Never underestimate

This story is from Sa’di, in the book Gulistan (The Flower Garden):
A king of Persia had a very precious stone in a ring. On a certain occasion he went out with some of his favorite courtiers to amuse himself to the mosque near Shiraz, called Musalla. The king commanded his men to suspend the ring over the dome of Azad, and said that the ring will become the property of the man who can send an arrow through it.
Four hundred archers who plied their bows in his service shot at the ring. All of them missed. A youth at play was shooting arrows at random from a monastery, when the morning breeze carried his shaft through the circle of the ring.
The king gave him the ring, and his men presented the youth with several gifts. After receiving the gifts, the youth burned his bow and arrows. The king asked him why he did so, and he replied, “So that my first glory may remain unchanged.”
Well,  the sage whose bright mind mirrors truth, may sometimes wander wide of it:
While by mistake, the simple youth, may, with his shaft, the hit the target.

Never underestimate anything.

The Tale of Two Streets

This story was narrated by Sheikh Qalandar Shah, in his book, “Asrar-i-Khilwatia” (Secrets of the Recluses):

Once upon a time there was a town composed of two parallel streets. A dervish passed through one street and into the other, and as he reached the second one, the people there noticed that his eyes were streaming with tears.

“Someone has died in the other street!” someone cried, and soon all the children in the neighborhood had taken up the cry.

But what had really happened was that the dervish had been peeling onions.

Within a short while, the cry had reached the first street. The adults of both streets were so distressed and fearful, that they dared not make complete inquiries as to the cause of the furor.

A wise man tried to reason with the people of both streets, asking why they did not question each other. Too confused to know what they meant, some said, “For all we know there is a deadly plague in the other street.”

This rumor, also spread like wildfire, until each street’s residents thought that the other was doomed, and soon both streets were evacuated and deserted.

Today, centuries later, the town is still deserted and not so far away are two villages. Each village has it’s own tradition of how it began as a settlement from a doomed town, through a fortunate flight, in remote times, from a nameless evil.

Who had the best dream?

Three travellers travelled together in a road. One day they realized that all they had, was a piece of bread and a mouthful of water in a flask. They fell to quarrelling as to who should have all the food. Finally they decided to sleep, and When they awoke, the person who had had the most remarkable dream would have the bread and water.

Next morning the three rose as the sun came up and the first traveller said, “This is my dream: I was carried away to places such as cannot be described, so wonderful and serene were they. I met a wise man who said to me, ‘You deserve the food.'”

“How strange,” said the second traveller. “For in my dream, I actually saw all my past and my future. In my future I saw a man of great knowledge, who said, ‘You deserve the bread more than your friends, for you are more learned and patient. You must be well-nurtured, for you are destined to lead men,'”

The third traveller said, “In my dream I saw nothing, heard nothing, said nothing. I felt a compelling presence which forced me to get up, find the bread and water, and consume them. And this is what I did.”

The two companions were very angry and demanded to know why he had not called them before he did so.

“But you were far from here! One of you was carried away to far places and the other to another time! How could you hear my calling?” he replied.

This story is attributed to Shah Mohammed GwathShattari, who was greatly esteemed by the Mughal Emperor Humayun. He died in 1563, and his shrine is at Gwalior, in India.

The Bones of Father Adam: A Palestinian Tale

There was a woodcutter who worked day and night.

At last he grew tired and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I will cut one last load of firewood and then look for the bones of our father Adam, who brought all this pain and trouble upon us, and burn them up.”

At that instant, God sent an angel to him. The angel asked him what he was doing, and the woodcutter told the angel what he had in mind.

The angel said, “What if someone frees you from all this work?”

The woodcutter replied, “Then I would forgive Adam.”

The angel said, “Then I will transport you to a garden where you will never have to work, but you must promise that no matter what you see there, you will not utter a single word.”

The woodcutter agreed, and the angel clapped her hands together. In a flash, the woodcutter found himself in a beautiful garden filled with tall trees, clear streams, and lots of delicious fruit. After a while, the woodcutter saw a man cutting wood. He was cutting the live branches from the trees and leaving the dead ones.

The woodcutter could not restrain himself from saying, “Mister, don’t you know that you should cut the dead branches and leave the live ones?”

The next instant the woodcutter was back near his village with his axe, and he began to wail and beat his breast in anguish.

Once again the angel appeared before him. The woodcutter said: “I promise I will not say a word if you let me go back”. So the angel clapped her hands and the woodcutter was back in the heavenly garden.

