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(Masnavi Book 3: 02) The Travellers who ate the young Elephant












Story of those who ate the young elephant from greed and because they neglected the advice of the sincere counsellor.

Have you heard that in India a sage espied a party of friends?

70. Left hungry, lacking provisions, and naked, they were coming from travel on a far road. His wisdom's love was stirred (within him), and he gave them a fair greeting and blossomed like a rose-bush.
I know, he said, “that anguish has gathered upon you from this Karbalá (of suffering) in
consequence of hunger and emptiness;
But, for God's sake, for God's sake, O illustrious company, let not your food be the young of the elephant!
The elephant is in this direction that ye are now going; do not tear in pieces the elephant's offspring, but hearken (to me).

75. The young elephants are on your road: to hunt them down is what your hearts desire exceedingly.
They are very weak and tender and very fat, but their mother is searching (after them and) lying in wait.
She will roam a hundred leagues' distance in quest of her children, moaning and making lament. Fire and smoke issue from her trunk: beware of (hurting) those pitied (cherished) children of
hers!”
O son, the saints are God's children: (both) in (their) absence and presence (He is) well aware
(of what befalls them).

80. Do not deem absence (from Him) to be the result of imperfection on their part, for He takes vengeance for the sake of their spirits (which are one with Him).
He said, “These saints are My children in exile, sundered from (My) dominion and glory;
(They are) despised and orphaned for the sake of probation, but secretly I am their friend and intimate.
All of them are supported by My protections: you may say they are in sooth parts of Me.
Take heed! Take heed! These are My dervishes; they are a hundred thousand thousand and (yet)
they are one body.”

85. Else, how should a Moses have overthrown Pharaoh by means of one goodly rod?
Else, how should Noah have submerged East and West in his Flood by means of one evil curse? One prayer of the generous Lot would not have rased (to the ground) all their (his people's) city (and left them) in despair.
Their city, resembling Paradise, became a lake of black water: go, behold the sign!
This sign and this information (admonition) lies in the direction of Syria: you will see it as you pass on the way to Jerusalem.

90. Hundreds of thousands of prophets who worshipped God truly there have been chastisements (inflicted by them) in every generation.
If I should tell on and if this narration should increase (in length), not only (men's) hearts but the
(very) mountains would bleed.
The mountains bleed and again become solid, (but) you do not see them bleed: you are blind and reprobate.
A marvellous blind man, (who is) far-sighted and keen-eyed, but sees naught of the camel except the hair!
Man, from the parsimony of greed, inspects hair by hair: like a bear, he keeps dancing to no
purpose.

95. Dance (only) where you break (mortify) yourself and (when you) tear away the cotton from the sore of lust.
(Holy) men dance and wheel on the (spiritual) battle-field: they dance in their own blood.
When they are freed from the hand (dominion) of self, they clap a hand; when they escape from their own imperfection, they make a dance.
From within them musicians strike the tambourine; at their ecstasy the seas burst into foam. You see it not, but for their ears the leaves too on the boughs are clapping hands.

100. You do not see the clapping of the leaves: one must have the spiritual ear, not this ear of the body.
Close the ear of the head to jesting and lying, that you may see the resplendent city of the soul. The ear of Mohammed draws out the hidden meaning in the words (of the religious hypocrites),
for God saith of him in the Qur’án, He is an ear.
This Prophet is entirely ear and eye; we are refreshed by him: he is (as) the suckler and we (as)
the (infant) boy.

This discourse has no end. Go back to those who had to do with the elephant, and start at the beginning.

The remainder of the Story of those who molested the young elephants.

105. The elephant takes a sniff at every mouth and keeps poking round the belly of every man,
To see where she will find the roasted flesh of her young, so that she may manifest her vengeance and strength.
You eat the flesh of God's servants: you backbite them, you will suffer retribution.
Beware, for he that smells your mouths is the Creator: how shall any one save his life except him that is true (to God)?
Woe to the scoffer whose smell shall be tested in the grave by Munkar or Nakír!

110. There is no possibility of withdrawing the mouth from those mighty ones, nor of sweetening the mouth with medicinal ointments.
(In the grave) there is no water and oil to cover the face, there is no way of evasion (open) to intelligence and sagacity.
How many a time will the blows of their maces beat upon the head and rump of every vain
gabbler!
Look at the effect of the mace of ‘Azrá’íl, (even) if you do not see the wood and iron in (their material) forms.
Sometimes too they appear in (material) form: the patient (himself) is aware thereof.

115. The patient says, O my friends, what is this sword over my head?”
(They reply), “We do not see it; this must be fancy. What fancy is this? (Nay), for it is (the hour of) departure (to the other world).
What fancy is this, from terror of which this inverted sphere (the sky) has now become (as
insubstantial as) a phantom?
To the sick man the maces and swords became perceptible (visible), and his head dropped down. He sees that that (vision) is for his sake: the eye of foe and friend (alike) is barred from it.

