Monthly Archives: April 2018
When he was young, Mullah Nasruddin’s father wanted to train him to take over the family business, which in this story was minding the burial shirine of a Sufi saint. Pilgrims usually tipped the guardian of the shrine, and this could slowly amount to a living. For one reason or another, Mullah was not catching on very well, so his father gave him some time to go on a journey to the East with his favorite donkey.
Far from home, Mullah’s donkey suddenly died, and he was so distraught that he buried the donkey, and then sat down and began to cry. And cry. Soon other people began to pass by, and asked Mullah what had happened. But he could only cry.
“This must be the grave of some really great saing!” said one to another, and they sat down and began to pray and meditate. A few weeks later, there was a crowd. One very enterprising and pious person organized to collect money to build a shrine around the grave, where more people could gather.
At this point, Mullah’s father became worried about what had happened to him. After months of searching, he finally found him. Mullah explained to his father what had happened, and his father whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry, my son, the same thing happened to me. That’s how I got into the shrine business.”
Driven by the need to achieve, we often ignore and overwork the inner more instinctive parts of our selves.. If we listened, we might realize that we need to respect certain limits if we want our bodies to stay healthy and so help us fulfill our heart’s desire. Here’s a Sufi story that illustrates this point:
Mullah Nasruddin decided that he would like to get into a new line of work: raising donkeys. He consulted with all the best minds and found that the main expense in the business was food. So he decided that the way to increase his profit margin would simply be to feed the donkey less.
He began to train his first donkey by starting with a normal meal, then slowly, day by day, cutting down the donkey’s ration. At first, it seemed to work. The donkey actually looked better after a few days and Mullah was encouraged, so he gradually reduced the donkey’s food more. However, just as gradually the donkey started to look more and more unhappy, weaker and weaker. Finally it couldn’t even stand. And then it died.
“Too bad,” said Mullah, “If it had just held out a bit longer I would have trained it to live on nothing.”
One day a neighbor found Mullah Nasruddin sitting in a tree in his garden, in the process of sawing off the limb on which he was sitting.
“Mullah, you’d better stop, otherwise you’ll fall down,” said the neighbor, then went back inside his house. Sure enough, Mullah kept sawing, the limb broke, and he fell. Mullah ran next door and pounded on his neighbor’s door.
“O, great one, please forgive me,” said Mullah, “I didn’t know I had a psychic for a neighbor! Could you please predict what will happen to me tomorrow?”
The neighbor tried to deny that he could predict the future, saying that what he had told Mullah was just common sense. But Mullah wouldn’t listen and kept after him. Finally, the neighbor became exasperated and said, “Mullah, for heaven’s sake, for all I care you can drop dead tomorrow!”
The next morning, Mullah woke and said to his wife, “Our neighbor is a psychic and he told me that I would drop dead today, so I have to prepare.” He took his donkey along for company and went to the graveyard, then dug a grave for himself and lay down in it. As the day ended, he was still lying there and thought, “I must be dead now. This isn’t really so bad!”
Then a pack of dogs came by and started harassing his donkey. The donkey began to bray and make a racket. Finally, Mullah yelled from the grave, “You dogs – get out of here! If I weren’t dead I’d get out of my grave and give you a thrashing!”
The Sufis often begin something new by breathing the Arabic word bismillah, which can be translated poetically:
We begin by remembering
the sound and feeling of the One Being,
the wellspring of love.
We affirm that the next thing we experience
shimmers with the light of the whole universe.
I looked for my self, but my self,
but my self was gone.
The boundaries of my being
had disappeared in the sea.
Waves broke. Awareness rose again,
And a voice returned me to myself
It always happens like this.
Sea turns on itself and foams,
and with every foaming bit
another body, another being takes form.
And when the sea sends word,
each foaming body
melts back to ocean-breath.
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