A Dervish Story – Tale of the Three Questions

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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

A Dervish Story about Reality

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I am continually amazed as I learn about how other cultures view themselves across time and how similar their hopes, fears and dreams are to my own and my generation’s. There is not much new under the sun it seems. Every generation grapples with its mortality and shares its hopes and fears to try to provide some illumination or warning perhaps to the generations to come.

I have hopes and fears too. I set them aside in my life and I have accepted my place in a world and reality much bigger than the one I can sense. Much bigger than myself. I know I am limited in my awareness, so I assume I know nothing fully. I accept and know that my awareness stretches beyond my senses in ways I can not consciously understand. That makes life mysterious and mystical for me, which I need. So I am not totally agnostic, nor do I totally believe or know anything. I am a swirling mix of sense, memory, emotion, mind, heart and something more I can’t put my finger on.

Across the eons I see a golden thread that binds our religions, myths and traditions together. It is a message of hope, love, acceptance and embracing of one another in our difference. It challenges you to look beneath the surface of things and to be ever mindful of the intention you use to manifest these hopes, dreams and fears that can overwhelm us. I have my experience from which to view all of this and I am compelled to seek others’ perspective as well. You can clearly see the forces that sought to separate and those that brought men together across history. I am throwing my lot in with the dreamers and the those that seek to remove the separations and walls between each other. This Dervish story speaks of much respect across religions and an appreciation for the common dreams we all share no matter our race or creed. I know in the end Love is the only thing that is real and the creeds of man will be shown to be the stepping stones that they are.

The People Who Attain

– from Idries Shaw’s Tales of the Dervishes

Imam el-Ghazali relates a tradition from the life of Isa ibn Maryam(Jesus).

Isa one day saw some people sitting miserably on a wall, by the roadside. He asked: ‘What is your affliction?’

They said: ‘We have become like this through our fear of hell.’

He went on his way, and saw a number of people grouped disconsolately in various postures by the wayside. He said: ‘What is your affliction?’

They said: ‘Desire for Paradise has made us like this.’

He went on his way, until he came to a third group of people. They looked like people who had endured much, but their faces shone with joy. Isa asked them: ‘What has made you like this?’

They answered: ‘The Spirit of Truth. We have seen Reality, and this has made us oblivious of lesser goals.’

Isa said: ‘These are the people who attain. On the Day of Accounting these are they who will be in the Presence of God.’

Commentary

Those who believe that spiritual advancement depends upon the cultivation of reward and punishment themes alone have often been surprised by this Sufi tradition about Jesus.

Sufis say that only certain people benefit through powerful dwelling upon gain or loss; and that this, in turn, may constitute only a part of anyone’s experiences. Those who have studied the methods and effects of conditioning and indoctrination may feel themselves inclined to agree with them.

Evidence of Things Unseen

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Sometimes, in my mind, when I let myself think about it, I’m terrified looking at my heart splashed out here on the Interwebs on this blog and other places. That is the best sign I am on the right track to know my Self I feel. Turn over every stone. My ego says delete that ASAP after writing less and less. My words stand as they came. Just like my bad choices and their consequences in my life stand, so do the good and great ones. Deciding to express myself creatively, actively and foolishly examining everything inside and around me, has brought me so much Joy and peace, I wouldn’t go back to my old self or life on my worst day. Being exposed and known for what you are, warts and all, is terrifying in the best way. I kind of love it now.

So, tip of the hat to all who can muster the courage to expose themselves with no hope of acknowledgement or agreement. Writing from love and the heart for no gain but to bring your Light and Love into the world does something to you. It does. It frees you from your self and the opinions of others. You have to stand alone sometimes. Terrifying to a monkey brain, but evolutionarily required it seems. I fear someone is going to come and get me sometimes. I’m good with crazy. Crazy is fun to read, right?  I just don’t want to be boring or too pedantic, but boring is good sometimes too.

Exploring the spirit in our culture unfortunately is not encouraged. You are encouraged to belong. The Ancient Mysteries used to be supported by the Greek and Roman state, now we are so driven by profit and corrupt, they would never support a spiritual school all attend. Only the wealthy or ones who can be used seem to be taught how to reason properly in their ivory towers. Only they have been trained great at thinking about how to rape the world and keep their foot on our necks. Is our society only valuable to a few people at the top? You will be isolated and removed like a virus if you rock things, unless you are part of the cure. I come from an Evangelical background. You don’t go looking into all religions from where I come from. Unfortunately, my heart and poems seem to have cost me access to my family and old friends. I have spent this last year writing as I felt inspired. I have been a square peg in a round hole my whole life. It sucks sometimes. It sucks to be so misunderstood. People I thought who would embrace me, just walked the other way.

