Once there lived an old man and an old woman. They had a young son, and all were so poor that they often had trouble finding food. Times were so bad that finally they had only one grain of millet left to eat. Ivan, take the millet to the miller and have it ground into meal, said the woman to her son. Ivan went to the mill and had the millet ground into meal. The old woman cooked the millet and put it into a bowl to cool. Ivan, you guard the millet while your father and I have a rest, said the old woman, as she sat down for a nap. The father stretched out to nap on the bench, while the old woman sat in a chair. Young Ivan took his job very seriously; he stood over the bowl with a large stick, ready to take care of anybody who would dare to distrub their meal. A hungry fly buzzed into the house and made straight for the bowl of millet. As soon as Ivan saw the fly, he said to himself "just lok at that fly! I will fix her for trying to spoil our millet! He sneaked up on the fly and swung the stick mightily.
He missed the fly, but he did not miss the bowl of millet, which shattered and flew into pieces all over the room. I will get even with that fly, thought Ivan. Spying it in the air near the old woman, he again swung his stick. He missed the fly again, but he did not miss his mother. She fell to the floor, truly asleep, with a big bump on her head. Now look what you have done, you naughty fly, cried Ivan as he redoubled his efforts to catch her. The fly sat on the forehead of the sleeping old man, and Ivan again swung his stick. Once more, he missed the fly. But, he did not miss the innocent old man, who also fell into a deeper sleep with a big bump on his head. Ivan chased the fly all over the house, breaking and upsetting everything. Finally, he threw his stick at the fly. He missed the fly, but he did not miss the window. The stick went through it, and the fly followed right after.
There was once a sage in Sodom, who would walk the streets shouting at the people to change their ways. At first some of them listened. But over time, they stopped listening and returned to their old lives. The sage continued to walk the streets and shout. One day a small boy approached the Sage. ‘Do you not know that they do not listen to you?’ the boy asked. ‘Yes, I know,” replied the Sage. “Then why do you keep shouting?”
“If I still shout,” answered the Sage, “it is no longer to change them, it is so they do not change me.”
“Long ago, on the site of Jerusalem, the holy city, there lived two brothers. They were farmers who tilled the land they had inherited from their father. The older brother was unmarried and lived alone. The younger brother lived with his wife and family. The brothers loved each other dearly and did not want to divide the fields between them. So together they plowed, planted, and harvested the same crop. After they cut the wheat, they shared equally the produce of their labours.
One night during the harvest, the older brother lay down to sleep. But his thoughts were troubled. “Here I am” he said to himself, “all alone with no wife and no children. I don’t need to feed or clothe anyone. But my brother has the responsibility of a family. Is it right to share our harvest equally? After all, he needs more than I do.” At midnight he arose and took a pile of sheaves from his crop, carried them to his brother’s field, and left them there. Then he returned home and slept in peace. That same night, his brother also could not sleep. He was thinking about his older brother. “Here I am” he thought, “when I grow old, my children will take care of me. But what will happen to my brother in his old age. Who will take care of him? His needs are greater than mine. It isn’t fair to divide the crops equally.” So he arose and took a load of sheaves, brought them to his brother’s field and left them there. Then he returned home and went to sleep in peace.
When morning came both brothers were amazed to find their crops exactly as they had been the night before. They decided it was a miracle of God. The next night each brother repeated his actions of the previous night, and experienced another ‘miracle of God.’ On the third night, when each of the brothers was carrying a pile of sheaves to the other, they met at the top of the hill. Suddenly they understood. They dropped their sheaves and embraced, weeping with joy. They knew it was not a miracle of God they had experienced, but a miracle of love.
God saw this act of love between the brothers, and blessed the place where they met that night. And when in the course of time, King Solomon built the temple, from which peace and love and brotherhood were to flow to the whole world, He chose that very spot.”
There was once a samurai warrior who traveled to the distant home of an old monk. On arriving he burst through the door and bellowed, "Monk, tell me! What is the difference between heaven and hell?"
