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Rumi's Mathnawi (selections)

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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:22 pm    Post subject: Rumi's Mathnawi (selections) Reply with quote

The Man who asked Moses to teach him the language of animals. (trans. E.H. Whinfield)

Here is another story about someone who speaks the language of animals - although in this case, this knowledge tells the man more than he wants to know. Moses appears in this story as the incarnation of a magical kind of wisdom. This "animal language" story is a popular folktale type found in many cultural traditions; Dan Ashliman has compiled a collection of these "Animal Language" stories, including similar stories from India, the Middle East, and Europe.
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A certain man came to Moses and desired to be taught the language of animals, for, he said, men used their language only to get food and for purposes of deception, and possibly a knowledge of animals' languages might stimulate his faith.

Moses was very unwilling to comply with his request, as he knew such knowledge would prove destructive to him, but, on his persisting, took counsel of God, and finally taught him the language of fowls and dogs.

Next morning the man went amongst the fowls, and heard a discussion between the cock and the dog. The dog was abusing the cock for picking up the morsels of bread which fell from their master's table, because the cock could find plenty of grains of corn to eat, whereas the dog could only eat bread. The cock, to appease him, said that on the morrow the master's horse would die, and then the dog would have enough and to spare. The master, hearing this, at once sold his horse, and the dog, being disappointed of his meal, again attacked the cock.

The cock then told him the mule would die, whereupon the master sold the mule. Then the cock foretold the death of a slave, and the master again sold the slave.

At this the dog, losing patience, upbraided the cock as the chief of deceivers, and the cock excused himself by showing that all three deaths had taken place just as he had predicted, but the master had sold the horse, mule, and slave, and had thrown the loss on others. He added that, to punish him for his fraudulent dealing, the master would himself die on the morrow, and there would be plenty for the dog to eat at the funeral feast.

Hearing this, the master went to Moses in great distress, and prayed to be saved. Moses besought the Lord for him, and gained permission that he should die in the peace of God.

Why freewill is good for man.
God said, "Do thou grant his earnest request,
Enlarge his faculty according to his freewill.
Freewill is as the salt to piety,
Otherwise heaven itself were matter of compulsion.
In its revolutions reward and punishment were needless,
For 'tis freewill that has merit at the great reckoning.
If the whole world were framed to praise God,
There would be no merit in praising God.
Place a sword in his hand and remove his impotence,
To see if he turns out a warrior or a robber.
Because freewill is that wherewith 'we honor Adam,'
Half the swarm become bees and half wasps.
The faithful yield honeycombs like bees,
The infidels yield store of poison like wasps.
For the faithful feed on choice herbs,
So that, like bees, their chyle yields life-giving food,
Whilst infidels feed on filth and garbage,
And generate poison according to their food."

Men inspired of God are the fountain of life;
Men of delusions are a synonym for death.
In the world the praise "Well done faithful servant!"
Is given to freewill which is used with prudence.
If all dissolute men were shut up in prison,
They would all be temperate and devout and pious.
When power of choice is absent actions are worthless;
But beware lest death snatch away your capital!
Your power of choice is a capital yielding profit,
Remember well the day of final account!
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Elephant in a Dark Room


This story of the "elephant and the blind men" or the "elephant in the dark room" has become rather well-known recently - for Rumi, the story is a symbolic explanation of how we fail to understand our true spiritual reality and it went on to form a vital story in the Islamic tradition. The story is also part of the Buddhist and Jain traditions. You will read the story here in two different versions: E.H. Whinfield and Coleman Barks.
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The Elephant in a Dark Room (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
Some Hindoos were exhibiting an elephant in a dark room, and many people collected to see it. But as the place was too dark to permit them to see the elephant, they all felt it with their hands, to gain an idea of what it was like. One felt its trunk, and declared that the beast resembled a water-pipe; another felt its ear, and said it must be a large fan; another its leg, and thought it must be a pillar; another felt its back, and declared the beast must be like a great throne. According to the part which each felt, he gave a different description of the animal.

The eye of outward sense is as the palm of a hand,
The whole of the object is not grasped in the palm.
The sea itself is one thing, the foam another;
Neglect the foam, and regard the sea with your eyes.
Waves of foam rise from the sea night and day,
You look at the foam ripples and not the mighty sea.
We, like boats, are tossed hither and thither,
We are blind though we are on the bright ocean.
Ah! you who are asleep in the boat of the body,
You see the water; behold the Water of waters!
Under the water you see there is another Water moving it,
Within the spirit is a Spirit that calls it.
Keep silence that you may hear Him speaking
Words unutterable by tongue in speech.
Keep silence, that you may hear from that Sun
Things inexpressible in books and discourses.


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"Elephant in the Dark" (trans. Coleman Barks)
Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.
One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.
One of us happens to touch the trunk.
"A water-pipe kind of creature."
Another, the ear. "A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal."
Another, the leg. "I find it still,
like a column on a temple."
Another touches the curved back.
"A leathery throne."
Another, the cleverest, feels the tusk.
"A rounded sword made of porcelain."
He's proud of his description.
Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole in that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark are
how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.
If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together,
we could see it.
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The mouse and the camel

The story of the mouse and the camel is very similar to the tradition of Aesop's fables: there is a foolish and boastful animal, the mouse, who gets taught a lesson by another animal, in this case a camel.
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A LITTLE mouse once caught in its paws a camel's head-rope and in a spirit of emulation went off with it. Because of the nimbleness with which the camel set off along with him the mouse was duped into thinking himself a champion. The flash of his thought struck the camel.