120. Worldly greed vanished, his eye became keen: his eye became illumined at the moment of bloodshed (death).
That eye of his, from the result of his pride and his anger, became (like) the cock that crows unseasonably.
It is necessary to cut off the head of the bird that rings the bell (crows) at the wrong time.
At every moment your particular spirit is struggling with death: in your spirit's death-struggle look to your faith!
Thy life is like a purse of gold: day and night are like him who counts the gold coins (the money-
changer).

125. He (Time) counts and gives the gold without stopping, until it (the purse) is emptied and there comes the eclipse (death).
If you take away from a mountain and do not put (anything) in the place (of what you have taken), the mountain will be demolished by that giving.
Therefore, for every breath (that you give out), put an equivalent in its place, so that by (acting
in accordance with the text) and fall to worship and draw nigh you may gain your object.
Do not strive so much to complete (your worldly) affairs: do not strive in any affair that is not religious.
(Otherwise) at the end you will depart incomplete, your (spiritual) affairs marred and your bread unbaked.

130. And the beautifying of your grave and sepulchre is not (done) by means of stone and wood and plaster;
Nay, but by digging for yourself a grave in (spiritual) purity and burying (your) egoism in His egoism,
And by becoming His dust and buried in love of Him, so that your breath may gain replenishments from His breath.
A tomb with domes and turrets—that is not good (approved) on the part of the followers of
Reality.
Look now at a living person attired in satin: does the satin help his understanding at all?

135. His soul is in hateful torment, the scorpion of grief is in his grief-laden heart. Outside, on his exterior, broideries and decorations; but within he is sorely lamenting from (bitter) thoughts,
While you may see another in an old patched frock, his thoughts (sweet) as the sugar-cane and his words (like) sugar.

Returning to the Story of the elephant.

Said the sincere adviser, “Hearken to this counsel of mine, so that your hearts and souls may not be afflicted.
Be content with herbage and leaves, do not go in chase of the young elephants.

140. I have put off from my neck (I have discharged) the debt of admonition: how should the end (final result) of admonition be aught but felicity?
I came to deliver the message, that I may save you from (fruitless) repentance. Beware! Let not greed waylay you, let not greed for victual tear you up by the roots!
This he said, and gave a farewell and departed; their famine and hunger waxed great on the way.
Suddenly, in the direction of a highroad, they espied a fat young elephant, newly born.

145. They fell upon it like furious wolves, ate it clean up, and washed their hands.
One of the fellow-travellers did not eat (of it) and exhorted (the others to abstain), for the sayings of that dervish were remembered by him.
Those words hindered him from (eating) its roasted flesh: old intelligence bestows on you a new fortune.
Then they all fell down and slept, but the hungry one (was awake) like the shepherd in the flock.
He saw a frightful elephant approaching: first she came and ran towards him who was keeping guard.

150. She smelt his mouth thrice: no disagreeable smell came from it.
She paced round him several times and went off: the huge queen-elephant did him no hurt. She smelt the lips of every sleeper, and the smell (of her young one's flesh) was coming to her from each of those slumbering men.
He (each man) had eaten of the roasted flesh of the young elephant: the (mother) elephant quickly tore him to pieces and killed him.
At once she set about rending the people of that company one by one, and she had no awe of
(doing) it.

155. She tossed each one in the air recklessly, so that he dashed on the earth and was cloven asunder.
O drinker of the people's blood, begone from the way, lest their blood wage war against you. Know for sure that their property is (as) their blood, because property comes into one's hand (is acquired) by strength (of body).

The mother of those young elephants will exact vengeance: (her) retribution will slay him that eats the young elephant.
O eater of bribes, you eatest the young elephant: from you too the Master of the elephant will wring the breath.

160. The smell put to shame the deviser of fraud: the elephant knows the smell of her child. He that perceives the smell of God from (distant) Yemen, how should not he perceive the smell of falsehood from me?
Inasmuch as Mustafá (Mohammed) smelt (this) from far away, how should not he smell the odour from our mouths?
He does smell it, but he conceals (the fact) from us: the good and bad smells go up to Heaven.
You art sleeping, and (meanwhile) the smell of that unlawful deed (of yours) is beating on the azure sky.

165. It accompanies your foul breaths, it ascends to the smellers (examiners) in the celestial sphere.
The smell of pride and the smell of greed and the smell of concupiscence will become, in speaking, like (the smell of) onions.
If you take oath, saying, When have I eaten them? I have abstained from onions and garlic,
The breath of your oath will inform (against thee) and will strike upon the noses of those who sit beside you.
Many prayers are rejected because of the smell thereof: the corrupt heart shows in the tongue.

170. The answer to such a prayer is “Get ye gone”: the requital for every knave is the cudgel of repulse.
(But) if your words be wrong and your meaning right, that wrongness of expression is acceptable to
God.

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