The monk sat still for a moment on the tatami-matted floor. Then he turned and looked up at the warrior. "You call yourself a samurai warrior," he smirked. "Why, look at you. You're nothing but a mere sliver of a man!"
"Whaaat!!" cried the samurai, as he reached for his sword.
"Oho!" said the monk. "I see you reach for your sword. I doubt you could cut off the head of a fly with that."
The samurai was so infuriated that he could not hold himself back. He pulled his sword from its sheath and lifted it above his head to strike off the head of the old monk. At this the monk looked up into his seething eyes and said, "That, my son, is the gate to hell." Realizing that the monk had risked his life to teach this lesson, the samurai slowly lowered his sword and put it back into the sheath. He bowed low to the monk in thanks for this teaching.
"My friend," said the monk, "That is the gate to heaven."
The Value of Truth
'If you want truth', Nasrudin told a group of Seekers who had come to hear his teachings, 'you will have to pay for it.' 'But why should you have to pay for something like truth?' asked one of the company. 'Have you noticed', said Nasrudin, 'that it is the scarcity of a thing which determines its value?'
One evening Nasrudin was seen outside his house, rummaging on his hands and knees by lantern light. A friend came by and asked what he was doing. 'I'm looking for a lost key,' said Nasrudin. The friend got down on his hands and knees to help with the search. After some time the friend asked, 'Where, exactly did you lose this key?' Nasrudin answered, 'I lost it in the house. But there is more light out here.
"I wish to become a teacher of the Truth."
"Are you prepared to be ridiculed, ignored and starving till you are forty-five?"
"I am. But tell me: What will happen after I am forty-five?"
"You will have grown accustomed to it."
Anthony de Mello, SJ
There was once a man who was successful in all things. He had a fine wife, a loving family and a craft for which he was justly famous. But still he was not happy.
“I want to know Truth”, he said to his wife.
“Then you should seek her,” she replied.
So the man put his house and all his worldly goods in his wife’s name, and went out on the road a beggar for Truth.
He searched up the hills and down the valleys for her. He went into small villages and large towns; into the forests and along the coasts of the great wide sea, into dark and grim wastes and lush meadows peid with flowers. He looked for days, for weeks, for months.
And then one day, atop a high mountain, in a small cave, he found her.
Truth was a wizened old woman, with one tooth left in her head. Her hair hung down onto her shoulders in lank greasy strands. The skin on her face was like leather. But when she spoke, it was so lyrical and pure that the man knew he had found Truth. He stayed a year and a day, and learned all that she had to teach. And when his time was over, he stood at the mouth of the cave ready to leave.
“Lady Truth”, he said “You have taught me so much. Surely there is something that I can do for you?”
Truth thought for some time, and then finally she said pointing her old finger directly at his heart, “When you speak of me,” she said, tell them I am beautiful.”
A reed got into an argument with an oak tree. The oak tree marvelled at her own strength, boasting that she could stand her own in a battle against the winds. Meanwhile, she condemned the reed for being weak, since he was naturally inclined to yield to every breeze. The wind then began to blow very fiercely. The oak tree was torn up by her roots and toppled over, while the reed was left bent but unharmed.
Some students of the Baal Shem Tov came to him one day with a question. "Every year we travel here to learn from you. Nothing could make us stop doing that. But we have learned of a man in our own town who claims to be a tzaddik, a righteous one. If he is genuine, we would love to profit from his wisdom. But how will we know if he is a fake?"
The Baal Shem Tov looked at his earnest hasidim. "You must test him by asking him a question." He paused. "You have had difficulty with stray thoughts during prayer?"
"Yes!" The hasidim answered eagerly. "We try to think only of our holy intentions as we pray, but other thoughts come into our minds. We have tried many methods not to be troubled by them."
"Good," said the Baal Shem Tov. "Ask him the way to stop such thoughts from entering your minds." The Baal Shem Tov smiled. "If he has an answer, he is a fake."
