The Time, The Place, The People

achaemenid-archers-glazed-brick-susa-c-500-bce The time, the place, the peopleSince I quoted this story, more or less, in the previous post, it seemed like a good idea to share this story in its entirety. This is one of a number of stories I have shared from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah collected this tale from the teaching of Sayed Imam Ali Shah, who died in 1860. Unlike King Hatim Tai, I have no historical reference for the singer Daud of Sahil mentioned in the story. You should obtain a cup of coffee or a comparable beverage before starting.

The time, the place, the people

In ancient times there was a king who called a dervish to him and said:

“The dervish path, through a succession of masters reaching back in unbroken succession to the earliest days of man, has always provided the light which has been the motivating cause of the very values of which my kingship is but a wan reflection.”

The dervish answered: “It is so.”

“Now,” said the king, “since I am so enlightened as to know the foregoing facts, eager and willing to learn the truths which you, in your superior wisdom, can make available – teach me!”

“Is that a command or a request?” asked the dervish.

“It is whatever you make of it,” said the king, “for if it will work as a command, I shall learn. If it operates successfully as a request, I shall learn.”

And he waited for the dervish to speak.

Many minutes passed, and at length the dervish lifted his head from the attitude of contemplation and said:

“You must await the moment of transmission.”

This confused the king, for, after all, if he wanted to learn he felt he had a right to be told, or shown, something or other.

The dervish left the court.

After that, day after day, the dervish continued to attend upon the king. Day in and day out the affairs of state were transacted, the kingdom passed through times of joy and trial, the counselors of state gave their advice, the wheel of heaven revolved.

“The dervish comes here every day,” thought the king, each time he caught sight of the figure in the patched cloak, “and yet he never refers to our conversation about learning. True, he takes part in many of the activities of the court; he talks and he laughs, he eats and he, no doubt, sleeps. Is he waiting for a sign of some kind?” But, try as he might, the king was unable to plumb the depths of this mystery.

At length, when the appropriate wave of the unseen lapped upon the shore of possibility, a conversation was taking place at court. Someone was saying: “Daud of Sahil is the greatest singer in the world.”

And the king, although ordinarily this sort of statement did not move him, conceived a powerful desire to hear this singer.

“Have him brought before me,” he commanded.

The master of ceremonies was sent to the singer’s house, but Daud, monarch among singers, merely replied: “This king of yours knows little of the requirements of singing. If he wants me just to look at my face, I will come. But if he wants to hear me sing, he will have to wait, like everyone else, until I am in the right mood to do so. It is knowing when to perform and when not which has made me, as it would make any ass which knew the secret, into a great singer.”

When this message was taken to the king, he alternated between wrath and desire, and called out: “Is there nobody here who will force this man to sing for me? For, if he only sings when the mood takes him, I, for my part, wish to hear him while I still want to hear him.”

It was then that the dervish stepped forward and said:

“Peacock of the age, come with me to visit this singer.”

The courtiers nudged one another. Some thought that the dervish had been playing a deep game, and was now gambling on making the singer perform. If he succeeded, the king would surely reward him. But they remained silent, for they feared a possible challenge.

Without a word the king stood up and commanded a poor garment to be brought. Putting it on, he followed the dervish into the street.

The disguised king and his guide soon found themselves at the singer’s house. When they knocked, Daud called down:

“I am not singing today, so go away and leave me in peace.”

At this the dervish, seating himself upon the ground, began to sing. He sang Daud’s favorite piece, and he sang it right through, from beginning to end.

The king, who was no great connoisseur, was very much moved by the song, and his attention was diverted to the sweetness of the dervish’s voice. He did not know that the dervish had sung the song slightly off-key deliberately, in order to awaken a desire to correct it in the heart of the master-singer.

“Please, please, do sing it again,” begged the king, “for I have never heard such a sweet melody.”

But at that moment Daud himself began to sing. At the first notes the dervish and the king were as men transfixed, and their attention was riveted to the notes as they flowed faultlessly from the throat of the nightingale of Sahil.

