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(Masnavi Book 4: 36) Death the touchstone of pretension






Commentary on Moses conceived a fear in his heart: We said, Fear not, verily you wilt be the superior.

1670. Moses said, “Magic too is a bewildering thing: how shall I act?—for this people have no discernment.”
God said, I will produce discernment, I will make the undiscerning mind able to perceive (the truth).
Howbeit they (the magicians) have raised up foam, like the sea, thou, O Moses, wilt prevail: fear not!”

Magic was glorious in its own time: when the rod became a dragon, those (magic arts) were disgraced.
Every one pretends to excellence and elegance: the stone of Death is the touchstone for (these)
elegances.

1675. Magic is gone and the miracle of Moses is past: as regards both, the bowl has fallen from the roof of (their) being.
What has the noise of the bowl of magic left behind but execration? What has the noise of the bowl of religion left behind but sublimity?
Since the touchstone has become hidden from man and woman, O adulterated coin, come now into line (with the genuine coin) and brag!
It is the time for you to brag. Since the touchstone is absent, they will pass you in honour from
hand to hand.
The adulterated coin is ever saying to me arrogantly, O pure gold, how am I inferior to thee?”

1680. The gold says, “Yes, O fellow-servant; but the touchstone is coming: be prepared.The death of the body is a (welcome) gift to the adepts of the mystery: what damage is (done by) the scissors to pure gold?
If the adulterated coin had seen the end in regard to itself, it would have become at first the black (thing) which it became in the end.
Since (in that case) it would have become black at first, in confrontation (with the genuine coin)
it would have been far from duplicity and damnation.
It would have sought the elixir of (Divine) grace; its reason would have prevailed over its hypocrisy.

1685. Since it would have become broken-hearted on account of its (evil) state, it would have seen before it Him who mends them that are broken.
(When) it saw the end and became broken (contrite), it was at once bandaged by the Bone- setter.
The (Divine) grace impelled the pieces of copper towards the elixir; the gilt (coin) remained
deprived of (Divine) bounty.
O gilt one, do not make pretensions: recognise that your purchaser will not (always) remain so blind.
The light of the place of congregation (at the Last Judgement) will cause their (the purchasers')
eyes to see and will expose your blindfolding (of them).

1690. Look at those who have seen the end: they are the amazement of souls and the envy of the eye.
Look at those who have seen (only) the present: their inmost self is corrupt; they are radically decapitated (cut off from the Truth).
To the seer of the present, who is in ignorance and doubt, both the true dawn and the false dawn are one (and the same).
The false dawn has given a hundred thousand caravans to the wind of destruction, O youth.
There is no genuine money that has not a deceptive counterfeit: alas for the soul that does not possess the touchstone and scissors!

Warning the pretender to shun pretension and enjoining him to follow (the true guide).

1695. Bú Musaylim said, I myself am Ahmad (Mohammed): I have cunningly confounded the religion of Ahmad.
Say to Bú Musaylim, Do not behave with insolence: be not deluded by the beginning, regard the end.

Do not act thus as a guide from (with the motive of) greed for amassing (wealth and power):
follow behind, in order that the Candle (the true guide) may go in front (of thee).
The Candle, like the moon, shows (clearly) the (traveller's) destination, and whether in this direction there is the grain (of spiritual welfare) or the place for the snare (of perdition). Whether you wilt or not, (so long as you art) with the Lantern the form of falcon and the form of crow become visible (to thee).

1700. Otherwise, (beware, for) these crows have lit (the lantern of) fraud: they have learned the cry of the white falcons.
If a man learn the cry of the hoopoe, (yet) where is the mystery of the hoopoe and the message from Sabá?
Know (distinguish) the natural cry from the artificial one, (know) the crown of kings from the
crown (crest) of hoopoes.
These shameless persons have attached to their tongues the speech of dervishes and the deep sayings of gnostics.
Every destruction of an olden people that there was—(it was) because they deemed sandal-wood
to be (common) wood.

1705. They had the discernment that should make that (difference) evident, but greed and cupidity make (men) blind and deaf.
The blindness of the (physically) blind is not far from (the Divine) mercy; it is the blindness of greed that is inexcusable.
Crucifixion (tribulation) inflicted by the King (God) is not far from mercy; the crucifixion (torment)
of envy is not forgiven (by God).
O fish, regard the end; do not regard the hook: evil appetite has bandaged (blindfolded) yours eye that sees the end.
See the beginning and the end with both eyes: beware, do not be one-eyed like the accursed
Iblís.

1710. The one-eyed man is he who saw only the present—ignorant, like the beasts, of (what comes) after.
Since the two eyes of an ox are (rated) as one eye (of a man) in (the case of) damages for
(their) destruction—for it (the ox) has no excellence—
Its two eyes are worth (only) a half of its value, inasmuch as yours eye is the support for its two eyes.
But if you destroy one eye of a son of Adam, by a statute (of the Law) you must pay half of his
value,
Because the human eye works alone by itself without (assistance from) the two eyes of a friend.

1715. Since (the power of) the donkey's eye (to see) the beginning is not accompanied by (power to see) the end, it (the donkey) is in the same case as the one-eyed man, (even) if it has two eyes.
This topic has no limit—and that light-minded (foolish) one is writing a letter in hope of loaves.

The rest of the story of the slave’s writing a petition for his allowance.

Before (writing) the letter he went to the kitchen-stewerd and said,O niggard of the kitchen of the generous king,
It is far from him and from his magnanimity that this (small) amount (matter) of my allowance should come into his consideration.”
He (the steward) said, “He has ordered (so) for a good object, not on account of stinginess or close-fistedness.”

1720.  “By God, he replied, “this is a canard: even old gold is as dust in the king’s eyes.” The steward raised up manifold arguments: he rejected them all because of the greed which he had (in him).
When, at the time of the forenoon meal, his (usual) allowance was reduced, he uttered much revilement, (but) it was of no avail.
He said, “Ye are doing these things on purpose. Nay, said the other, “we obey the (royal)
command.
Do not regard this (as proceeding) from the branch (sub ordinate): regard it (as proceeding)
from the root (principal); do not strike at the bow, for the arrow is (really) from the arm.

1725. (The words) you didst not throw when you threwest are a trial (of men’s understandings): do not lay the fault on the Prophet, for that (throwing) is (an act which proceeded) from God. The water is turbid from the source: O you who art angry in vain, look farther on, open yours eye once!”
(Moved) by anger and resentment he went into a certain place and wrote an angry letter to the king.
In that letter he lauded the king and threaded the pearl of (descanted e on) the king’s munificence and generosity,
Saying, O you whose hand exceeds the sea and the clouds in (liberally) fulfilling the want of the
suitor,

1730. Because that which the cloud gives, it gives with tears, (while) your hand incessantly lays the dish (of bounty) with smiles.”
Though the outward form of the letter was praise, from (amidst) the praise the scent of anger was showing traces (betraying itself).
All your actions are devoid of light and ugly because you are far, far from the light of your
original nature.
The splendour of the actions of the vile becomes unsaleable (fades away), just as fresh fruit soon becomes rotten.
The splendour of the present life soon produces unsaleableness (becomes of no account),
inasmuch as it belongs to the world of generation and corruption.

1735. Breasts are not gladdened by an encomium when there are feelings of enmity in the encomiast.
O heart, become purged of enmity and repugnance, and then chant “Glory to God and be busy
(in serving Him).
(To have) Glory to God on your tongue and repugnance within is hypocrisy or guile on the tongue’s part;
And moreover God has said,I do not look to the exterior, I am regarding the interior.”

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