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(Masnavi Book 3: 22) The Elephant in the dark house








The disagreement as to the description and shape of the elephant.

The elephant was in a dark house: some Hindús had brought it for exhibition.

1260. In order to see it, many people were going, every one, into that darkness.
As seeing it with the eye was impossible, (each one) was feeling it in the dark with the palm of his hand.
The hand of one fell on its trunk: he said, This creature is like a water-pipe.” The hand of another touched its ear: to him it appeared to be like a fan.
Since another handled its leg, he said, I found the elephant's shape to be like a pillar.”

1265. Another laid his hand on its back: he said, Truly, this elephant was like a throne.Similarly, whenever any one heard (a description of the elephant), he understood (it only in respect of) the part that he had touched.
On account of the (diverse) place (object) of view, their statements differed: one man entitled it
dál, another alif.”
If there had been a candle in each one's hand, the difference would have gone out of their words.
The eye of sense-perception is only like the palm of the hand: the palm has not power to reach the whole of him (the elephant).

1270. The eye of the Sea is one thing, and the foam another: leave the foam and look with the eye of the Sea.
Day and night (there is) the movement of foam-flecks from the Sea: you beholdest the foam, but not the Sea. Marvellous!
We are dashing against each other, like boats: our eyes are darkened, though we are in the clear water.
O you that have gone to sleep in the body's boat, you have seen the water, (but) look on the
Water of the water.
The water has a Water that is driving it; the spirit has a Spirit that is calling it.

1275. Where were Moses and Jesus when the (Divine) Sun was giving water to the sown field of existent things?
Where were Adam and Eve at the time when God fitted this string to the bow?
This (manner of) speech, too, is imperfect and maimed; the speech that is not imperfect is
Yonder.
If he (the saint) speak from that (source), your foot will stumble; and if he speak naught of that, oh, alas for you!
And if he speak in the likeness of a (material) form, you wilt stick to that form, O youth.

1280. You art foot-bound on the earth, like grass: you noddest your head at a (breath of)
wind, (though you art) without certainty.
But you have no (spiritual) foot that you shouldest make a departure or perchance drag your foot out of this mud.
How shouldest you drag your foot away? Thy life is from this mud: it is mighty hard for this life of
thine to go (on the Way to God).
(But) when you receivest life from God, O dependent one, then you wilt become independent of the mud and wilt go (aloft).

When the sucking (babe) is separated from its nurse, it becomes an eater of morsels and abandons her.

1285. Thou, like seeds, art in bondage to the milk of earth: seek to wean yourself by
(partaking of) the spiritual food.
Drink the word of Wisdom, for it has become a hidden (veiled) light, O you who art unable to receive the unveiled Light,
To the end that you mayst become able, O Soul, to receive the Light, and that you mayst
behold without veils that which (now) is hidden,
And traverse the sky like a star; nay, (that you mayst) journey unconditioned, without (any) sky. (’Twas) thus you camest into being from non-existence. Say now, how didst you come? You camest drunken (unconscious).

1290. The ways of your coming are not remembered by you, but we will recite to you a hint
(thereof).
Let your mind go, and then be mindful! Close yours ear, and then listen!
Nay, I will not tell (it), because you still art unripe: you art in (your) springtime, you have not seen (the month of) Tamúz.
This world is even as the tree, O noble ones: we are like the half-ripened fruit upon it.
The unripe (fruits) cling fast to the bough, because during (their) immaturity they are not meet for the palace.

1295. When they have ripened and have become sweet—after that, biting their lips, they take
(but) a feeble hold of the boughs.
When the mouth has been sweetened by that felicity, the kingdom of the world becomes cold
(unpleasing) to Man.
To take a tight hold and to attach one's self strongly (to the world) is (a sign of) unripeness: so long as you art an embryo, your occupation is blood-drinking.
Another thing remains (to be said), but the Holy Spirit will tell you the tale of it, without me. Nay, you wilt tell it even to yours own ear—neither I nor another than I (will tell it thee), O thou
that art even I—

1300. Just as, when you fallest asleep, you goest from the presence of yourself into the presence of yourself:
You hearest from yourself, and deemest that such or such a one has secretly told you in the dream that (which you have heard).
You art not a single thou, O good comrade; nay, you art the sky and the deep sea.
Thy mighty “Thou, which is nine hundredfold, is the ocean and the drowning-place of a hundred
“thou's.
Indeed, what occasion (is there) for the terms wakefulness and sleep? Do not speak, for God knoweth best what is right.

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