When the song was finished, the king sent a lavish present to Daud. To the dervish he said “Man of wisdom! I admire your skill in provoking the Nightingale to perform, and I would like to make you an adviser at the court.”

But the dervish simply said, “Majesty, you can hear the song you wish only if there is a singer, if you are present, and there is someone to form the channel for the performance of the song. As it is with master-singers and kings, so it is with dervishes and their students. The time, the place, the people and the skills.”

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

“We’re Going To Need A Bigger Room”

Marshall Vian Summers in Siem Reap, Cambodia We're going to need a bigger roomMarshall Vian Summers spoke briefly at the 2014 Encampment of the New Message from God. He gave a brief blessing at the end of the first day. On the second day, he read a page from his book Secrets of Heaven, then said “That’s my teaching for tonight.”

We’re going to need a bigger room

He compared his journey to that of the character Mojud in the dervish tale “The Man with the Inexplicable Life.”. Mojud was guided by a mysterious, benevolent teacher with great wisdom and mystic knowledge. He was guided to go to places he had never been, and to do things he had never done. And as he went to these places and did these things, certain miraculous things started to happen. Sometime around the time Marshall referred to this story, he said “Heaven needs to know that I’m reliable.”

On the evening of the third day, he opened himself a little to questions from the attendees. His answers were relatively succinct. But he said something that evening that struck me like a bomb, and still does when I recall it. He asked “What is 4% of the 7 point something population of the world?” I foolishly shouted out “28 million!” It turns out I was low by an order of magnitude. It was actually 280 million. After the 280,000,000 was confirmed, Marshall, with a slightly mischievous grin, calmly said “We’re going to need a bigger room” to great laughter.

I realize that some might consider that remark to be highly ambitious. On the other hand, he didn’t set a deadline, so he might be referring to sometime in the future. But there is a phrase ringing and singing in my soul, and that phrase is “The world is ‘here,’ the future is ‘now.'” What do we need to get to 280,000,000? Multiple miracles. Perhaps that’s what the Step 28 prayer of Steps to Knowledge was referring to when it said, “I accept the miracles of my life as a demonstration of the presence of Knowledge…” All I know is that if 4% of the world engaged with the New Message from God, humanity would be a much better, much stronger race.

We’re going to need a bigger room. I’m going to lie down for a while.

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Whether A Ruby Or A Pebble…

Some rubies from Burma. Whether a ruby or a pebble

Sharing the tale of “The Merchant and the Christian Dervish” serves a number of happy intentions for me.

Whether a ruby or a pebble

I wish to share something of the life of Jalaludin Rumi. I have shared a number of his poems so far. I will most likely share more in the future. But Rumi insisted that he was more than a poet. He told his audiences that like a good host, he gave them poetry because they demanded it, providing what was asked for. But he declared poetry to be tripe compared with a certain high development of the individual. I would like to take this idea a step further, claim that Rumi is one of those rare individuals who attained to Knowledge, and demonstrated its outward manifestations.

To me, this story offers certain hints and clues as to the secret aqueduct by which the influence of Rumi came to the West.

A rich merchant of Tabriz came to Konia, looking for the wisest man there, for he was in trouble. After trying to get advice from the religious leaders, the lawyers, and others, he heard of Rumi, to whom he was taken.

Tabriz, Iran to Konya, Turkey. Whether a ruby or a pebbleHe took with him 50 gold pieces as an offering. When he saw the Maulana in the audition-hall, he was overcome with emotion.

[The Arabic word “maula” has multiple connotations, including master, lord, protector, patron, client, charge, friend, companion, and associate. Adding “na” at the end of a noun signifies first person plural possessive. The title “Maulana” is used as an honorific.]

Jalaludin said to him “Your fifty coins are accepted. But you have lost two hundred, which is why you are here. God has punished you and is showing you something. Now all will be well with you.”

The merchant was amazed at what the Maulana knew. Rumi continued: “You have had many troubles because one day in the far west of Christendom you saw a Christian dervish lying in the street. You spat at him. Go to him and ask forgiveness, and give him our salutations.”