'Go on, enjoy yourself,' he grunted. 'I will show you!'

Presently the mouse came to the margin of a great river, such as would have cast down any lion or wolf. There the mouse halted, struck all of a heap.

'Comrade over mountain and plain,' said the camel, 'why this standing still? Why are you dismayed? Step on like a man! Into the river with you! You are my guide and leader; do not halt half-way, paralysed!'

'But this a vast and deep river,' said the mouse. 'I am afraid of being drowned, comrade.'

'Let me see how deep the water is,' said the camel, and quickly set foot in it.

The water only comes up to my knee,' he went on, 'Blind mouse, why were you dismayed? Why did you lose your head?'

'To you it is an ant, but to me it is a dragon,' said the mouse.

'There are great differences between one knee and another. If it only reaches your knee, clever camel, it passes a hundred cubits over my head.'

'Be not so arrogant another time,' said the camel, 'lest you are consumed body and soul by the sparks of my wrath. Emulate mice like yourself; a mouse has no business to hobnob with camels.'

'I repent,' said the mouse. 'For God's sake get me across this deadly water!'

'Listen,' said the camel, taking compassion on the mouse. 'Jump up and sit on my hump. This passage has been entrusted to me; I would take across hundreds of thousands like you.'

Since you are not the ruler, be a simple subject; since you are not captain, do not steer the ship.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

why did the mouse decide he was a mighty and powerful creature?
what happened when the mouse and the camel came to the river?
how does the mouse get across the river?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The jackal that pretended to be a peacock


The jackal is the trickster character of the ancient Indian tradition, and it is a pair of jackals who are the central characters in the collection of stories called the Panchatantra. The Arabic translation of the Panchatantra, called Kalila wa Dimna ("Kalila and Dimna," after the names of the two jackals) was an important source for many of Rumi's stories - including this story of the jackal who fell into the vat of colored dye.
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A JACKAL once got into a dyeing-vat and there tarried for a space. Then he got out again, and his skin was stained with the dye. 'See, I have become the Peacock of Heaven's Heights!' he cried. Indeed, his dyed fur had acquired a delightful sheen, and when the sun shone upon those colours he beheld himself green and crimson, russet and gold. So he displayed himself to the other jackals.

'Little jackal,' they all exclaimed, 'what is the matter? Why is your head full of such perverse glee? You have gone apart form us in your exultation; what is the ground for your high disdain?'

'You here,' one of the jackals went up to him and cried, 'are you a pretender, or is your heart truly joyous? You have perpetrated a fraud so as to jump up on the pulpit and with your vainglory make all the people envious. You have laboured much but experienced no true ardour, so you have displayed a fraudulent piece of impudence.'

The multicoloured jackal slunk up quietly and whispered into the ear of the reprover. 'Why, just look at me! Look at my colours! No idolater possesses an idol like me. I have become lovely and many-hued as the garden. Do not turn your head from me: bow down before me! See my pomp and splendour, my sheen, my glitter, my colour! Call me the Pride of the World, the Pillar of the Faith! I have become the theatre of the grace Divine, I have become the tablet expounding the majesty of God. You jackals, beware! Do not call me a jackal; how should a jackal possess so much beauty?'

The jackals gathered about him like moths around a candle. 'Say, what shall we call you then, creature of pure substance?'

'Peacocks of the Spirit,' they then said to him, 'hold displays in the Garden of Roses. Do you make such a display?'

'No,' he replied. 'How should I tread the streets of Mina, never having gone into the desert?'

'Do you utter the peacocks' cry?'

'No,' he answered.

'Then you are not a peacock, father of lofty airs! The glory-robe of the peacock is the gift of heaven; how should you ever attain to it by means of dyes and false pretences?'


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

why did the jackal think he had become a peacock?
how did the "peacock" expect to be treated by the other jackals?
how did the jackals decide that the jackal was not a peacock at all?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Tattooed Lion


The city of Qazwin (or Qazvin) is located in northwestern Iran. In the fifteenth century, Qazvin was actually the capital of Iran. Today it is famous for the nearby fortress of Alamut, the "Castle of the Assassins".
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The Tattooed Lion (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
It was the custom of the men of Qazwin to have various devices tattooed upon their bodies. A certain coward went to the artist to have such a device tattooed on his back, and desired that it might be the figure of a lion.

But when he felt the pricks of the needles he roared with pain and said to the artist, "What part of the lion are you now painting?"

The artist replied, "I am doing the tail."

The patient cried, "Never mind the tail; go on with another part."

The artist accordingly began in another part, but the patient again cried out and told him to try somewhere else. Wherever the artist applied his needles the patient raised similar objections, till at last the artist dashed all his needles and pigments on the ground, and refused to proceed any further.


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"Tattooing in Qazwin" (trans. Coleman Barks)
In Qazwin, they have a custom of tattooing themselves
for good luck, with a blue ink, on the back
of the hand, the shoulder, wherever.
A certain man goes to his barber
and asks to be given a powerful, heroic, blue lion
on his shoulder blade. "And do it with flair!
I've got Leo ascending. I want plenty of blue!"
But as soon as the needle starts pricking,
he howls,
"What are you doing?"
"The lion."
"Which limb did you start with?"
"I began with the tail."
"Well, leave out the tail. That lion's rump
is in a bad place for me. It cuts off my wind."
The barber continues, and immediately
the man yells out,
"Ooooooooo! Which part now?"
"The ear."
"Doc, let's do a lion with no ears this time."
The barber shakes his head, and once more the needle,
and once more the wailing,
"Where are you now?"
"The belly."
"I like a lion without a belly."
The master lion-maker
stands for a long time with his fingers in his teeth.
Finally he throws the needle down.
"No one has ever
been asked to do such a thing! To create a lion
without a tail or a head or a stomach.
God himself could not do it!"

