he who is nourished at the hands of an impostor and a hypocrite and learns the science from him is just like the man in the foregoing story, contemptible and feeble, weak and with no way out, unable to make up his mind about anything, deficient in all his senses.
In the composition of man all sciences were originally commingled, so that his spirit might show forth all hidden things, as limpid water shows forth all that is under it -- pebbles, broken sherds and the like -- and all that is above it, reflected in the substance of the water. Such is its nature, without treatment or training. But when it was mingled with earth or other colours, that property and that knowledge was parted from it and forgotten by it. Then God most High sent forth prophets and saints, like a great, limpid water such as delivers out of darkness and accidental coloration every mean and dark water that enters into it. Then it remembers; when the soul of man sees itself unsullied, it knows for sure that so it was in the beginning, pure, and it knows that those shadows and colours were mere accidents. Remembering its state before those accidents supervened, it says:
The prophets and the saints therefore remind him of his former state; they do not implant anything new in his substance. Now every dark water that recognises that great water, saying, 'I come from this and I belong to this,' mingles with that water. But the dark water that does not recognise that water and deems it other than itself and not of its own kind takes refuge with the colours and shadows, so that it mingles not with the sea and is even farther off from mingling with the sea. It was for this reason that the Prophet said: 'Those spirits which recognise one another associate together, and those which recognise not one another fall into variance.' It was on this account that God declared:
That is to say, the great water is congener of the little water, and is of itself and its own substance. That which deems it not of itself, that failure to recognise springs not of the water itself but is an evil associate of the water. The reflection of that associate impinges upon such a water, and the water does not know whether its shying away from the great water, and the sea, springs from itself or from the reflection of that evil associate, so closely are they mingled together. In like manner mean clay does not know whether its inclination towards clay springs from its own nature or from some fault mingled with its character.
Know that every line of poetry that they adduce, every tradition, every verse of the Koran, is like a pair of witnesses bearing testimony, apprised of various kinds of testimony; they bear witness in every situation according to the nature of the situation. In the same way there are two witnesses to the bequest of a house, two witnesses to the sale of a shop, two witnesses to a marriage; they bear witness according to the nature of every case at which they are present. The form of the testimony is always the same; it is its meaning that differs. I pray that God may cause these words to be of benefit to us and you alike. 'The colour is the colour of blood, and the scent is the scent of musk.'
We said: The man had the desire to see you. He kept saying, 'I wish I could have seen the Master.'
The Master said: He does not see the Master at this moment in truth because the desire which filled him, namely that he might see the Master, was a veil over the Master. So he does not see the Master at this moment without a veil. So it is with all desires and affections, all loves and fondnesses which people have for every variety of thing -- father, mother, heaven, earth, gardens, palaces, branches of knowledge, acts, things to eat and drink. The man of God realises that all these desires are the desire for God, and all those things are veils. When men pass out of this world and behold that King without these veils, then they will realise that all those were veils and coverings, their quest being in reality that One Thing. All difficulties will then be resolved, and they will hear in their hearts the answer to all questions and all problems, and every thing will be seen face to face.
It is not God's way to answer every difficulty singly, but by one answer all questions will be made known all at once and the total difficulty will be resolved. In the same way in winter every man puts on warm clothes and a leather jacket and creeps for shelter from the cold into an oven, into a warm hollow. So too all plants, trees, shrubs and the like, bitten by the venomous cold remain without leaves and fruit, and store and hide their goods and chattels inwardly so that the malice of the cold may not reach them. When spring in a single epiphany answers their requests, all their various problems, whether they be living, springing or lying fallow, will be resolved, and those secondary causes will disappear. All will put forth their heads, and realise what was the cause of that misery.
God has created these veils for a good purpose. For if God's beauty should display itself without a veil, we would not have the power to endure and would not enjoy it. Through the intermediary of these veils we derive succour and benefit.
You see yonder sun, how in its light we walk and see and distinguish good from bad and are warmed. The trees and orchards become fruitful, and in the heat of it their fruits, unripe and sour and bitter, become mature and sweet. Through its influence mines of gold and silver, rubies and cornelians are made manifest. If yonder sun, which through intermediaries bestows so many benefits, were to come nearer it would bestow no benefit whatsoever; on the contrary, the whole world and every creature would be burned up and destroyed.