St. Francis of Assisi, painted by El Greco. Whether a ruby or a pebble

[I consider the phrase “Christian dervish” to signify a mendicant friar, a member of a religious order which by vow of poverty renounces all proprietorship both individually and in common. Mendicant friars rely for support on their own work and the charity of the faithful. The Friars Minor, founded by St. Francis of Assisi, pictured above, is an instance of a mendicant order.]

As the merchant stood terrified at the reading of his mind, Jalaludin said “Shall we show him to you now?” He touched the wall of the room, and the merchant saw the scene of the saint in the marketplace in Europe. He reeled away from the Master’s presence, completely nonplussed.

Traveling as fast as he could to the Christian sage, he found him lying prostrate on the ground. As he approached him, the Frankish dervish said “Our master Jalal has communicated with me.”

[Franks ruled a great deal of western Europe at the time of this story. The Merovingian and Carolingian empires of Europe were Frankish empires.]

The merchant looked in the direction in which the dervish was pointing, and saw, as in a picture, Jalaludin chanting such words as these: “Whether a ruby or a pebble, there is a place on His hill, there is a place for all…”

The merchant carried back the greeting of the Frankish saint to Jalal, and settled down in the community of dervishes at Konia.

Idries Shah writes “In the East there is considerable traditional insistence upon his [Rumi’s] close connection with western mystics and thinkers. This version of ‘The Merchant and the Christian Dervish’ is translated from Aflaki’s Munaqib el-Arifin, the lives of early Mevlevi dervishes, completed in 1353.” Rumi’s disciples founded the Mevlevi order of dervishes, and it exists to this day.

In the greater scheme of things, I consider myself but a pebble contemplating the great mountain, I take great comfort in Rumi’s words, that whether a ruby or a pebble, there is a place on His hill, there is a place for all.

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

A Tale of Generous King Hatim Tai

Basawan_-_Alexander_Visits_the_Sage_Plato A story by Amir Khorso, who wrote a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

I was under the impression until today that Hatim Tai was a fictional figure, as I had only heard of him in one of the stories in Tales of the Dervishes. Idries Shah collected the story “The King Who Decided to be Generous” from the book “The Tale of the Four Dervishes,” by Amir Khusro, written in the late 13th century. I believe Idries Shah found the tale worthy of collection because of the 1804 translation by Mir Amman into the ordinary Urdu language of his day. This tale is a little longer than the usual blog posts here. You might want to get a cup of coffee or tea before proceeding further.

A tale of generous King Hatim Tai

Hatim Tai was an Arabian king who lived during the 6th century. He is renowned for his generosity. I am told that Hatim Tai’s generosity excelled, in letter and in spirit, that of all other men.

Another Arabian king coveted the possessions, the villages and oases, the camels and the fighting-men of Hatim Tai. So this man declared war on Hatim, sending him a messenger with the declaration of war: “Yield to me, otherwise I shall surely overrun you and your lands, and possess myself of your sovereignty.”

A picture from King Hatim Tai's domain. A tale of generous King Hatim Tai.

When this message reached Hatim’s court, his advisers at once suggested that he mobilize the warriors in defense of his realm saying: “There is surely not an able-bodied man or woman among your followers who will not gladly lay down his life in defense of our beloved king.”

But Hatim, contrary to the expectation of the people, said:

“No, instead of your riding forth and shedding your blood for me, I shall flee. It would be far from the path of generosity if I were to become the cause of the sacrifice of a life of a single man or woman. If you yield peaceably, this king will content himself with taking only your services and rents, and you will have suffered no material loss. If, on the other hand, you resist, by the conventions of war he will be entitled to regard your possessions as booty, and if you lose the war you will be penniless.”

So saying, Hatim took only a stout staff and went into the near-by mountains, where he found a cave and sank himself in contemplation.

Half the people were deeply affected by the sacrifice of his wealth and position by Hatim Tai on their behalf. But others, especially those who sought to make a name for themselves on the field of valor, muttered: “How do we know that this man is not a simple coward?” And others, who had little courage, muttered against him saying: “He has, in a sense, saved himself; for he has abandoned us to a fate which is unknown to us. Perhaps we may become the slaves of this unknown king who is, after all, enough of a tyrant to declare war upon his neighbors.”