There is a story told of a rabbi who called upon a rich member of his community to solicit funds to buy coal for a poor widow, to heat her home in the winter. The rabbi did not make the actual request for the donation until he left the rich man's home and stood outside saying good-bye in the freezing cold. The rich man walked the rabbi out the door without bothering to put on his coat because he thought he would only be outside for a few moments. The rabbi continued small talk with the rich man shivering outside for several minutes. Then, the rabbi asked for the donation. "Why didn't you ask me while we were inside?" asked the rich man. "I wanted you to feel what it meant to be cold before you responded to my request," said the rabbi. The rich man then donated money to buy coal for all the poor people in the town.
The rabbi knew that it is hard to imagine the suffering of others, without having experienced it yourself.
Once upon a time there was a king who knew that the next harvest would be cursed. Whosoever would eat from it would go mad. And so he ordered an enormous granary built and stored there all that remained from the last crop. He entrusted the key to his friend and this is what he told him: ‘When my subjects and their king will have been struck with madness, you alone will have the right to enter the storehouse and eat uncontaminated food. In this way you will escape the curse. But in exchange, your mission will be to cover the earth, going from country to country, from town to town, from one street to the other, from one man to the mother, telling tales, ours – and you will shout, you will shout with all your might : Good people, do not forget! What is at stake is your life, your survival! Do not forget! (Rabbi nachman of Breslov.)
Long ago, there was a king who ruled over a large kingdom. The king lived high on a mountain in his castle. From his window, he could look down on the towns and fields which surrounded his castle on three sides. On the fourth side, the king could see the sea, and endless blue ribbon stretching out toward the horizon. It was a beautiful view from the castle, and so the king assumed that everyone lived as happy a life as he. Down in the valley, however, there was great unhappiness. Little rain had fallen in more than a year. The drought brought hunger, because the crops were meager that year. The people were hungry and feared starvation. The king's granaries, however, were full. He treasury was filled with gold, and his royal pantry was well-stocked with foods from all over the world, including a hundred different delicacies. The king was unaware of what was happening in his kingdom, because he rarely spoke with his people and did not care much about their lives.
The people in the kingdom worried. No rain fell, the crops dried up, and the people grew hungrier and hungrier. They knew that the king's granaries were full, and some people suggested that they approach the king and ask for food, but everyone was afraid to go to the castle.
Finally, in desperation, an old fisherman volunteered to go speak with the king. "Why not?" he reasoned, "I am old and will soon die, anyway. If I don't die of old age, I will surely die of starvation." And so he set out, trudging up the mountain to the castle.
The king received the man graciously. After all, he rarely had visitors from among his subjects. The old fisherman described to the king what was happening in the towns and villages of his kingdom, how the drought had affected the crops, how the people were hungry, and how they feared starvation.
The king yawned, looking bored, and replied, "That's not my concern. I don't feel hungry and I don't feel their hunger."
The old fisherman could feel anger welling up inside him. He thought he would explode with anger, but he realized that this would accomplish nothing. He thought quickly. Then he responded, "I see your point, Your Majesty. And, naturally, you are right. And just so that you know I mean you only well, I would like to invited you come fishing with me. I have heard that you love to go fishing, and I know the most wonderful spot. The water is stiff with fish, and you will have a wonderful time."
Now the king couldn't resist an invitation like this, and so he went with the fisherman. They got into the fisherman's tiny, delapidated, rowboat. The old fisherman rowed hard, and the king rested, sunning himself. Finally, after an hour of rowing along the shore, they arrived at a beautiful little inlet. The king looked around, but saw nothing but rocks and seaweed. "This is the spot from which we head out to sea, Your Majesty," said the old fisherman, and he rowed straight out away from from shore for another half hour. Then the old fisherman pulled his oars into the boat, took an awl out of his back pocket, and began chipping a hold in the bottom of the boat under his seat.