When God most High makes revelation through a veil to the mountain, it too becomes fully arrayed in trees and flowers and verdure. When however He makes revelation without a veil, He overthrows the mountain and breaks it into atoms.
Someone interposed the question: Well, is there not the same sun too in the winter?
The Master answered: Our purpose here was to draw a comparison. There is neither 'camel' nor 'lamb.' Likeness is one thing, comparison is another. Although our reason cannot comprehend that thing however it may exert itself, yet how shall the reason abandon the effort? If the reason gave up the struggle, it would no more be the reason. Reason is that thing which perpetually, night and day, is restless and in commotion, thinking and struggling and striving to comprehend, even though He is uncomprehended and incomprehensible.
Reason is like a moth, and the Beloved is like a candle. Whensoever the moth dashes itself against the candle, it is consumed and destroyed. But the moth is so by nature, that however much it may be hurt by that consuming and agony it cannot do without the candle. If there were any animal like the moth that could not do without the light of the candle and dashed itself against that light, it would itself be a moth; whilst if the moth dashed itself against the light of the candle and the moth were not consumed, that indeed would not be a candle.
Therefore the man who can do without God and makes no effort is no man at all; whilst if he were able to comprehend God, that indeed would not be God. Therefore the true man is he who is never free from striving, who revolves restlessly and ceaselessly about the light of the Majesty of God. And God is He who consumes man and makes him naught, being comprehended of no reason.
The Parvana said: Before the Master arrived on the scene, our Master Baha' al-Din excused himself to me, saying, 'The Master has so ordained that the Amir should not come to visit him and put himself to trouble. I am subject to various states: in one state I speak and in another I do not speak, in one state I attend to the affairs of other men and in another state I withdraw and go into retreat, whilst in yet another state I am utterly absorbed and distraught. I would not wish that the Amir should come when I am in a state of being unable to be amiable to him, when I am not free to counsel him and converse with him. It is therefore better that when I am free and able to attend to my friends and do them some good, I should go out and visit my friends.'
The Amir went on: I answered our Master Baha' al-Din, saying, 'I do not come here in order that our Master may attend to me and converse with me. My purpose in coming is so that I may have the honour of being amongst the company of his servants.' One of the things that has just now happened is that our Master was preoccupied and did not show himself until he had kept me waiting for a long time. This was so that I might realise how difficult and disagreeable it is if I keep good Muslims waiting when they come to my door and do not quickly admit them. The Master has made me taste the bitterness of that and has given me a lesson, so that I may not act like that with others.
The Master answered: That is not so. On the contrary, my keeping you waiting was the acme of lovingkindness. It is related that God most High declares: 'O my servant, I would answer your petition and complaint forthwith, were it not that the voice of your complaint is sweet in my ears. My answer is delayed to the end that you may complain abundantly, for the voice of your complaint is sweet in my ears.'
For example, two beggars have come to the door of a certain person. One is much sought after and beloved, whilst the other is greatly hated. The master of that house says to his slave, 'Give that hated one a piece of bread quickly and without delay, so that he may quickly go abroad from my door.' To the other beloved beggar he makes promises, saying, 'The bread is not yet baked. Wait patiently until the bread is properly cooked and baked.'
My greater desire is to see my friends and to gaze my fill upon them, and they on me. For when many friends have seen very well into one another here below, when they come to be raised up in the other world, having become very familiar indeed they will quickly recognise one another. Knowing how they were together in the world of mortality, their reuniting will be with joy.
For a man all too quickly loses his friend. Do you not see how in this mortal world you have become the friend and darling of some person, and he is a very Joseph of beauty in your eyes, then on account of a single shameful action he vanishes from your sight and you lose him completely? That Joseph-like form is changed into a wolf, and the very same one you saw formerly as Joseph you now see as a wolf, for all that his actual form has not been changed but is still the same as you formerly saw it. By that one accidental motion you lost him. Tomorrow, when the mustering of men is re-enacted and this present essence is changed into another essence, since you never knew that person well and never penetrated thoroughly into his essence how are you going to recognise him?