Brother, stand the pain.
Escape the poison of your impulses.
The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do.
Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun.
Turn away from the cave of your sleeping.
That way a thorn expands to a rose.
A particular glows with the universal.
What is it to praise?
Make yourself particles.
What is it to know something of God?
Burn inside that presence. Burn up.
Copper melts in the healing elixir.
So melt yourself in the mixture
that sustains existence.
You tighten your two hands together,
determined not to give up saying "I" and "we."
This tightening blocks you.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

what kind of tattoo did the man want to get?
why did he decide to leave out parts of the tattoo?
what kind of tattoo did the man get in the end?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Chinese and the Greek Artists
Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

Rumi's story of the Chinese and Greek artists has little to do with China or with Greece; instead, Rumi uses these characters in the story to create a kind of ideal opposition between material splendor (the gorgeous colors used by the Chinese painters) and spiritual reflection (the style of the Greek artists). The image of the mirror comes up again and again in Rumi's poetry. In another poem he says: "Between the mirror and the heart is this single difference: the heart conceals secrets, while the mirror does not" (The Divani Shamsi Tabriz, XIII)
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The Chinese and the Greek Artists (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
The Chinese and the Greeks disputed before the Sultan which of them were the better painters; and, in order to settle the dispute, the Sultan allotted to each a house to be painted by them. The Chinese procured all kinds of paints, and coloured their house in the most elaborate way. The Greeks, on the other hand, used no colours at all, but contented themselves with cleansing the walls of their house from all filth, and burnishing them till they were as clear and bright as the heavens.

When the two houses were offered to the Sultan's inspection, that painted by the Chinese was much admired; but the Greek house carried off the palm, as all the colours of the other house were reflected on its walls with an endless variety of shades and hues.

[...] You, who seek no more of Him than to name His name:
What do His name and fame suggest? The idea of Him.
And the idea of Him guides you to union with Him.
Know you a guide without something to which it guides?
You name His name; so, seek the reality named by it!
Look for the moon in heaven, not in the water!
If you desire to rise above mere names and letters,
Make yourself free from self at one stroke!
Like a sword be without trace of soft iron;
Like a steel mirror, scour off all rust with contrition;
Make yourself pure from all attributes of self,
That you may see your own pure bright essence!


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"Chinese Art and Greek Art" (trans. Coleman Barks)
The Prophet said, “There are some who see Me
by the same Light in which I am seeing them.
Our natures are ONE.
Without reference to any strands
of lineage, without reference to texts or traditions,
we drink the Life-Water together.”
Here's a story
about that hidden mystery:

The Chinese and the Greeks
were arguing as to who were the better artists.
The King said,
“We'll settle this matter with a debate.”
The Chinese began talking,
but the Greeks wouldn't say anything.
They left.
The Chinese suggested then
that they each be given a room to work on
with their artistry, two rooms facing each other
and divided by a curtain.
The Chinese asked the King
for a hundred colors, all the variations,
and each morning they came to where
the dyes were kept and took them all.
The Greeks took no colors.
“They're not part of our work,”
They went to their room
and began cleaning and polishing the walls. All day
every day they made those walls as pure and clear
as an open sky.
There is a way that leads from all-colors
to colorlessness. Know that the magnificent variety
of the clouds and the weather comes from
the total simplicity of the sun and the moon.
The Chinese finished, and they were so happy.
They beat the drums in the joy of completion.
The King entered their room,
astonished by the gorgeous color and detail.
The Greeks then pulled the curtain dividing the rooms.
The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected
on the clear Greek walls. They lived there,
even more beautifully, and always
changing in the light.
The Greek art is the Sufi way.
They don't study books of philosophical thought.
They make their loving clearer and clearer.
No wantings, no anger. In that purity
they receive and reflect the images of every moment,
from here, from the stars, from the void.
They take them in
as though they were seeing
with the Lighted Clarity
that sees them.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

what style of painting did the Chinese artists use?
what style of painting did the Greek artists?
why does Rumi consider the Greek style to be superior? what is the spiritual interpretation he provides of this style?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Snake-Catcher and the Frozen Snake
Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

This is one of my favorite stories in Rumi. The story starts with the common motif of the man who rescues the frozen snake (it's an Aesop's fable, for example) - but it builds to a quite different conclusion! Rumi's story concludes with an allusion to Moses and the story of his wonder-working abilities with serpents, such as the contest between Moses and Pharaoh's magicians, or Moses and the fiery serpents. The Arabic word nafs used here refers to the soul and its passions.
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The Snake-Catcher and the Frozen Snake (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
A snake-catcher, who was following his occupation in the mountains, discovered a large snake frozen by the cold, and imagining it to be dead, he tied it up and took it to Baghdad. There all the idlers of the city flocked together to see it, and the snake, thawed by the warmth of the sun, recovered life, and immediately destroyed the spectators.