"What are you doing, old man?" exclaimed the king in alarm. "Stop that this instant! Do your realize what you're doing? You're going to sink the boat!"
"Yes, I know. That is what I intend to do," responded the old man quietly. "I am trying the sink the boat. I am so hungry, like all the people in your kingdom, that I want to die."
"But I do not want to die!!" shouted the king.
"No, Your Majesty. I know that. That is why I am only making a hole under my seat in the boat, at my end of the boat. What happens at your end of the boat is not my concern."
The king's anger turned to laughing, and then to sadness. "I see what you are saying, my good man. You have made your point well. I have closed my eyes to what others feel because I did not feel it myself. Please row me back to shore -- safely -- and I will open my granaries to everyone. And I thank you, old man, for your great wisdom in teaching me a lesson I sorely needed to learn."
The king made the old fisherman his trusted advisor, and the old fisherman was placed in charge of the granaries where, like Joseph of old, he dispensed food and kept everyone alive until the drought ended. The king and the old fisherman became good friends, and frequently went out fishing together.
(Iraqi Jewish story)
Once a fox was seen running away. He was asked “why you running away?”
He answered, “hunters are chasing camels, killing them and stripping off their skins.”
The people were amazed. “But you are a fox not a camel, are you not?”
The fox answered, “till I prove who I am, there is time enough to strip off my skin.”
There is a Taoist tale from China about a woodcutter who went out one morning to cut some firewood and discovered that his favourite axe was missing. He couldn't find it anywhere. Then he noticed his neighbour’s son standing near the woodshed. The woodcutter thought, "Aha! That boy must have stolen my axe. I see how he lurks about the shed, shifting uneasily from foot to foot, greedy hands stuffed in his pockets, a guilty look on his face. I can't prove it, but he MUST have stolen my axe." A few days later the woodcutter was surprised and happy to come upon the axe under a pile of firewood. "I remember now," he said, "Just where I'd left it!" The next time he saw his neighbour's son, the woodcutter looked intently at the boy. How odd, he thought, somehow this boy has lost his guilty look . . .
A small drasha. The Torah lists the names of the birds that are kosher and those that are not. The great commentator Rashi says that the birds are categorized by character. The gentle peace loving birds are kosher, the birds of prey are treif. The stork falls into the category of treif and yet its name is chasida, from chesed meaning loving kindness. Why? Because the stork is very generous to other storks and shares its food with them. So why is the stork not kosher? Because the stork ONLY shows kindness to its own kind.
Abraham Heschel wrote “in a free society, few are guilty, all are responsible.”
The Tiger and the Fox
A fox who lived in the deep forest of long ago had lost its front legs. No one knew how: perhaps escaping from a trap. A man who lived on the edge of the forest , seeing the fox from time to time, wondered how in the world it managed to get its food. One day when the fox was not far from him he had to hide himself quickly because a tiger was approaching. The tiger had fresh game in its claws. Lying down on the ground, it ate its fill, leaving the rest for the fox.
Again the next day the great Provider of this world sent provisions to the fox by this same tiger. The man began to think: "If this fox is taken care of in this mysterious way, its food sent by some unseen Higher Power, why don't I just rest in a corner and have my daily meal provided for me?"
Because he had a lot of faith, he let the days pass, waiting for food. Nothing happened. He just went on losing weight and strength until he was nearly a skeleton. Close to losing consciousness, he heard a Voice which said: "O you, who have mistaken the way, see now the Truth! You should have followed the example of that tiger instead of imitating the disabled fox."
(And Rumi said, "You have feet; why pretend that you are lame?")
An emperor was coming out of his palace for his morning walk when he met a beggar. He asked the beggar, "What do you want?"
The beggar laughed and said, "You are asking me as though you can fulfill my desire!"
The king was offended. He said, "Of course I can fulfill your desire. What is it? Just tell me."
And the beggar said, "Think twice before you promise anything."