Others again, uncertain as to what to believe, remained silent, until they should have some means of making up their minds.

The invading tyrant is disturbed in a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

And so it was that the tyrant king, accompanied by his glittering hosts, took possession of Hatim Tai’s domain. He did not increase the taxes, he did not usurp for himself more than Hatim had taken from the people in exchange for being their protector and administrator of justice. But one thing disturbed him. It was the fact that he heard whispers that, although he had possessed himself of a new realm, yet it had been yielded up to him as an act of generosity by Hatim Tai. These were the words spoken by some of the people.

“I cannot be real master of this land,” declared the tyrant, “until I have captured Hatim Tai himself. While he lives, there is still a loyalty towards him in the hearts of some of these people. This means they are not completely my subjects, even though they behave outwardly as such.”

The tyrant offered a reward for the capture of Hatim Tai in a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

So he published an edict that whoever should bring him Hatim Tai would be rewarded with five thousand pieces of gold. Hatim Tai knew nothing of this until one day he was sitting outside his cave and he heard a conversation between a woodcutter and his wife.

The woodcutter said: “My dear wife, I am now old and you are much younger than I. We have small children, and in the natural order of events I may be expected to die before you and while the children are youngsters. If we could only find and capture Hatim Tai, for whom there is a reward of five thousand pieces of gold from the new king, your future would be secure.”

“Shame on you!” said his wife. “Better that you should die, and that I and our children should starve to death, than that our hands be stained with the blood of the most generous man of all time, who sacrificed all for our sake.”

“That is all very well,” said the old man, “but a man has to think of his own interests. I have, after all, responsibilities. And in any case, every day more and more people believe Hatim is a coward. It will only be a matter of time before they have searched every possible piece of cover for him.”

“The belief in Hatim’s cowardice is fueled by love of gold. Much more of this kind of talk and Hatim will have lived in vain.”

At that moment Hatim Tai stood up and revealed himself to the astonished pair. “I am Hatim Tai,” he said. “Take me to the new king and claim your reward.”

The old man was ashamed, and his eyes filled with tears. “No, great Hatim,” he said, “I cannot bring myself to do it.”

While they were arguing, a number of people, who had been searching for the fugitive king, gathered around.

“Unless you do so,” said Hatim, “I will surrender myself to the king and tell him that you have been hiding me. In that case, you will be executed for treason.”

The old woodcutter is between a rock and a hard place in a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

Realizing that this was Hatim, the mob moved forward, seized their former king, and carried him to the tyrant, with the woodcutter following miserably behind.

When they got to the court, each claimed that he had himself captured Hatim. The former king, seeing irresolution on the face of his successor, asked to be allowed to speak: “Know, O King, that my evidence should also be heard. I was captured by this old woodcutter and not by yonder mob. Give him, therefore, his reward, and do what you will with me…”

At this the woodcutter stepped forward and told the king the truth about Hatim’s having offered himself as a sacrifice for the future security of his family.

The new king was so overwhelmed by this story that he ordered his army to withdraw, placed Hatim Tai back on his throne, and retired to his own country.

 

I was sharing this tale with an elderly gentleman today, who suggested “You should put that on your blog.” I think he had a great idea. Hatim Tai’s tomb can be found near the city of Ha’il in Saudi Arabia.

I would like to put flowers on the grave of Hatim Tai. A tale of generous King Hatim Tai

To this day, there is a proverb among the Arabs, “more generous than Hatem” (Arabic: أكرم من حاتم). I take great joy in telling you a tale of generous King Hatim Tai.

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

The Horseman And The Snake

The-Young-Poet-Rumi-by-Skip-Noah Rumi wrote the story of The Horseman and the Snake

The Young Poet Rumi by Skip Noah

The Rumi story of the rider and the man who swallowed a snake first appears in Book 2 (out of 6) of the Mathnawi.  I have read two later versions of this story.  One of them is the 18th century version by Salim Abdali.  The other is the 20th century version by Coleman Barks, called “Jesus on the lean donkey.”  I am sharing the Salim Abdali version, found in the book “Tales of the Dervishes” by Idries Shah.