Lust is that snake; How say you it is dead?
It is only frozen by the pangs of winter.
Beware, keep that snake in the frost of humiliation,
Draw it not forth into the sunshine of Iraq!
So long as that snake is frozen, it is well;
When it finds release from frost you become its prey.
Conquer it and save yourself from being conquered,
Pity it not, it is not one who bears affection.
For that warmth of the sun kindles its lust,
And that bat of vileness flaps its wings.
Slay it in sacred war and combat,
Like a valiant man will God requite you with union.
When that man cherished that snake,
That stubborn brute was happy in the luxury of warmth;
And of necessity worked destruction, O friend;
Yea, many more mischiefs than I have told.
If you wish to keep that snake tied up
Without trouble, be faithful, be faithful!


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"The Snake Catcher and the Frozen Snake" (trans. Coleman Barks)
Listen to this, and hear the mystery inside:
A snakecatcher went into the mountains to find a snake.
He wanted a friendly pet, and one that would amaze
audiences, but he was looking for a reptile, something
that has no knowledge of friendship.
It was winter.
In the deep snow he saw a frighteningly huge dead snake.
He was afraid to touch it, but he did.
In fact he dragged the thing into Baghdad,
hoping people would pay to see it.
This is how
foolish
we've become! A human being is a huge mountain range!
Snakes are fascinated by us ! Yet we sell ourselves
to look at a dead snake.
We are like beautiful satin
used to patch burlap. "Come and see the dragon I killed,
and hear the adventures!" That's what he announced,
and a large crowd came,
but the dragon was not dead
just dormant! He set up his show at a crossroads.
The ring of gawking people got thicker, everybody
on tiptoe, men and women, noble and peasant, all
packed together unconscious of their differences.
It was like the Resurrection!
He began to unwind the thick ropes and remove
the cloth coverings he'd wrapped it so well in.
Some little movement.
The hot Iraqi sun had woken
the terrible life. The people nearest started screaming.
Panic! The dragon tore easily and hungrily
loose, killing many instantly.
The snake catcher stood there,
frozen. "What have I brought out of the mountains?" The snake
braced against a post and crushed the man and consumed him.
The snake is your animal soul. When you bring it
into the hot air of your wanting-energy, warmed
by that and by the prospect of power and wealth,
it does massive damage.
Leave it in the snow mountains.
Don't expect to oppose it with quietness
and sweetness and wishing.
The nafs don't respond to those,
and they can't be killed. It takes a Moses to deal
with such a beast, to lead it back, and make it lie down
in the snow. But there was no Moses then,
Hundreds of thousands died.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

what kind of snake did the man find in the mountains?
why did he bring it back to the city?
what happened to the people who came to see the snake?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Solomon and the Gnat
Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 500 words.


The next story features the figure of Solomon, a figure of extraordinary importance in Islamic folklore and legend. Solomon is a figure from the Hebrew Bible, the son of King David and Bathsheba who became king when David died. He later became a "wisdom figure" in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions (later on, you will meet the magical ring of Solomon in an Estonian fairy tale!). Among Solomon's many legendary gifts was the ability to understand the language of the birds. Here is what the Koran says about Solomon in the Sura of the Ant:

We endowed David and Solomon with knowledge, and they said, "Praise GOD for blessing us more than many of His believing servants."
Solomon was David's heir. He said, "O people, we have been endowed with understanding the language of the birds, and all kinds of things have been bestowed upon us. This is indeed a real blessing."
Mobilized in the service of Solomon were his obedient soldiers of jinns and humans, as well as the birds; all at his disposal.



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Solomon and the Gnat (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
A gnat came in from the garden and fields,
And called on Solomon for justice,
Saying, "O Solomon, you extend your equity
Over demons and the sons of Adam and fairies.
Fish and fowl dwell under the shelter of your justice;
Where is the oppressed one whom your mercy has not ought?
Grant me redress, for I am much afflicted,
Being cut off from my garden and meadow haunts."

Then Solomon replied, "O seeker of redress,
Tell me from whom do you desire redress?
Who is the oppressor, who, puffed up with arrogance,
Has oppressed you and smitten your face?"

The gnat replied, "He from whom I seek redress is the Wind,
'Tis he who has emitted the smoke of oppression at me;
Through his oppression I am in a grievous strait,
Through him I drink blood with parched lips!"

Solomon replied to him, "O sweet-voiced one,
You must hear the command of God with all your heart.
God has commanded me saying, 'O dispenser of justice,
Never hear one party without the other!"
Till both parties comes into the presence,
The truth is never made plain to the judge."

When the Wind heard the summons, it came swiftly,
And the gnat instantly took flight.
In like manner the seekers of God's presence-seat, -
When God appears, those seekers vanish.
Though that union is life eternal,
Yet at first that life is annihilation.


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"Gnats Inside the Wind" (trans. Coleman Barks)
Some gnats came from the grass to speak with Solomon.
"O Solomon, you are the champion of the oppressed.
You give justice to the little guys, and they don't get
any littler than us! We are tiny metaphors
for frailty. Can you defend us?"
"Who has mistreated you?"
"Our complaint is against the wind."
"Well," says Solomon, "you have pretty voices,
you gnats, but remember, a judge cannot listen
to just one side. I must hear both litigants."
"Of course," agree the gnats.
"Summon the East Wind!" calls out Solomon,
and the wind arrives almost immediately.
What happened to the gnat plaintiffs? Gone.
Such is the way of every seeker who comes to complain
at the High Court. When the presence of God arrives,
where are the seekers? First there's dying,
then union, like gnats inside the wind.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

why was the gnat angry at the wind?
what does Solomon do when the gnat complains to him about the wind?
what happens when the wind arrives?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dervish Who Broke His Vow
Reading time: 2 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

The next story is about the will of God, and its inevitable manifestation in the human world. In Arabic, the phrase "in-sha-allah" (if-wills-God) is used very often. In fact, in my Arabic class we were really struck by the fact that before the lunch break our teacher would say, "I'll see you after lunch, God willing, inshallah." It is an everyday phrase, kept in ind at all times. The following story is about the adventures of a dervish and the omnipresent will of God.
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There was once a Dervish who took up his abode in the mountains, in order to enjoy perfect solitude. In that place were many fruit trees, and the Dervish made a vow that he would never pluck any of the fruit, but eat only what was shaken down by the wind.