The beggar was no ordinary beggar, he was the emporers past life master. He had promised in that life, "I will come and try to wake you in your next life. This life you have missed but I will come again." But the king had forgotten completely -- who remembers past lives? So he insisted, "I will fulfill anything you ask. I am a very powerful emperor, what can you possibly desire that I can not give to you?"
The beggar said, "It is a very simple desire. You see this begging bowl? Can you fill it with something?"
The emperor said, "Of course!" He called one of his viziers and told him, "Fill this mans begging bowl with money." The vizier went and got some money and poured it into the bowl, and it disappeared. And he poured more and more, and the moment he would pour it, it would disappear. And the beggging bowl remained always empty.
The whole palace gathered. By and by the rumor went throughout the whole capital, and a huge crowd gathered. The prestige of the emperor was at stake. He said to his viziers, "If the whole kingdom is lost, I am ready to lose it, but I cannot be defeated by this beggar."
Diamons and pearls and emeralds, his treasuries were becoming empty.The begging bowl seemed to be bottomless. Everything that was put into it -- everything! -- immediately disappeared, went out of existence. Finally it was the evening, and the people were standing there in utter silence. The king dropped at the fet of the beggar and admitted his defeat. he said, "Just tell me one thing. You are victorious - but before you leave, just fulfill my curiousity. What is the beging bowl made of?"
The beggar laughed and said, "It is made up of the human mind. There is no secret. It is simple made up of human desire."
One Innocent Farmer
A Chinese rice field, ten farmers in a line, bending over planting out the seedlings, each man wearing a round straw hat. Thunder clouds gathered above them, and the storm broke. Holding their hats on their heads, they ran to the only shelter available, the white-walled ruins of an old temple.
There the storm seemed to gather its force - right above them. Lightning flashed through the dark room, thunder crashed. The ten men looked at each other with fear in their eyes.
"It is the gods; the gods must be angry with one of us. Who can it be? Who is the sinner?"
"If the gods are angry, let the gods show who is the guilty one. Each man must hold his hat out of the window together - then the gods will speak."
This they did. And the gods spoke - a bolt of lightning flashed down - one hat burst into flames.
"It is him! He is the guilty one! Out with him, out with him!"
"But I am innocent! I have done nothing!"
”Out with him! Out with him!"
Nine pairs of hands seized him - threw him out to the fury of the storm. And as soon as he fell helpless before the storm, the clouds exploded in rage, lightning burst into the temple, flattening the walls, killing the nine inside - leaving lying in the rain the one innocent farmer the gods had spared.
FOUR WISE MEN (EARTH, NUCLEAR, GLOBAL WARMING, WAR)
Once there were four wise men who were considered to be the most clever and knowledgeable in all China. They learned everything they needed to know about almost anything and were often sought out for advice and to find solutions for the most complex of problems. One day there became a question of which of these men was the most clever of them all. This caused a great ruckus as each had his own explanation of why he should be considered the wisest of the wise. Their disputing caused so much confusion that one of the elders was called upon to find a test to settle the matter.
For weeks and weeks the wise men waited for the test that would prove the matter to all in the land. In the meantime, they continued to study. Three of those men buried themselves in their books of philosophy and mathematics and such thinking the villagers too common to be associated with. The fourth man, however, not only engaged himself in an array of books, but he walked among the villagers and sat with the elders for hours at a time. He learned much from the wisdom they had gained from life itself.
Nearly six months had passed and finally the perfect test was put before them. The four men were instructed to walk into the woods. The test would be found at the base of a single tree in a clearing. They started out early the next morning before day, for it took a half day’s journey for them to reach the tree. The only thing they found was a pile of bleached bones. They appeared to be those of some sort of animal.
The four stood and puzzled over the bones for some time before the first man spoke. "I will use my knowledge to put these bones back together. That will prove my status." He immediately went to work. After some time, the bones stood erect and interlocking.