After a while, the woodcutter saw a gazelle running through the garden and an old man hobbling after it. Without thinking, the woodcutter shouted, “That gazelle is swift and you are old. You will never suceed catching it!”

The next instant, the woodcutter was back at his woodpile. Again he wailed and moaned, and once more the angel returned.

“Please have pity on me,” said the woodcutter, “If you give me one more chance, may I be cursed if I speak again.”

The angel agreed, and in an instant the woodcutter was back in the heavenly garden. The woodcutter remained silent for three days, but then he saw four men struggling to move the millstone of an oil press. They would all lift the millstone on one side and it would topple over onto the other side. Then they would move to the other side and repeat the same process. The woodcutter lost his controle and shouted: “Men, if you want to carry that millstone, you should lift it from all sides!”

And the next instant the woodcutter was back at his woodpile. The woodcutter wailed and wailed, and once more the angel appeared in front of him. The woodcutter begged and pleaded to return to the heavenly garden, but the angel said, “Your father Adam only sinned once. You have committed sin upon sin upon sin, so your place shall be here among the firewood until the end of your days.”

The woodcutter placed the blame on Adam, but when he was given the opportunity to live a better life, he was made to realize how easy it is to sin.

Angur, enab or grape? A story from Rumi

A story from Jalaludin Rumi’s Mathnavi:
Once upon a time long ago, a famous wealthy man passed by a town. He stopped his caravan outside a busy restaurant and motioned to four people to approach him. they rushed toward him, and he presented them with a gold coin and said, “This money is to be shared amongst you,” and then he went on his way.

The first was a Persian and he said, “With this money I will buy some angur!”

The second was an Arab and she said, “No, you can’t because I want to buy inab!”
The third was a Turk and he said, “I don’t want inab, I want uzum!”
The fourth was a Greek and she said, “I don’t want what any of you want, I want to buy stafil!”
Since they did not know what lay behind the names of things, the four started to fight. They had information, but no knowledge.
Luckily, a wise man was on his way to the restaurant. He paused to see what was going on and then asked them, “What is the problem here?”
They told him and he said, “Ah! I can fulfill the wishes of all of you with one and the same gold coin. If you honestly give me your trust, your one gold coin will become as four, and four at odds will become as one united.”
Only a person of such wisdom would know that each in his and her own language wanted the same thing – grapes. So happens to many cultures, ideas, religions, that have many things in common, but they are not aware of it.

Nasrudin and his riddle

One day, Nasrudin, the great sufi mystic who always pretended to be a fool, put an egg in a bag, went to a small town and gathered people around himself:

“There is a contest today” he said: “If any one among you tells me what I’ve got in this bag, I will give him the eggs inside it!”

People looked at each other astonished, and then answered together: “Nasrudin, we can not say, we are not fortune tellers!”

Then Nasrudin said:”In this bag, I have something that has a center, yellow as the bright rising sun, and it is covered by a white surrounding, as the clouds who embrasse the sun, it is a symbol of reproduction and reminds us of the birds flying to their nests to feed their youngs. Who can tell me what it is?”

People talked for a time, and then they consulted the wisest men in the town, and after a few days, they said: “We found it! It is an egg!”

Most of the times, the answers to our questions are presented to us so generously, but we always look for complicated explanations for our simple questions.

Gems from the Middle East: Bozorgmehr, 1

Bozorgmehr, the ancient Iranian sage says:

“I have faced many enemies, but none of them were worse than my own self; I faught many rivals, but none of them could conquer me; unless my own evil friends; I ate many good things and fell in love with many beauties, but I found notting more pleasing than my health; I was beated and hurt many times, but notting was more hurting as an evil word comming from the mouth of a good man, I gave many charities, but none of my charities were better than guiding a lost man to the righous path; I was pleased by being near the kings and recieving their gifts, but I found nothing better than escaping from them.”

What would have happened to you? (Tales from the Middle East)

Two friends were walking in a road, and one of them carried an umbrella. Then an intense rain began. The man who had the umbrella told the other one: “Come under this umbrella, otherwise you will get wet.”

So they both continued their way under the same umbrella. The owner of the umbrella said: “Do you know what would have happened to you had I not invited you to walk under my umbrella?”

“I would have become totally wet, thank you for helping me.”

They walked for a while, and then the owner of the umbrella repeated his question, and the other one repeated his answer. And then he repeated his question for the third time, and the man gave him the same answer.

At that time they were beside a river bank. The owner of the umbrella asked again: “Do you know what would have happened to you had I not invited you under my umbrella?”

This time, the other one jumped into the river and came out totaly wet…

“This would have happened to me!”