For a long time he kept his vow; but a time came when there was no wind, and consequently no fruit was shaken down. The Dervish was true to his vow for five days, but he could then endure the pangs of hunger no longer, and he stretched out his hand and plucked some of the fruit from the branches. The reason of this lapse on his part was that he had omitted to say "If God will" when making his vow; and as nothing can be accomplished without God's aid, he could not possibly keep his vow.

Shortly afterwards the chief of the police visited the mountains in pursuit of a band of robbers, and arrested the Dervish along with them, and cut off his hand. When he discovered his mistake he apologised very earnestly; but the Dervish reassured him, saying that men were not to blame, as God had evidently designed to punish him for breaking his vow by depriving him of the hand which had sinned in plucking the fruit.

[...]

There is a tradition, "The heart is like a feather
In the desert, which is borne captive by the winds;
The wind drives it everywhere at random,
Now to right and now to left in opposite directions."
According to another tradition, know the heart is like
To water in a kettle boiling on the fire.
So every moment a fresh purpose occurs to the heart,
Not proceeding from itself, but from its situation.
Why, then are you confident about the heart's purposes?
Why make you vows only to be covered with shame?
All these changes proceed from the effect of God's will;
Although you see the pit, you cannot avoid it.
The strange thing is, not that winged fowl
Fall into the deadly snare without seeing it,
But that they see the snare and the limed twig,
And yet fall into it, whether they will or no;
Their eyes and ears are open and the snare is in front,
Yet they fly into the snare with their own wings."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

what vow did the dervish make? why did he break the vow?
why did the chief of police cut off the dervish's hand?
why does the dervish forgive the chief of police?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Travellers and the Young Elephant (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

Earlier you read the story of the elephant in the dark room, where the elephant was more like an object than a character in the story. In this story, however, the elephant will be a leading character in the story, an agent of justice, and thus a symbol of God.
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A party of travellers lost their way in a wilderness, and were well nigh famished with hunger. While they were considering what to do, a sage came up and condoled with them on their unfortunate plight. He told them that there were many young elephants in the adjacent woods, one of which would furnish them an ample meal, but at the same time he warned them that if they killed one, its parents would in all probability track them out and be revenged on them for killing their offspring.

Shortly after the travellers saw a plump young elephant, and could not resist killing and eating it. One alone refrained. Then they lay down to rest; but no sooner were they fast asleep than a huge elephant made his appearance and proceeded to smell the breath of each one of the sleepers in turn. Those whom he perceived to have eaten of the young elephant's flesh he slew without mercy, sparing only the one who had been prudent enough to abstain.

O son, the pious are God's children,
Absent or present He is informed of their state.
Deem Him not absent when they are endangered,
For He is jealous for their lives.
He saith, "These saints are my children,
Though remote and alone and away from their Lord.
For their trial they are orphans and wretched,
Yet in love I am ever holding communion with them.
Thou art backed by all my protection,
My children are, as it were, parts of me.
Verily these Dervishes of mine
Are thousands on thousands, and yet no more than One;
[...]
Thou art asleep, and the smell of that forbidden fruit
Ascends to the azure skies, -
Ascends along with thy foul breath,
Till it overpowers heaven with stench; -
Stench of pride, stench of lust, stench of greed.
All these stink like onions when a man speaks.
Thou thou swearest, saying, "When have I eaten?
Have I not abstained from onions and garlic?"
The very breath of that oath tells tales,
As it strikes the nostrils of them that sit with thee.
So too prayers are made invalid by such stenches,
That crooked heart is betrayed by its speech,
The answer to that prayer is, "Be ye driven into hell,"
The staff of repulsion is the reward of all deceit.
But if thy speech be crooked and thy meaning straight,
Thy crookedness of words will be accepted by God.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

why did the men kill the young elephants?
what happened to the men who killed the elephants?
what happened to the men who refused to kill them?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Merchant and his Clever Parrot
Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

This is one of my favorite stories in Rumi: it seems like a simple story about a trick, the kind of story you might read in Aesop - but Rumi finds a really elegant symbolic meaning in this story, revealing a spiritual lesson taught by the clever parrot. This is a parrot who speaks "spiritual truths"!
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The Merchant and his Clever Parrot (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
There was a certain merchant who kept a parrot in a cage. Being about to travel to Hindustan on business, he asked the parrot if he had any message to send to his kinsmen in that country, and the parrot desired him to tell them that he was kept confined in a cage.

The merchant promised to deliver this message, and on reaching Hindustan, duly delivered it to the first flock of parrots he saw. On hearing it one of them at once fell down dead. The merchant was annoyed with his own parrot for having sent such a fatal message, and on his return home sharply rebuked his parrot for doing so. But the parrot no sooner heard the merchant's tale than he too fell down dead in his cage.

The merchant, after lamenting his death, took his corpse out of the cage and threw it away; but, to his surprise, the corpse immediately recovered life, and flew away, explaining that the Hindustani parrot had only feigned death to suggest this way of escaping from confinement in a cage.