The men examined the project closely. "Ah! I know where these bones came from. I can put flesh and fur back on them and restore the animal’s beauty." The second man began his work, and within a few hours a fierce-looking tiger stood before them.
The four men marveled at the animal’s beauty, but the two began to bicker about which one’s work was best. Just then, the third man spoke up. "I think I can take this project to the next level. I can bring the animal back the life. Then I will be the greatest of all."
The fourth man was quiet up to this point. He had watched the other men argue and boast all this time. "Wait! I don’t think our test was to see if we could bring the animal back to life." He pleaded, but the others would not listen. They thought he only wanted to trick them.
When he realized he was being ignored, he scrambled to the top of the tree. The third man got busy and soon had breathed life into the ferocious tiger. The tiger stretched and yawned. Then he began to chase the men growling and thrashing at them. He chased them all the way back to the village where they were finally rescued by one of the village’s mighty hunters. They felt foolish for having brought the animal back to life. Later, the fourth wise man walked back to the village. Everyone had taken him for dead, the others were so busy fighting they did not see him climb the tree. It was then that everyone realized that he was indeed the wisest of all.
Story of strange words (distrusting difference)
Once upon a time long ago, a famous wealthy person was passing by a certain town. He stopped his caravan outside a busy restaurant and motioned to four people to approach him. Excitedly 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 person of wisdom was on his way to the restaurant. He paused to see what was going on and then asked them, "What seems to be 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.
The King of Persia was stricken with an illness that could only be healed by drinking the milk of a lioness. An announcement was issued: “Whoever obtains a lioness’ milk will be greatly rewarded.” And a young man, who loved his king dearly, determined that he would get the milk to save his king’s life. The man set off in search of a lioness, and on the way, his body parts began to argue with each other as to which one was the most powerful. They decided that this adventure would serve as a test.
fter several weeks of searching and waiting and gaining the lioness’ trust, the man was able to milk her, and return to the palace with a jug of precious milk. On the way, the body’s organs and limbs began to argue.
“I could see where to find the lion, and how to milk her.” Said the eyes.
“I heard the lion’s purr and roar, and knew when to approach without danger” said the ears.
“ And how would you have got there and returned safely if not for me?” argued the feet.
“ Thanks to us” cried the hands, “we were able to draw the milk and carry it back without spilling it.”
They argued back and forth, until the tongue added quietly, “Its not over yet. What would you do without me?”
“You?” they all laughed. “ Who needs you?”
When the young man stood before the king, the tongue took over.
“Your majesty, I have brought what you need, the precious milk of a
The king was furious at the insolence of the young man. “Hang him” he ordered “until his tongue hangs out!”
And the tongue turned to the other body parts saying “You see, without me, you have no power. I can undo with one word, in one second, what all of you have worked so hard for. Admit that I am the most powerful and I will save us from death.” Hands, feet, eyes and ears quickly agreed.
“Oh Majesty” said the young man, “in my haste, I stumbled over my words. The milk is that of a lioness. Drink it, beloved King and you will be healed. My life is at your mercy.”
Something in the voice of the young man moved the King. He drank the milk, and recovered.
The young man was greatly rewarded by the King. But greater still, was the tongue’s reward when all the parts of the body agreed that the tongue carried the greatest power for both good and evil.
Swahili story from Angela Carter’s collection of fairy tales (1991),
There was a sultan whose unhappy wife grew leaner and more listless every day. The sultan saw a poor man whose wife was healthy and happy, and he asked the poor man his secret. “Very simple,” answered the poor man, “I feed her meat of the tongue.” The sultan immediately ordered the butcher to buy the tongues of all the slaughtered animals of the town and fed them to his wife. The queen be came even thinner and more melancholy. The sultan then ordered the poor man to ex change wives. Once in the palace, the poor man’s wife grew thin and pale. The poor man, after coming home at night, would greet his new (royal) wife, tell her about the things he had seen, es pecially the funny things, and then told her stories which made her shriek with laughter. Next he would take his banjo and sing her songs, of which he knew a great many. Until late at night he would play with her and amuse her. And lo! the queen grew fat in a few weeks, beautiful to look at, and her skin was shining and taut, like a young girl’s skin. And she was smiling all day, remembering the many funny things her new husband had told her. When the sultan called her back she refused to come. So the sultan came to fetch her, and found her all changed and happy. He asked her what the poor man had done to her, and she told him. Then he under stood the meaning of meat of the tongue.
