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Sufi teaching story 2


tSingh
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How and What to Understand

This interchange between the Sufi mystic Simab and a nobleman named Mulakab is preserved in oral transmission as a dialogue often staged by wandering dervishes:

Mulakab: Tell me something of your philosophy, so that I may understand.

Simab: You cannot understand unless you have experienced

Mulakab: I do not have to understand a cake, to know whether it is bad

Simab: If you are looking at a good fish and you think that it is a bad cake, you need to understand less, and to understand it better, more than you need anything else

Mulakab: Then why do you not abandon books and lectures, if experience is the necessity?

Simab: Because “the outward is the conductor to the inward”. Books will teach you something of the outward aspects of the inward, and so will lectures. Without them, you would make no progress

Mulakab: But why should we not be able to do without books?

Simab: For the same reason that you cannot think without words. You have been reared on books, your mind is so altered by books and lectures, by hearing and speaking, that the inward can only speak to you through the outward, whatever you pretend you can perceive

Mulakab: Does this apply to everyone

Simab: It applies to whom it applies. It applies above all to those who think does not apply to them!

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For the same reason that you cannot think without words. You have been reared on books, your mind is so altered by books and lectures, by hearing and speaking, that the inward can only speak to you through the outward, whatever you pretend you can perceive

if one was not reared on books/language, would they be able to think without words?

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That is a philosophical question about the fundamental state of consciousness; are we born clouded or do we become clouded through experience?

One thing is for certain, the mind is lazy and loves to oversimplify, generalise, that is how it works. Intellectual conceptual oversimplifications and eventual distortions will presumably also develop over time.

Secondly, we are not born with wisdom. We search for it, and we do so by listening to others. The ineffable truth in essence cannot be adequately conveyed (usually through imagery in poetry), so there is prodding in the dark until that individual has experienced it.

Personally, I found my experiences clearest before taking on a whole spiritual language. The nameless conceptless jewel shone most brightly then, but I had little understanding of what it was.

Another sufi teaching story taken from thne masnavi also helps to ellucidate this related issue; a group of hindus bring the much fabled elephant to a middle-eastern court. None of the members of the court have seen an elephant. The elephant arrives at night. One man starts feeling the leg and says 'It is wide, hard and strong', another feels it's tail 'It is thin and hairy'. Another feels it's trunk, 'It is bumpy, limp and wet'. Yet none have the whole picture. Only the torch bearer can show them the whole picture of what elephantness is.

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