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"The Indian Parrot" (trans. Coleman Barks)
There was a merchant setting out for India.
He asked each male and female servant
what they wanted to be brought as a gift.
Each told him a different exotic object:
A piece of silk, a brass figurine,
a pearl necklace.
Then he asked his beautiful caged parrot,
the one with such a lovely voice,
and she said,
"When you see the Indian parrots,
describe my cage. Say that I need guidance
here in my separation from them. Ask how
our friendship can continue with me so confined
and them flying about freely in the meadow mist.
Tell them that I remember well our mornings
moving together from tree to tree.
Tell them to drink one cup of ecstatic wine
in honor of me here in the dregs of my life.
Tell them that the sound of their quarreling
high in the trees would be sweeter
to hear than any music."
This parrot is the spirit-bird in all of us,
that part that wants to return to freedom,
and is the freedom. What she wants
from India is herself!
So this parrot gave her message to the merchant,
and when he reached India, he saw a field
full of parrots. He stopped
and called out what she had told him.
One of the nearest parrots shivered
and stiffened and fell down dead.
The merchant said, "This one is surely kin
to my parrot. I shouldn't have spoken."
He finished his trading and returned home
with the presents for his workers.
When he got to the parrot, she demanded her gift.
"What happened when you told my story
to the Indian parrots?"
"I'm afraid to say."
"Master, you must!"
"When I spoke your complaint to the field
of chattering parrots, it broke
one of their hearts.
She must have been a close companion,
or a relative, for when she heard about you
she grew quiet and trembled, and died."
As the caged parrot heard this, she herself
quivered and sank to the cage floor.
This merchant was a good man.
He grieved deeply for his parrot, murmuring
distracted phrases, self-contradictory -
cold, then loving - clear, then
murky with symbolism.
A drowning man reaches for anything!
The Friend loves this flailing about
better than any lying still.
The One who lives inside existence
stays constantly in motion,
and whatever you do, that king
watches through the window.
When the merchant threw the "dead" parrot
out of the cage, it spread its wings
and glided to a nearby tree!
The merchant suddenly understood the mystery.
"Sweet singer, what was in the message
that taught you this trick?"
"She told me that it was the charm
of my voice that kept me caged.
Give it up, and be released!"
The parrot told the merchant one or two more
spiritual truths. Then a tender goodbye.
"God protect you," said the merchant
"as you go on your new way.
I hope to follow you!"


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

what did the parrot ask his owner to do?
what did the wild parrots of India do when they heard the message from the captive parrot?
how did the captive parrot manage to escape his cage?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Young Ducks Raised by a Hen
Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

This story is very similar to Hans Christian Andersen's story of "The Ugly Duckling." In this case, though, the duck is just a duck - living in a world of chickens! Instead of turning into a swan, this is a duck who needs to find his way to the Ocean!
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The Young Ducks Raised by a Hen (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
Although a domestic fowl may have taken thee,
Who art a duckling, under her wing and nurtured thee,
Thy mother was a duck of that ocean,
Thy nurse was earthy, and her wing dry land.
The longing for the ocean which fills thy heart, -
That natural lodging of thy soul comes from thy mother.

Thy longing for dry land comes to thee from thy nurse;
Quit thy nurse, for she will lead thee astray.
Leave thy nurse on the dry land and push on,
Enter the ocean of real Being, like the ducks!
Though thy nurse may frighten thee away from water,
Do thou fear not, but haste on into the ocean!

Thou art a duck, and flourishest on land and water,
And dost not, like a domestic fowl, dig up the house.
The noise of thunder makes the head of the thirsty ache;
When he knows not that it unlocks the blessed showers.
His eyes are fixed on the running stream,
Unwitting of the sweetness of the rain from heaven.
He urges the steed of his desire towards the caused,
And perforce remains shut off from the Causer.
Whoso beholds the Causer face to face,
How can he set his heart on things caused on earth?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"The Ocean Duck" (trans. Coleman Barks)
You're a wild Ocean-Duck
that has been raised with chickens!
Your true mother lived on the Ocean,
but your nurse was a domestic land-bird.
Your deepest soul-instincts are toward the Ocean.
Whatever land-moves you have
you learned from your nurse, the hen.
It's time now to join the ducks!
Your nurse will warn you about saltwater,
but don't listen! The Ocean's your home,
not that stinking henhouse.
You are a King, a son of Adam, who can tread water,
as well as the ground. Angels don't walk the earth,
and animals don't swim in the spiritual Ocean.
You're a man or a woman.
You do both. You stumble along, and you soar
in great circles through the sky.
We are waterbirds, my son.
The Ocean knows our language and hears us,
and replies. The sea is our Solomon.
Walk into that, and let the David-Water
make us lovely chain-mail with its ripples.
The Ocean is always around us, but sometimes
through vanity and forgetfulness we get seasick.
As thunder sometimes gives a thirsty man
a headache, when he forgets it's bringing rain.
He keeps hoping for something from the dry creek-bed.
Don't look to secondary causes!


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

who raised the baby duck?
where should the duck live?
what is the spiritual meaning that Rumi gives to the situation of the duck?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Three Fishes (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
There was in a secluded place a lake, which was fed by a running stream, and in this lake were three fishes, one very wise, the second half wise, and the third foolish. One day some fishermen passed by that lake, and having espied the fish, hastened home to fetch their nets.

