Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE SPELL OF LIFE
ONE SOMETIMES wonders why God made man so weak that he is often liable to be bad, and one may even think that this is very unjust of God. But it is not so, and this point is very well explained in a story from the Arabian Nights.
There was a king who had a servant who was a great drunkard. Once, wishing to amuse himself, the king told the other servants to give the man a lot to drink and to put him into his own bed when he was completely overcome. When the day broke, there were musicians playing, as was the custom, and ten or twelve girls were singing in the king's room to waken him.
When the servant awoke he thought, 'What has happened to me? Last night I was a servant; now I am in the king's bed and everything is kingly! Am I a servant or am I a king?' When he looked at the girls, they all bowed. Everyone called him 'Your Majesty'.
He got up and went out. Then he came to the Durbar. There he was seated on a throne and all the vizirs came, bowed before him, and presented their addresses. He thought, 'I must be a king. If I had only been a king in the bedroom, it would have been nothing, but here too everyone bows and says "Your Majesty!"'
The whole day he enjoyed his kingship. But in the evening his wife came. The night before, when he did not come home, she had thought that perhaps he was lying drunk somewhere. She looked for him everywhere, and when she could not find him she went to the palace. No one stopped her, because the king had given his orders. When her husband saw her he looked at her as if she were death; he thought, 'I cannot be a king, because if I were, my wife would not be here. I shall have to go with her!' She said, 'What are you doing here? You did not come home; I have had no food, and you are enjoying yourself here. Come with me.' He said, 'I do not know you; go away.' But she said, 'You are my husband, come with me.' And she dragged him away, while he kept on saying, 'I am a king, I am a king.'
It is the situation we are in which makes us believe we are this or that. Whatever the soul experiences, that it believes itself to be. If the soul sees the external self as a baby it believes: I am a baby. If it sees the external self as old it believes: I am old. If it sees the external self in a palace it believes: I am rich. If it sees that self in a hut it believes: I am poor. But in reality it is only: I am.
This is the spell of life, by which man is spellbound. Hafiz says, 'Before our birth, Thou gavest us a draught of wine.' And Jami says, 'O Saqi, wine-giver, forgive me, it is my youth. Sometimes I embrace the wine-bottle and kiss it. Sometimes I throw it away.' So are we all. A child's doll is sometimes embraced and kissed, and at another time it is thrown on the floor and broken, and something else is taken up instead. At one time we say that a person is our friend, and at another we say he is our enemy. At one time we say that we like this nation, that race; at another it is our enemy. According to our childishness we change.
Man in his dream of life is always running after the passing clouds. And when does he awaken? When the wife comes. And what is the wife? The wife is the destructiveness of nature; and when she comes as death he sees that all that he has and all that he calls his own will be left behind: his name, his fame, his possessions. Everything is for those who live, and for him there is only the grave. He can take nothing with him. Then he realizes that none of these things can give him everlasting peace and satisfaction, and he looks for something which can give him these.
It is only a question of his ego, his consciousness. There is a saying in Hindustani, 'The humility of the wise is not lost. The seed goes into the dust to become a plant.' When the wise man has humiliated himself in the dust, this dust will make him flourish. This is not the same as mastery, although it prepares him for the higher grades.
The Hadith says, 'Mutu qabla an tamutu.' Die before death. The Sufi dies before his death, and experiences in life what the condition will be after death. In other words, he invites his wife to visit him, and welcomes her through his kingship, so that he may not have to be dragged away by her but may even enjoy life with her, with his wife on earth; in other words: he becomes living dead.
When a person has understood intellectually that all this manifestation has come from one Being, he is inclined to say, 'What should we worship, what should we adore, if we ourselves are all? Or whom should we fear?' But he forgets his own person; if he is composed of so many different organs and different atoms and planes and yet can be a person at the same time, why should not the whole Being be a person? We know intellectually that all are one. But when someone insults us, we cannot bear it, we no longer think that he is the same as we are. When someone has done us harm, we blame him; we do not stop to think that he is the same as ourselves, so why should we blame him?