The lesson to be learned from this is that men must see one another very well indeed. They must overpass the good and bad qualities which are present temporarily in every man, and must enter into the other's very essence, seeing exceedingly clearly that these qualities which men bestow upon one another are not their original qualities.
The story is told of a man who said, 'I know that fellow very well. I will give his distinguishing mark.' The others said, 'Pray do.' The man said, 'He was a muleteer of mine. He had two black cows.' People talk in this same fashion. 'I consider So-and-so my friend. I know him.' Every distinguishing mark that they give is just like the story of the two black cows. That is not his distinguishing mark, and that mark is of no use whatever.
So one must overpass the good and evil in a man and enter into his essence, to see what essence and substance he possesses. That is truly seeing and knowing.
It astonishes me how some men say, 'How do saints and lovers of God play at love in the eternal world beyond space and form and time? How do they derive help and strength? How are they affected?' After all, are they not engaged night and day in that very thing? This person who loves a certain person and derives help from him -- after all, he derives from him help and grace, kindness and knowledge, recollection and remembrance, happiness and sorrow. All these belong to the infinite world; yet moment by moment he derives help from these abstractions and is affected by them. This does not however surprise the doubters; yet they are amazed how the saints should be lovers in the infinite world and derive help therefrom.
Once there was a philosopher who denied this reality. One day he became sick and incapacitated, and his illness dragged on a long time. A certain theologian went to visit him.
'What are you seeking?' he asked.
'Health,' the philosopher replied.
'Tell me how this health is shaped,' said the theologian, 'so that I may get it for you.'
'It has no shape. It is indescribable,' said the philosopher.
'If it is indescribable, then how are you seeking it?' the theologian demanded. 'Tell me,' he added, 'what is health?'
'All I know,' answered the philosopher, 'is that when health supervenes there is an access of strength. I become plump and red and white, fresh and blooming.'
'I am asking you about the spirit of health. What is the essence of health?' asked the theologian.
'I do not know. It is indescribable,' said the philosopher.
'If you become a Muslim and turn away from your former views,' said the theologian, 'I will treat you and make you well and bring you back to health.'
The Prophet was asked, God's blessings be upon him, 'Though these truths are inscrutable, can a man derive benefit from them through the mediation of form?' He replied, 'See yonder the form of heaven and earth.'
Through the mediation of this form, derive benefit from that universal reality; inasmuch as you see the changing about of the wheel of the sky, the raining of the clouds in due season, summer and winter and all the transformations of time. You see all these things happening rightly and in accordance with wisdom. After all, what does yonder inanimate cloud know, that it is necessary to rain in due season? You see likewise this earth, how it receives seed and returns yield tenfold. Well, Someone does this; behold that Someone through the mediation of this world, and derive help. Just as you derive help from the body of a man to perceive his reality, even so derive help from the reality of the world through the mediation of the form of the world.
When the Prophet, may God bless him and give him peace, was transported out of himself and spoke, he used to say, 'God says.' From the standpoint of form it was his tongue that spoke; but he was not there at all, and the speaker in reality was God. Having at first perceived himself ignorant and knowing nothing of such words, now that such words are being born from him he realises that he is not now what he was at first. This is God controlling him. The Prophet, may God bless him and give him peace, reported about past men and prophets who lived so many thousands of years before him, and even unto the end of the world, what should come to pass; as likewise about the Throne and the Footstool, the Void and the Plenum. His being was a thing of but yesterday, and a being newly created but yesterday assuredly does not speak of such things. How should a creature born in time give information about the eternal? Hence it became realised that it was not he who was speaking; God was speaking.
God is wholly free of form and letters; His speech is beyond letters and voice. But He delivers His words by means of any letters and voice and tongue He desires.
Men have fashioned upon the highways, in caravanserais and on the banks of pools, men of stone or birds of stone, and out of their mouths the water comes and pours into the pool. All possessed of reason know that the water does not issue out of the mouth of a stone bird, it issues out of another place.
If you want to get to know a man, engage him in speech. By his words you will know him. If he is an impostor, and someone has told him that by their words men are recognised, and he keeps a watch on his words to the end that he may not be found out, even so in the end he is detected.