The fish also saw the fishermen and were sorely disquieted. The very wise fish, without a minute's delay, quitted the lake and took refuge in the running stream which communicated with it, and thus escaped the impending danger. The half wise fish delayed doing anything till the fishermen actually made their appearance with their nets. He then floated upon the surface of the water, pretending to be dead, and the fishermen took him up and threw him into the stream, and by this device he saved his life. But the foolish fish did nothing but swim wildly about, and was taken and killed by the fishermen.

The wise man is he who possesses a torch of his own;
He is the guide and leader of the caravan.
That leader is his own director and light;
That illuminated one follows his own lead.
He is his own protector; do ye also seek protection
From that light whereon his soul is nurtured.

The second, he, namely, who is half wise,
Knows the wise man to be the light of his eyes.
He clings to the wise man like a blind man to his guide,
So as to become possessed of the wise man's sight.

But the fool, who has no particle of wisdom,
Has no wisdom of his own, and quits the wise man.
He knows nothing of the way, great or small,
And is ashamed to follow the footsteps of the guide.
He wanders into the boundless desert,
Sometimes halting and despairing, sometimes running.
He has no lamp wherewith to light himself on his way,
Nor half a lamp which might recognise and seek light.
He lacks wisdom, so as to boast of being alive,
And also half wisdom, so as to assume to be dead.

That half wise one became as one utterly dead
In order to rise up out of his degradation.
If you lack perfect wisdom, make yourself as dead
Under the shadow of the wise, whose words give life.
The fool is neither alive so as to companion with Isa, [=Jesus]
Nor yet dead so as to feel the power of Isa's breath.
His blind soul wanders in every direction,
And at last makes a spring, but springs not upwards.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(trans. Coleman Barks)
This is the story of the lake and the three big fish
that were in it, one of them intelligent,
another half-intelligent,
and the third, stupid.
Some fishermen came to the edge of the lake
with their nets. The three fish saw them.
The intelligent fish decided at once to leave,
to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean.
He thought,
"I won't consult with these two on this.
They will only weaken my resolve, because they love
this place so. They call it home. Their ignorance
will keep them here."
When you're traveling, ask a traveler for advice,
not someone whose lameness keeps him in one place.
Muhammad says,
"Love of one's country
is part of the faith."
But don't take that literally!
Your real "country" is where you're heading,
not where you are.
Don't misread that hadith.
In the ritual ablutions, according to tradition,
there's a separate prayer for each body part.
When you snuff water up your nose to cleanse it,
beg for the scent of the spirit. The proper prayer is,
"Lord, wash me. My hand has washed this part of me,
but my hand can't wash my spirit.
I can wash this skin,
but you must wash me."
A certain man used to say the wrong prayer
for the wrong hole. He'd say the nose-prayer
when he splashed his behind. Can the odor of heaven
come from our rumps? Don't be humble with fools.
Don't take pride into the presence of a master.
It's right to love your home place, but first ask,
"Where is that, really?"
The wise fish saw the men and their nets and said,
"I'm leaving."
Ali was told a secret doctrine by Muhammad
and told not to tell it, so he whispered it down
the mouth of a well. Sometimes there's no one to talk to.
You must just set out on your own.
So the intelligent fish made its whole length
a moving footprint and, like a deer the dogs chase,
suffered greatly on its way, but finally made it
to the edgeless safety of the sea.
The half-intelligent fish thought,
"My guide
has gone. I ought to have gone with him,
but I didn't, and now I've lost my chance
to escape.
I wish I'd gone with him."
Don't regret what's happened. If it's in the past,
let it go. Don't even remember it!
[...].
Back to the second fish,
the half-intelligent one.
He mourns the absence of his guide for a while,
and then thinks, "What can I do to save myself
from these men and their nets? Perhaps if pretend
to be already dead!
I'll belly up on the surface
and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally
to the water. To die before I die, as Muhammad
said to."
So he did that.
He bobbed up and down, helpless,
within arm's reach of the fishermen.
"Look at this! The best and biggest fish
is dead."
One of the men lifted him by the tail,
spat on him, and threw him up on the ground.
He rolled over and over and slid secretly near
the water, and then, back in.
Meanwhile,
the third fish, the dumb one, was agitatedly
jumping about, trying to escape with his agility
and cleverness.
The net, of course, finally closed
around him, and as he lay in the terrible
frying-pan bed, he thought,
"If I get out of this,
I'll never live again in the limits of a lake.
Next time, the ocean! I'll make
the infinite my home."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

How did the wisest of the fish get away?
How did the half-wise fish escape?
What happened to the foolish fish?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Counsels of the Bird
Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

This Arabic fable became popular in the Middle Ages throughout Europe, thanks to a Latin translation by Petrus Alphonsi, a famous Arabic writer and physician, who served at the court of King Alfonso VI of Spain. In 1106 Petrus converted to Christianity and he later wrote the Disciplina clericalis, a collection of "tales for preachers" in Latin, based on popular Arabic folktales. This story of the wise bird was one of the stories that Petrus translated into Latin, and from his book it spread throughout all of western Europe.
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The Counsels of the Bird (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
A man captured a bird by wiles and snares;
The bird said to him, "O noble sir,
In your time you have eaten many oxen and sheep,
And likewise sacrificed many camels;
You have never been satisfied with their meat,
So you will not be satisfied with my flesh.
Let me go, that I may give you three counsels,
Whence you will see whether I am wise or foolish.
The first of my counsels shall be given on your wrist,
The second on your well-plastered roof,
And the third I will give you from the top of a tree.
On hearing all three you will deem yourself happy.

