Friday, April 03, 2009

Take Off Your Watch, Your Rings And All

Photo: Bob Hosh

Yesterday, Minstrel Boy told me a story that reminded me of another about Mullah Nasrudin, the Sufis' Wise Fool. I spent a little time looking for this Nasrudin story online, but I'm not going to find it. It's from one of Idries Shah's collections, so out of print even Alibris scoffs at my search. Someone from the commune gave them to me for my birthday when I turned 13. It was quite some time before I knew how lucky that made me. Online, though, one can find some delightful stories. Wikibooks:
Who died?
A traveler was passing through town when he came upon a huge funeral procession. Nasrudin was on a corner watching the people pass by.

"Who died?" the traveler asked Nasrudin.

"I'm not sure," replied Nasrudin, "but I think it's the one in the coffin."

In this format, some stories come with the lessons spelled out.
* Language is imprecise and we can sometimes miss the context of a question.
* Speak only the truth you know.
* Once somebody is dead, it matters little who they were in life.

Fantastic! Even I might learn something!
The Nature of the Unseen
It seems that the Master of Mirth and Chief of the Dervishes, Nasrudin, was once called to pontificate on the 'Nature of Allah' in the local mosque. Present were the many Imams and Doctors of the Islamic Law. Out of courtesy and because Nasrudin could not be counted on saying anything worthwhile, these illustrious guests explained and inspired the audience with their eloquence and wisdom.

Finally it was Nasrudin's turn to explain 'the Nature of Allah'.

"Allah ...", started Nasrudin impressively "is ..."

Nasrudin removed and held up an ovoid mauve vegetable from the folds of his turban, " ... an aubergine."

There was uproar at this blasphemy. When order was finally established, Nasrudin was reluctantly asked to explain his words.

"I conclude that everyone has spoken of what they do not know or have not seen. We can all see this aubergine. Is there anyone who can deny that Allah is manifest in all things?"

Nobody could.

"Very well," said Nasrudin, "Allah is an aubergine."

I love this guy!
* Don't talk about things you don't know about.
* If you can't see god in all, you can't see god at all.
* A fool can make a fool of learned men.
* The wisdom of the lord is the folly of men, and the folly of men is the wisdom of the lord.
* People know as much about god as a chick that is still inside the egg.
* Wise men can be trumped by a vegetable.
* Religious people do not really believe the things they say and think they believe.
* No description is equivalent to the thing it describes. To do so it would have to be the thing itself. Therefore, one can demonstrate but not describe the nature of Allah.

Wise men can be trumped by a vegetable. That explains a lot, I think.
Audience with the King
Nasrudin returned to his village from the imperial capital, and the villagers gathered around to hear what had passed. "At this time," said Nasrudin, "I only want to say that the King spoke to me." All the villagers but the stupidest ran off to spread the wonderful news. The remaining villager asked, "What did the King say to you?" "What he said - and quite distinctly, for everyone to hear - was 'Get out of my way!'" The simpleton was overjoyed; he had heard words actually spoken by the King, and seen the very man they were spoken to.

Imagine the progress we might make if these stories were taught for five minutes out of every news hour. Just...imagine.


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