A king once fell gravely ill. His doctors and wise men tried cure after cure, but nothing worked. They were ready to give up hope when the king's old nursemaid spoke up.
She said, "If you can find a happy man, and take the shirt from his back, and put it on the king, then he will recover."
So the King's messengers rode far and wide throughout the kingdom, and yet nowhere could they find a happy man. No one seemed content; everyone had some complaints.
Everywhere they went, the king's messengers heard nothing but whining and griping. If a man was rich, he never had enough. If he was not rich, it was someone else's fault. If he was healthy, he had a bad mother-in-law. If he had a good mother-in-law, he was catching a cold. Everyone had something to complain about.
Finally, one night the king's own son was passing a small cottage when he heard someone say, "Thank you. I've finished my daily labour, and helped my fellow man. My family and I have eaten our fill, and now we can lie down and sleep in peace. What more could I want?"
The prince rejoiced to have found a happy man at last. He gave orders to take the man's shirt to the king, and pay the owner as much money as he wished.
But when the king's messengers went into the cottage to take the happy man's shirt off his back, they found he was so poor he had no shirt at all.
Cure for Sorrow
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?" Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me." They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.
There is a story of a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, " Good Bad I don’t Know"
The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, " Good Bad I don’t Know."
And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, " Good Bad I don’t Know."
The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer's son was rejected. When the neighbors came to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, " Good Bad I don’t Know."
Nasrudin was walking along a lonely road one moonlit night when he heard a snore seemingly directly beneath his feet. Suddenly he experienced fear and was about to flee when he tripped over a dervish lying in a pit which he had dug for himself, partly underground.
"Who are you?" the Mulla stammered.
"I am a dervish, and this is my contemplation place." Nasrudin replied, "You will have to let me share it. Your snoring frightened me out of my wits, and I cannot continue any further this night."
"Take the other end of this blanket, then," said the dervish without much enthusiasm, "and lie down here. Please be quiet, because I am keeping a vigil. It is a part of a complicated series of exercises. Tomorrow I must change the pattern, and I cannot stand any interruption."
Nasrudin fell asleep for a while. Then he woke up, very thirsty.
"I am thirsty," he told the dervish.
"Then go back down the road, where there is a stream." "No,I am still afraid." replied Nasrudin.
"I shall go for you then," said the dervish. "After all, to provide water is a sacred obligation in the East."
"No, please don't go for I am still afraid to be alone!" "Take this knife, to defend yourself then," said the dervish.
While he was away Nasrudin frightened himself still more, working himself up into a frenzy, which he tried to counter by imagining how he would attack any demon who threatened him.
Presently the dervish returned.
"Keep your distance, or "I'll kill you!" said Nasrudin. "But I am the dervish," said the dervish.
"I don't care who you are-your maybe a demon in disguise. Besides, you have your head and eyebrows shaved!" The dervishes of that order shave their head and eyebrows.
"But I have come to bring you water! Don't you remember-you are thirsty!"
"Don't try and ingratiate yourself with me, Demon!" "But that is my hole you are occupying!" said the dervish. "That's hard luck for you, isn't it? You'll just have to find another one." replied Nasrudin.
"I suppose so," said the dervish, "but I am sure I don't know what to make of all this."
"I can tell you one thing," said Nasrudin, "and that is that fear is multidirectional."
"It certainly seems stronger than thirst, or sanity, or other peoples property," said the dervish.
"AND you don't have to have it yourself in order to suffer from it!" said Nasrudin.
Back to Top