As regards the counsel on your wrist, 'tis this, -
'Believe not foolish assertions of any one!' "
When he had spoken this counsel on his wrist, he flew
Up to the top of the roof, entirely free.

Then he said, "Do not grieve for what is past;
When a thing is done, vex not yourself about it."

He continued, "Hidden inside this body of mine
Is a precious pearl, ten drachms in weight.
That jewel of right belonged to you,
Wealth for yourself and prosperity for your children.
You have lost it, as it was not fated you should get it,
That pearl whose like can nowhere be found."

Thereupon the man, like a woman in her travail,
Gave vent to lamentations and weeping.

The bird said to him, "Did I not counsel you, saying,
'Beware of grieving over what is past and gone?'
When 'tis past and gone, why sorrow for it?
Either you understood not my counsel or are deaf.
The second counsel I gave you was this, namely,
'Be not misguided enough to believe foolish assertions.'
O fool, altogether I do not weigh three drachms,
How can a pearl of ten drachms be within me?"

The man recovered himself and said, "Well then,
Tell me now your third good counsel!"

The bird replied, "You have made a fine use of the others,
That I should waste my third counsel upon you!
To give counsel to a sleepy ignoramus
Is to sow seeds upon salt land.
Torn garments of folly and ignorance cannot be patched.
O counsellors, waste not the seed of counsel on them!"


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(trans. Coleman Barks)
A certain man caught a bird in a trap.
The bird says, "Sir, you have eaten many cows and sheep
in your life, and you're still hungry. The little bit
of meat on my bones won't satisfy you either.
If you let me go, I'll give you three pieces of wisdom.
One I'll say standing on your hand. One on your roof.
And one I'll speak from the limb of that tree."
The man was interested. He freed the bird and let it stand
on his hand.
"Number One: Do not believe an absurdity,
no matter who says it."
The bird flew and lit on the man's roof. "Number Two:
Do not grieve over what is past. It's over.
Never regret what has happened."
"By the way," the bird continued, "in my body there's a huge
pearl weighing as much as ten copper coins. It was meant
to be the inheritance of you and your children,
but now you've lost it. You could have owned
the largest pearl in existence, but evidently
it was not meant to be."
The man started wailing like a woman in childbirth.
The bird said: "Didn't I just say, Don't grieve
for what's in the past? And also: Don't believe
an absurdity? My entire body doesn't weight
as much as ten copper coins. How could I have
a pearl that heavy inside me?"
The man came to his senses. "All right.
Tell me Number Three."
"Yes. You've made such good use of the first two!"
Don't give advice to someone who's groggy
and falling asleep. Don't throw seeds on the sand.
Some torn places cannot be patched.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

why does the man let the bird go?
what kind of advice does the bird give to the man?
how does the bird show that the man is incapable of putting good advice to use?
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nur



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Tree of Knowledge and The Grapes (trans. E.H. Whinfield)
Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

Both of the stories you will find on this page teach the lesson of the unity of all things, beyond the diversity of their different manifestations. Remember the elephant who was a "fan" and a "throne" and a "temple"...? Both of the stories you will read here - the story of the tree, and the story of the grapes - are very similar to that story of the elephant...
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A certain wise man related that in Hindustan there was a tree of such wonderful virtues that whosoever ate of its fruit lived forever. Hearing this, a king deputed one of his courtiers to go in quest of it. The courtier accordingly proceeded to Hindustan, and travelled all over that country, inquiring of every one he met where this tree was to be found. Some of these people professed their entire ignorance, others joked with him, and others gave him false information; and, finally, he had to return to his country with his mission unaccomplished.

He then, as a last resource, betook himself to the sage who had first spoken of the tree, and begged for further information about it, and the sage replied to him as follows:

The Shaikh laughed and said to him, "O friend,
This is the tree of knowledge, O knowing one;
Very high, very fine, very expansive,
The very water of life from the circumfluent ocean.
Thou hast run after form, O ill-informed one,
Wherefore thou lackest the fruit of the tree of substance.
Sometimes it is named tree, sometimes sun,
Sometimes lake, and sometimes cloud.
'Tis one, though it has thousands of manifestations;
Its least manifestation is eternal life!
Though 'tis one, it has a thousand manifestations,
The names that fit that one are countless.
That one is to thy personality a father,
In regard to another person He may be a son.
In relation to another He may be wrath and vengeance,
In relation to another, mercy and goodness.
He has thousands of names, yet is One, -
Answering to all of His descrptions, yet indescribable.
Every one who seeks names, if he is a man of credulity,
Like thee, remains hopeless and frustrated of his aim.
Why cleavest thou to this mere name of tree,
So that thou art utterly balked and disappointed?
Pass over names and look to qualities,
So that qualities may lead thee to essence!
The difference of sects arise from His names;
When they pierce to His essence they find His peace!"

Four persons, a Persian, an Arab, a Turk, and a Greek, were travelling together, and they received a present of a dirhem. The Persian said he would buy "angur" with it, the Arab said he would buy "inab", while the Turk and the Greek were for buying "unum" and "astaphil", respectively.

Now all these words mean one and the same thing - "grapes" - but owing to their ignorance of each other's languages, they fancied they each wanted to buy something different, and accordingly a violent quarrel arose between them.

At last a wise man who knew all their languages came up and explained to them that they were all wishing for one and the same thing.


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Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

why did the man sent to seek the tree with the fruit of eternal life fail in his quest?
what advice does the wise man give him?
why did the men argue about angur, inab, unumand astaphil?
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