So, to the reason I wrote this essay. Well, my writing and poems terrified my family to the point they will not let me see my Mother’s or Sister’s families. I just tell them I Love them and I do, so much. I stay out of their face. I’m no martyr, nor have a desire to be so. I want to celebrate and explore being alive here, now. I leave much unsaid, but what bubbles out is the expression of the life force poured into me from some other place. The personal rejection for sharing my heart hurt like hell in the beginning, which was a lesson. I guess that is a common Religious tactic for those who leave the fold, isolate and discredit them and finally torpedo their ship until its sunk. Interesting to experience it.

I encourage all to find and share their voices in spite of rejection, personal and professional. Hold your course and focus. Check your course often though. We need help sometimes. Weather the storms best you can until you find a good place to tie your boat to.  Where I led the way before in my family, now I am persona non-grata for asking questions and sharing answers no one I know from my past wants to hear or see. I stay away and do not seek to agitate. I only hoped for a detente or a live and let live. There is no argument with my family from my side. Funny, everyone was fine with me living messing my life and others’ up for 20 years, but to awaken and write about a peace I have never known is the terrifying part that has branded me with a scarlet letter with friends and family. There is a great lesson there for me and evidence of the things unseen I know and feel. It is an excellent confirmation I am on to something here.

Whaaaaaaa me. I’m the dumb dumb who didn’t keep his lips hermetically sealed. I’m exploring here and remembering my Self. I move with no thinking in the creative place as much as I can. It’s messy and not calculated. I am as far from calculated as you can be. The spirit encourages me to be sincere and open with my heart every place I go and with every person I meet now and pursue when led. Be quiet most of the time. I write to my Self.  I am sharing the email from my Sister below that clarified their position. She never reads anything I write, so no problem posting it 😉 I had asked to restore contact. They had read my email until the point they disagreed and then I got this email below. I am not looking for sympathy. I’m a big boy, but I felt led to share it. Not to shame, but explore the thinking that separates people and families. This is the mind set you face sometimes in Religion. Its a lot easier for you start out believing nothing with no faith maybe when starting to explore thyself.

I feel anyone can find themselves anywhere they are, so I could care less what you are or call you self. I am a student of the Universe. I have no creed but Love. I listen to all and follow none. I only encourage people to be real and love first and judge…never. I know I am on the right track for me. I am responsible for my self and my actions. Perhaps my sister and I will laugh about this one day. But I accept that they may never be able to accept my presence in their life again like they did. That makes me sad, but there is much to learn through this. Then I remember all have to walk their own path. We are all students. But, to this day, I can’t understand how they never asked me one question about what happened to me. Not one. They only told me I was cursed and lost. As my life blossoms like never before they condemn me. I know the lesson there. I’ll tell you a secret, no, that’s what got me in trouble in the first place. See, I’m learning 😉 It goes slowly.

Listen bro,

XXXX just read some of what you wrote. For real. XXXX, you are NOT Jesus. Period.

I wonder if your awareness of “Self”/let you see into the future let you see your family waving good bye and weeping over you.

Keep Denying your first love, keep disrespecting our only true God. I’ll be sad to say good bye at the parting of ways. Sad.

You are not all seeing, you are not God. You are not I AM. You are not. You are LOST.

YOU are a false prophet. A self centered false prophet.

You, unfortunately, will not have any contact with our family nor our children while you are in this state.

Much of this is like sweet nectar. It also is evidence of things unseen. There you have it. Well, I understand their reaction. I do. I love them so much, but I love my self most. Yes, I am totally Self centered. I’m going to print this one out huge to remind myself never to judge another’s sincere personal exploration, ever. I wish you well with yours.

I wanted to share a great poem provided me in a dark time by Rumi. I will always be a witness of and share the Love Rumi writes of so beautifully and humanly.

Dervish At the Door – By Rumi

A dervish knocked at a house
to ask for a piece of dry bread,
or moist, it didn’t matter.

“This is not a bakery,” said the owner.

“Might you have a bit of gristle then?”

“Does this look like a butchershop?”

“A little flour?”

“Do you hear a grinding stone?”

“Some water?”

“This is not a well.”

Whatever the dervish asked for,
the man made some tired joke
and refused to give him anything.

Finally the dervish ran in the house,
lifted his robe, and squatted
as though to take a shit.

“Hey, hey!”

“Quiet, you sad man. A deserted place
is a fine spot to relieve oneself,
and since there’s no living thing here,
or means of living, it needs fertilizing.”

The dervish began his own list of questions and answers.

“What kind of bird are you? Not a falcon,
trained for the royal hand. Not a peacock,
painted with everyone’s eyes. Not a parrot,
that talks for sugar cubes. Not a nightingale,
that sings like someone in love.

Not a hoopoe bringing messages to Solomon,
or a stork that builds on a cliffside.

What exactly do you do?
You are no known species.

You haggle and make jokes
to keep what you own for yourself.

You have forgotten the One
who doesn’t care about ownership,
who doesn’t try to turn a profit
from every human exchange.”

Peace from a lost false prophet.