This is illustrated by the story of the child and his mother. A child in the desert said to his mother, 'On dark nights a horrible black demon appears to me, and I am terribly afraid.'
'Don't be afraid,' said his mother. 'The next time you see that form, attack it bravely. Then it will become clear that it is nothing but a fantasy.'
'But mother,' said the child, 'what if the black demon's mother has given him similar advice? What shall I do, if she has counselled him, saying, "Don't say a word, so that you won't be exposed"? How shall I recognise him then?'
'Keep silent and yield to him, and wait with patience,' his mother answered. 'It may be that some word may leap from his mouth. Or if it does not leap, it may be that from your tongue some word may leap involuntarily, or in your thoughts some words or some idea may spring up, so that out of that idea or those words you will know him for what he is. For then you will have been affected by him; that is the reflection of him and his feelings that has sprung up inside of you.'
Shaikh Sar-razi, God's mercy be upon him, was seated one day amongst his disciples. One of the disciples had a longing for some roasted sheep's head. The Shaikh signalled, saying, 'You must bring him some roasted sheep's head.'
'How did you know that he wanted some roasted sheep's head?' the disciples asked.
'Because it is now thirty years that no desire has remained in me,' the Shaikh answered. 'I have cleansed and purified myself of all desires and have become clear as an unscratched mirror. When the thought of roasted sheep's head entered my mind and whetted my appetite and became a desire, I knew that that belonged to our friend yonder. For the mirror is without any image of itself; if an image shows in the mirror, it is the image of another.'
A worthy man once shut himself up for a forty days' discipline, seeking after a particular object. A voice came to him, saying, 'Such a lofty object will never be attained by a forty days' discipline. Abandon your discipline, so that the regard of a great saint may fall upon you and your object will be realised.'
'Where shall I find that great one?' the man asked.
'In the congregational mosque,' came the answer.
'In such a throng of people how shall I recognise which man he is?' he enquired.
'Go,' he was told, 'and he will recognise you and will gaze upon you. The sign that his regard has fallen upon you will be that the pitcher will drop from your hand and you will become unconscious. Then you will know that he has gazed upon you.'
He acted accordingly. He filled a pitcher with water and went round the congregation in the mosque like a water-carrier. He was wandering between the ranks of the worshippers when suddenly he was seized with ecstasy. He uttered a loud cry, and the pitcher fell from his hand. He remained in a corner of the mosque unconscious. All the people departed. When he came to his senses he saw that he was alone. He did not see there that spiritual king who had gazed upon him, but he had gained his object.
There are certain men of God who because of their great majesty and jealousy for God do not show themselves openly; but they cause disciples to attain important objects and bestow gifts on them. Such mighty spiritual kings are rare and precious.
We said: Do the great ones come before you?
The Master answered: There is no 'before' left to me. It is a long time now that I have had no 'before.' If they come, they come before that imaged thing they believe to be me. Certain men said to Jesus, upon whom be peace, 'We will come to your house.' Jesus answered, 'Where is my house in this world, and how should I have a house?'
It is related that Jesus, upon whom be peace, was wandering in the desert when a great rainstorm broke. He went to take shelter in the den of a jackal in the corner of a cave, until the rain should cease. A revelation came to him, saying, 'Get you out of the jackal's den, for the jackal's whelps cannot rest on account of you.' He cried aloud, saying, 'Lord, the jackal's whelp has a shelter, but the son of Mary has no shelter, no place where he may dwell.'
The Master said: If the jackal's whelp has a home, yet he has no such Beloved to drive him out of his home. You have such a One driving you out. If you have no home, what does that matter? The loving-kindness of such a Driver, and the grace of such a robe of honour, that you should have been singled out for Him to drive you forth, is worth far and exceedingly more than a hundred thousand thousand heavens and earths, worlds here and beyond, Thrones and Footstools.
He said: The fact that the Amir came and I did not show my face quickly ought not to distress him. His purpose in coming was to pay honour either to me or to himself. If it was to pay honour to me, then the longer he sat and waited for me, the greater the honour to me that ensued. If on the other hand his object was to honour himself and to seek a reward, then since he waited and endured the pain of waiting his reward will be all the greater. On either supposition, his object in coming was realised many times over. So he ought to be delighted and happy.