A Dervish Story – Tale of the Three Questions

1-dervish-bebe-brookman

A certain Sultan owned everything a man could wish for and still he did not know the purpose of life. The answer to three questions made his life difficult:

1. What should I do?
2. With which people should I do the things God asks me to do?
3. When should I do it?

The Sultan asked the advice of all kinds of wise people, and then he was told that there was a Chishti dervish, who lived far away, and who might give him a satisfactory answer. The Sultan immediately left and after a journey of several weeks he met the dervish. The dervish was cultivating his own land. He was a simple man, but no simpleton, as he was reciting a Persian quatrain over and over again:

Kaarist waraai ‘elm raw aanraa baash
Dar bande gohar mabaash raw kaan raa baash
Del hast maqaame gaah begozaar o biaa
Jaan manzele aakherast raw jaan raa baash .

There is a work beyond knowledge, realise that, go!
Do not work to get jewels, be the mine, go!
The heart is a temporary abode, leave it and come!
The soul is the final abode, realise that, go!

The Sultan was however not interested in Persian poems and asked his three questions to the dervish. The dervish did not answer him and continued with his work. The Sultan became angry and said: “Don’t you know who I am. I am the Sultan of Sultans”. But this did not make any impression as well and the dervish continued doing what he was doing.

A heavily wounded man suddenly appeared and he dropped to the ground in front of the dervish. The dervish said to the Sultan: “Help me to carry this man to my place!” “I’ll help you,” the Sultan said, “but will you answer my questions afterwards?”

“Later!” the dervish said and together they brought the wounded man to the hut of the dervish and took care of him.

“And now I’d like to receive the answers to my questions,” the Sultan said. “You can return to your palace,” the dervish said, “because you have already received the answers to your questions. As to what to do, you should do what comes to you on your path. As to with whom you should do it, the answer is with those who are present. And as for the when to do it, you should do it the moment it takes place”.

This is the way it is with ancient truth, always chiding us to focus on the here and now. Perhaps that is a clue. I see the great beauty, hard work and gritty truth of the Sufi path and it resonates very deeply with me. I imagine myself a Dervish on some dark road with just my wits and what I have on my back with me, alone but never alone. I desired to know their ecstatic experience of the Divine in my everyday life and then I realized as I admired the beautiful green covered mountain to the East during a quiet moment, I had found it.

Image – Dervish – Bebe Brookman

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