WHY SHOULD I PAY FOR SPIRITUAL FREEDOM?
You shouldn’t, as there is nothing there to be gain for you.
If you asking yourself the question
you are not ready to learn.
as your priorities are not in alignment with your search.
A man looked at his wife’s face and said: “When did one of your eyebrows become thinner than the other?”
She answered: “It was ﬁrst noticed when you started to look at my exterior, and became less appreciative of the inner Me.”
So runs the Suﬁ tale. It continues: “So, too, when the potential Seeker asks how he can trust a Master, he is approaching matters superﬁcially. If he could discern inner worth, he would not of course need to ask the question. But, as he cannot understand, the only answer to him is, ‘There is no answer for you!’
From THE COMMANDING SELF by Idries Shal page 92
Today He Understands. . .
by IDRIES SHAH
…‘ “My dear friend,” he said, “money was your god, and not God himself. Greed produced doubt, and I could not teach you while you still had greed and doubt.””
In my early days, I was puzzled by the behavior of a Suﬁ who,
like many others, was a business man. A would-be disciple of his
(whom I knew) was told to donate a very large sum of money for
the purposes of the Suﬁ’s business: and he was startled at the
request. Accustomed to believing that men of the spirit sacriﬁce
themselves unstintingly for their work, he was puzzled by the
words, ‘This is to compensate the business for time given to you
in teaching’. “He would get nothing, he was told, until he paid
the money, not a single lesson.
The rich but puzzled student spoke to me, in a pained voice,
as we sat together on the steps of the Suﬁ’s centre. ‘I don’t know
Whether I trust him,’ he said, ‘so why should I be faced with such
a decision: why should I have to wonder whether I can give him
I agreed. If the object was simply to make the disciple pay,
why not nominate a charity, I thought, some organization
unconnected with the Sufi? We agreed that a bad construction
was more likely to be put by anyone on such an approach, even
from such a man as we thought the Master to be. . .
‘What is more, ’ said my friend, ‘I wonder whether the teacher
realises that I now have his reputation in my hand.
Saintly, a man
of God, learned and all the rest — that he may appear. But how
would it look to the world if I — unenlightened perhaps, but
certainly a man of -great probity — told all the world that this
spiritual man would not teach without ﬁrst being given money?’
Quite true, I thought. One should never put one’s reputation
in another’s hand. I got up and went away, shunning the Suﬁ
and never returning to his abode.
Five years passed, and I was in another country, working very
hard on a difficult assignment. Sometimes I did not leave my
small room above the Souk in Damascus for days on end.
Sometimes — and this was one of those days — I felt I simply had
to get out, to see other people, to have a change of scene.
Thus it was that I got up from my little desk, and went
downstairs, into the crowded market, to walk among the people
milling past the shops.
No sooner had I reached the street than I saw, standing in a
doorway, my friend the rich man, dressed as a wandering
Dervish, with a conical cap, a patched cloak, and a string of
rosary beads. I took his hand, and led him to a café table where
we could talk.
I immediately asked him what he had decided, in the end,
about giving the money to the Suﬁ. He sighed, and then said
certain things which are among the most important I have heard
in my life.
‘In the end,’ he began, ‘I gave him the money, because I
decided that it might be a test of some kind. After a week he
called me and handed back the package of notes, and drove me
from his presence.
As he was sending me away, he said, “You try
to test me, and all the while you ﬂatter yourself that I am testing
‘I returned again and again to his assemblies. I ate at his table,
and listened to his lectures: but I did not really understand
anything of value, I am sure of that.’ He stopped talking and
‘And then?’ I asked.
‘And then, not long afterwards, the Master died. I thought,
“He has put himself beyond my reach”.’ He fell silent again, and
I had to remind him that I was still there.
‘Tell me, brother,’ I asked, ‘What the consequence of all this
‘The day after the Master died,’ he went on, ‘I was sitting in
contemplation when he appeared before me as in a vision. His
hand was extended towards me, but I could not reach it. He
frowned, and I felt fear and love, both at once. Then he spoke to
‘ “My dear friend,” he said, “money was your god, and not
God himself. Greed produced doubt, and I could not teach you
while you still had greed and doubt.”
‘ “But you played on my doubt and made it worse,” I cried.
‘ “I brought to your attention your disabling characteristics.
I did not make them worse —
I only made them manifest themselves to you.
This gave you a chance to assess yourself
as well as judging me.”
He paused, and then showed me how he had been
reading my mind all along.
“You reﬂected that you had my
reputation in the hollow of your hand. But why did you exult at
having something that everyone else also has? Do you not know
that every ignoramus on earth can safely defame every single
Sufi in the world. He will be believed by every other fearful,
suspicious, greedy person.
Do you not know’ that the dog sees an
enemy in every shadow — even in the shadow of his own master
who brings him his food?”
‘I fell on my knees and implored him to help me. “You will
not help yourself, and yet you ask to be helped!” he said; “And I
can retum only when it is possible for me to help you again”.’
With tears in his eyes, my wandering Dervish friend jumped
up from his chair and, although I followed him, was immedi-
ately lost in the Friday evening throng.
That was thirty years ago, and I have not seen him since.
Today, however, I had a message from him. It said, ‘First I was
ignorant, then I learnt a lesson in my mind and feelings, and
thought that this was a spiritual lesson.
Today, at last, I understand. Spirituality is understanding, not imagining. Praise be to
the Lord of All the Worlds.’ ‘
from The commanding self
by IDRIES SHAH
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