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(Masnavi Book 2: 50) The Arab of the desert and the philosopher





Story of the desert Arab and his putting sand in the sack and the philosopher's rebuking him.


A certain Arab of the desert loaded a camel with two big sacks—(there was) one full of grain. He was seated on the top of both sacks. A glib philosopher questioned him.
He asked him about his native land and led him to talk and said many fine things in the course of (his) enquiry. Afterwards he said to him, What are those two sacks filled with? Tell (me) the truth of the matter.”

3180. He replied, In one sack I have wheat; in the other is some sand—not food for men.”

Why,” he asked, “did you load this sand?In order that the other sack might not remain alone,” he replied.

For wisdom's sake,” said he, “pour half the wheat of that pannier into the other,
So that the sacks may be lightened, and the camel too.” He (the Arab) cried, “Bravo! O clever and noble sage! Such subtle thought and excellent judgement! And you so naked, (journeying) on foot and in fatigue!”


3185. The good man took pity on the philosopher and resolved to mount him on the camel.

He said to him again, “O fair-spoken sage, explain a little about your own circumstances as well. (With) such intelligence and talent as you have, are you a vizier or a king? Tell the truth.”
He answered,I am not (either of) these two: I am of the common folk. Look at my appearance and dress.”

He asked, “How many camels have you? How many oxen?I have neither these nor those,” he replied: “do not dig at me.”


3190. He said, “At any rate, what goods have you in your shop?” He answered, “Where have I a shop, and where a dwelling-place?”

Then,” said he, “I will ask about money. How much money (have you)?—for you are a solitary wanderer and one whose counsel is prized.

With you is the elixir which changes the copper of the world (into) gold: your understanding and knowledge are inlaid with pearls.”
By God,” he replied, “O chief of the Arabs, in my whole property there is not the means of (buying) food for the night. I run about with bare feet and naked body. If any one will give me a loaf of bread—thither I go.


3195. From this wisdom and learning and excellence (of mind) I have got nothing but phantasy and headache.” Then the Arab said to him, “Begone far from my side, so that your ill-luck may not rain upon me.
Take far away from me that unlucky wisdom of yours: your speech is unlucky for (all) the people of the time. Either go you in that direction, and I will run in this direction; or if your way be forwards, I will go back.
One sack of wheat and the other of sand is better for me than these vain contrivings.


3200. My foolishness is a very blessed foolishness, for my heart is well furnished (with spiritual graces) and my soul is devout.”

If you desire that misery should vanish (from you), endeavour that wisdom may vanish from you—

The wisdom which is born of (human) nature and phantasy, the wisdom which lacks the overflowing grace of the Light of the
Glorious (God).
The wisdom of this world brings increase of supposition and doubt; the wisdom of the Religion soars above the sky. The ingenious rascals of (this) latter time have aggrandised themselves over the ancients;


3205. The (apt) learners of cunning have burnt (consumed) their hearts (in study) and have learned feints and tricks;

They have thrown to the winds patience and altruism and self-sacrifice and generosity(qualities) which are the elixir of (spiritual) profit.

The (right) thought is that which opens a way: the (right) way is that on which a (spiritual) king advances. The (true) king is he that is king in himself, and is not made king by treasuries and armies;
So that his kingship remains unto everlasting, like the glory of the empire of the Mohammedan Religion.

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