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(Masnavi Book 1: 47) The Grammarian and the Boatman

The story of what passed between the grammarian and the boatman.

2835. A certain grammarian embarked in a boat. That self-conceited person turned to the boatman

And said, “Have you ever studied grammar?” “No,” he replied. The other said, “Half your life is gone to naught.” The boatman became heart-broken with grief, but at the time he refrained from answering.
The wind cast the boat into a whirlpool: the boatman spoke loud (shouted) to the grammarian,

Tell me, do you know how to swim?” “No,” said he, “O fair-spoken good-looking man!”

2840. “O grammarian,” said he, your whole life is naught, because the boat is sinking in these whirlpools.”

Know that here mahw (self-effacement) is needed, not nah? (grammar): if you are mahw (dead to self), plunge into the sea without peril.

The water of the sea places the dead one on its head (causes him to float on the surface); but if he be living, how shall he escape from the sea?

Inasmuch as you have died to the attributes of the flesh, the Sea of (Divine) consciousness will place you on the crown of its head (will raise you to honour).

(But) O you who have called the people asses, at this time you art left (floundering), like an ass, upon this ice.

2845. If in the world you art the most learned scholar of the time, behold the passing away of this world and this time!

We have stitched in (inserted) the (story of the) grammarian, that we might teach you the grammar (nahw) of self-effacement

In self-loss, O venerated friend, you wilt find the jurisprudence of jurisprudence, the grammar of grammar, and the accidence of accidence.
That jug of water is (an emblem of) our different sorts of knowledge, and the Caliph is the Tigris of God's knowledge. We are carrying jugs full (of water) to the Tigris: if we do not know ourselves to be asses, asses we are.

2850. After all, the Bedouin was excusable, for he was ignorant of the Tigris and of the (great) river.

If he had been acquainted with the Tigris, as we are, he would not have carried that jug from place to place; Nay, had he been aware of the Tigris, he would have dashed that jug against a stone.

How the Caliph accepted the gift and bestowed largesse, notwithstanding that he was entirely without need of the gift (the water) and the jug.

When the Caliph saw (the gift) and heard his story, he filled the jug with gold and added (other presents). He delivered the Arab from penury, he bestowed donations and special robes of honour,

2855. Saying, “Give into his hand this jug full of gold. When he returns (home), take him to the Tigris.

He has come (hither) by way of the desert and by travelling (on land): it will be nearer for him (to return) by water.”

When he (the Arab) embarked in the boat and beheld the Tigris, he was prostrating himself in shame and bowing (his head), Saying, “Oh, wonderful is the kindness of that bounteous King, and It is (even) more wonderful that he took that water.
How did that Sea of munificence so quickly accept from me such spurious coin as this?”

2860. Know, O son, that everything in the universe is a jug which is (filled) to the brim with wisdom and beauty.

It (everything in the universe) is a drop of the Tigris of His beauty, which (beauty) because of its fullness is not contained under the skin (that should enclose it).

It was a hidden treasure: because of its fullness it burst forth and made the earth more shining than the heavens.

It was a hidden treasure: because of its fullness it surged up and made the earth (like) a sultan robed in satin. And if he (the Arab) had seen a branch of the Divine Tigris, he would have destroyed that jug, destroyed it.

2865. They that saw it are always beside themselves: like one beside himself, they hurled a stone at the jug (of their self- existence).

O you who from jealousy have hurled a stone at the jug, while the jug has (only) become more perfect through being shattered, The jar is shattered, (but) the water is not spilled from it: from this shattering have arisen a hundred soundnesses.
Every piece of the jar is in dance and ecstasy, (though) to the partial (discursive) reason this seems absurd.

In this state (of ecstasy) neither the jug is manifest nor the water. Consider well, and God knoweth best what is right.

2870. When you knock at the door of Reality, it will be opened to you: beat the pinion of thought, in order that you may be made a king-falcon.

The pinion of your thought has become mud-stained and heavy because you are a clayeater: clay has become to you as bread. Bread and meat are (originally) clay: eat little thereof, that you may not remain in the earth, like clay.
When you become hungry, you become a dog: you become fierce and ill-tempered and ill-natured.

When you have eaten your fill, you have become a carcase: you have become devoid of understanding and without feet (inert), like a wall.

2875. So at one time you are a carcase and at another time a dog: how will you run well in the road of the lions (follow the saints)?

Know that your only means of hunting is the dog (the animal soul): throw bones to the dog but seldom, Because when the dog has eaten its fill, it becomes rebellious: how should it run to the goodly chase and hunt? Want of food was leading the Arab to that (exalted) court, and (there) he found his fortune.
We have related in the (foregoing) story the kindness shown by the King to that needy one who had no refuge.

2880. Whatsoever the man in love (with God) speaks, the scent of Love is springing from his mouth into the abode of Love.

If he speak (formal) theology, it all turns to (spiritual) poverty: the scent of poverty comes from that man of sweet and beguiling discourse.