I am sharing this story because there is a section in the Coleman Barks version that captures the feeling I felt when I first wrote about Step 65 “I have come to work in the world” of Steps to Knowledge.  The line that skewers my soul is “God’s Silence is necessary, because of humankind’s faintheartedness.”  Here is the story.

The Horseman and the Snake

There is a proverb that the “opposition” of the man of knowledge is better than the “support” of the fool.

I, Salim Abdali, bear witness that this is true in the greater ranges of existence, as it is true in the lower levels.

This is made manifest in the tradition of the Wise, who have handed down the tale of the Horseman and the Snake.

A horseman from his point of vantage saw a poisonous snake slip down the throat of a sleeping man.  The horseman realized that if the man were allowed to sleep the venom would surely kill him.

Accordingly he lashed the sleeper until he was awake.  Having no time to lose, he forced this man to a place where there were a number of rotten apples lying upon the ground and made him eat them.  Then he made him drink large gulps of water from a stream.

All the while the other man was trying to get away, crying “What have I done, you enemy of humanity, that you should abuse me in this manner?”

Finally, when he was near to exhaustion, and dusk was falling, the man fell to the ground and vomited out the apples, the water, and the snake.  When he saw what had came out of him, he realized what had happened, and begged the forgiveness of the horseman.

This is our condition.  In reading this, do not take allegory for history, nor history for allegory. Those who are endowed with knowledge have responsibility.  Those who are not, have none beyond what they can conjecture.

The man who was saved said: “If you had told me, I would have accepted your treatment with a good grace.”

The horseman answered: “If I had told you, you would not have believed.  Or you would have been paralyzed by fright.  Or run away.  Or gone to sleep again, seeking forgetfulness. And there would not have been time.”

Spurring his horse, the mysterious rider rode away.

I read the tale of The Horseman and the Snake, and I cry out that my heart might be less faint.

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Three Pieces Of Advice

Perhaps this young man will receive three pieces of advice

This story is from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah.  I recalled this story when I wrote about Step 56 of Steps to Knowledge.  As I considered the general spirit of Step 56, I recalled one of the characters in this story.

This story was first found in the ILahi Nama (Divine Book) of Persian poet Farad Al Din Attar (1145-1220).

The story "Three Pieces of Advice" is found in the Divine Book of Farad al-Din Attar

Rumi put it in the Mathnawi (Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning) about 50 years later.

Three Pieces of Advice

A man once caught a bird.  The bird said to him. “I am of no use to you as a captive.  But let me free, and I will give you three valuable pieces of advice.”

Would you accept three pieces of advice from this bird?

The bird promised to give the first piece of advice while still in the man’s grasp, the second when he reached a branch, the third when he had gained the top of a mountain.

The man agreed, and asked for the first piece of advice.

The bird said:

“If you lose something, even if it be valued by you as much as life itself – do not regret it.”

Now the man let the bird go, and it hopped to a branch.

It continued with the second piece of advice:

“Never believe anything which is contrary to sense, without proof.”

Then the bird flew to the mountain-top.  From here it said:

“O unfortunate one!  Within me are two huge jewels, and if you had only killed me they would have been yours!”

The man was anguished at the thought of what he had lost, but he said, “At least now tell me the third piece of advice.”

The bird replied:

“What a fool you are, asking for more advice when you have not given thought to the first two pieces! I told you not to worry about what you had lost, and not to believe in something contrary to sense.  Now you are doing both.  You are believing something ridiculous and grieving because you have lost something!  I am not big enough to have inside me huge jewels.”

“You are a fool.  Therefore you must stay within the usual restrictions imposed on man.”

 

As I share this story, I recall the Bible proverb, “Like the useless legs of one who is lame, is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (Proverbs 26:7, New International Version)

Three pieces of advice?  Maybe we only need one: wake up!

*

* * *

Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.