And if he speak infidelity, it has the scent of (the true) religion, and if he speak doubtfully, his doubt turns to certainty. The perverse froth that has risen from a sea of sincerity that turbid (froth) has been set out by the pure source.
Know that its froth is pure and worthy: know that it is like revilement from the lips of the beloved,

2885. Whose unsought reproaches have become sweet (to the lover) for the sake of her cheek which he desires.

If he (the lover of God) speak falsehood, it seems (like) the truth. O (fine) falsehood that would adorn (even) the truth!

If you cook (a confection) of sugar in the form of a loaf of bread, it will taste of candy, not of bread, while you are sucking it. If a true believer find a golden idol, how should he leave it (there) for the sake of a worshipper?
Nay, he will take it and cast it into the fire: he will break (destroy) its borrowed (unreal) form,

2890. In order that the idol-shape may not remain on the gold, because Form hinders and waylays (those who seek Reality). The essence of its gold is the essence of Lordship (Divinity): the idol-stamp on the sterling gold is borrowed (unreal).
Do not burn a blanket on account of a flea, and do not let the day go (to waste) on account of every gnat's headache. You are an idol-worshipper when you remain in (bondage to) forms: leave its (the idol's) form and look at the reality.

If you are a man (bound) for the Pilgrimage, seek a pilgrim (as your) companion, whether he be a Hindoo or a Turcoman or an

2895. Do not look at his figure and colour, look at his purpose and intention.
If he is black, (yet) he is in accord with you: call him white, for (spiritually) his complexion is the same as yours. This story has been told up and down (confusedly), like the doings of lovers, without foot (end) or head (beginning). It has no head, inasmuch as it existed before eternity; it has no foot: it has (always) been akin to everlastingness. Nay, it is like water: every drop thereof is both head and foot, and at the same time without both.

2900. This is not a story, mark you! God forbid! This is the ready money (presentation, here and now) of my state and yours. Consider (it) well,
Because the Súfí is grand and glorious (in his spiritual vision): whatever is past is not remembered (does not enter his mind). We are both the Arab and the jug and the King; we are all: he that has been turned away from it (the Truth) shall be turned

Know that the husband is Reason, and the wife is greed and cupidity: these twain are dark and deniers (of Reason); Reason is the (bright) candle.

Now hear the origin of their denial, whence it arose: (it arose) from the fact that the Whole has various parts.

2905. The parts of the Whole are not parts in relation to the Whole — (they are) not like the scent of the rose, which is a part of the rose.

The beauty of (all) green herbs is a part of the Rose's beauty, the coo of the turtle-dove is a part of that Nightingale.

If I become occupied with a difficulty (difficult question) and the answer (explanation), how shall I be able to give water to the thirsty?

If you are wholly perplexed and in straits, have patience: patience is the key to joy.

Abstain from (distracting) thoughts, abstain: thought is (like) the lion and the wild ass, and (men's) hearts are the thickets (which they haunt).

2910. Acts of abstinence are superior to medicines, because scratching is an increase (aggravation) of the itch. Assuredly abstinence is the first principle of medicine: abstain, and behold the strength of the spirit.
Receive these words, like the (open) ear, that I may make for you an earring of gold:

(Then) you will become a ring in the ear of (devoted to) the Moon that works in gold, you will ascend to the moon and the

First, hear (and learn) that the diverse created beings are spiritually different, from (Y) to alif (A).

2915. Amongst the various letters there is a confusion and uncertainty, though from one point of view they are (all) one from head (beginning) to foot (end).

From one aspect they are opposites, and from one aspect they are unified; from one aspect they are jest, and from one aspect they are earnest.

Therefore the Resurrection is the day of the supreme inspection: inspection is desired by him (only) who is glorious and splendid.
Whoever is like a fraudulent Hindoo, for him the day of inspection is the time of exposure. Inasmuch as he has not a face like the sun, he desires nothing but night (to cover him) like a veil.

2920. Since his thorn has not a single rose-leaf, Spring is the enemy of his conscience,

While to one that is roses and lilies from head to foot Spring is (welcome as) a pair of bright eyes.

The unspiritual thorn wishes for autumn, for autumn, in order that it may jostle with (contend as a rival with) the rose-garden,

And that it (autumn) may hide the beauty of that (the rose) and the shame of this (the thorn), so that you may not see the colour of that and the colour of this.

Therefore autumn is its (the thorn's) Spring and life, (for then) the (worthless) stone and the pure ruby appear one.

2925. The Gardener knows that (difference) even in autumn, but the One's sight is better than the world's sight.

Truly that One Person is (essentially) the (whole) world: he is unaware of evil (does not know evil as such). The stars, every one, are all part of the Moon.

Therefore every fair form and shape (in the world) is crying, “Good news! good news! Lo, here comes the Spring.” So long as the blossom is shining like a coat of mail, how should the fruits display their knobs?
When the blossom is shed, the fruit comes to a head: when the body is shattered, the spirit lifts up its head.

2930. The fruit is the reality, the blossom is its form: the blossom is the good news, the fruit is the bounty (given as a reward) for it.

When the blossom was shed, the fruit became visible: when that diminished this began to increase.

How should bread give strength until it is broken? How should uncrushed clusters (of grapes) yield wine?

Unless myrobalan is pounded up with medicines, how should the medicines by themselves become health-increasing (act as tonics)?

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