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(Masnavi Book 2: 13) The King and his two slaves

How the King made trial of the two slaves whom he had recently purchased.

A King bought two slaves cheap, and conversed with one of the twain.

He found him quick-witted and answering sweetly: what issues from the sugar-lip? Sugar-water.

845. Man is concealed underneath his tongue: this tongue is the curtain over the gate of the soul. When a gust of wind has rolled up the curtain, the secret of the interior of the house is disclosed to us,
(And we see) whether in that house there are pearls or (grains of) wheat, a treasure of gold or whether all is snakes and scorpions;

Or whether a treasure is there and a serpent beside it, since a treasure of gold is not without some one to keep watch. Without premeditation he (that slave) would speak in such wise as others after five hundred premeditations.

850. You would have said that in his inward part there was a sea, and that the whole sea was pearls of eloquence, (And that) the light that shone from every pearl became a criterion for distinguishing between truth and falsehood.
(So) would the light of the Criterion (Universal Reason), (if it shone into our hearts), distinguish for us truth and falsehood and separate them mote by mote;

The light of the (Divine) Pearl would become the light of our eyes: both the question and the answer would be (would come)
from us.

(But) you have made your eyes awry and seen the moon's disk double: this gazing in perplexity is like the question.

855. Make your eyes straight in the moonshine, so that you may see the moon as one. Lo, (that is) the answer. Tell your thought not to see awry and to look well (rightly): that thought is the radiance of that Pearl.
Whenever an answer comes to the heart through the ear, the eye says, “Hear it from me; let that (answer given through the ear)

The ear is a go-between, while the eye is possessed of union (immediate vision); the eye has direct experience (of reality), while the ear has (only) words (doctrine).

In the ear's hearing there is a transformation of qualities; in the eyes' seeing there is a transformation of essence.

860. If your knowledge of fire has been turned to certainty by words (alone), seek to be cooked (by the fire itself), and do not abide in the certainty (of knowledge derived from others).

There is no intuitive (actual) certainty until you burn; (if) you desire this certainty, sit down in the fire.

When the ear is penetrating, it becomes an eye; otherwise, the word (of God) becomes entangled in the ear (and does not reach the heart).

This discourse has no end. Turn back, that (we may see) what the King did to those slaves of his.

How the King sent away one of the two slaves and interrogated the other.

When he saw that that laddie was possessed of keen intelligence, he made a sign to the other to come (to him).

865. (If) I have called him by (a word which has) the suffix of pity (tenderness), It is not to belittle him: if a grandfather say
“my sonny,” it is not (in) contempt.

When the second (slave) came before the King, he had a stinking mouth and black teeth.

Although the King was displeased by his speech, still he made some inquiry concerning his hidden thoughts. He said, With this aspect and this stinking mouth, sit at a distance, but do not move too far off—
For (hitherto) you have been (with regard to me in the position of) a writer of letters and notes; you have not been a companion and friend and comrade—

870. That we may treat (and cure) that mouth of yours: you are (now) the beloved (patient), and we are the skilful physician.

It is not fitting to burn a new blanket on account of one flea; (nor would it become me) to shut my eyes to (turn my back on)
you (because of superficial faults).

Notwithstanding all (this), sit down and talk on a few topics, that I may well see the form of your mind.”
Then he sent that keen-witted one away to do (his behest): (he sent him) to a bathhouse, saying, “Go, scrub yourself.” And to this other one he said, “Good! you are a clever lad: in truth you are a hundred slaves, not one.

875. You are not such as your fellow-servant declared: that envious one would (fain) have made me cold to (disgusted with)

(For) he said that you are thievish and dishonest and ill-behaved, immoral and infamous and so forth.”

The slave said, “He (my fellow-servant) has always been veracious; I have not seen any one so truthful as he is. Veracity is inborn in his nature; whatever he says, I do not say it is void (of truth).
I deem not that good-minded one malicious: I (rather) suspect my own person.

880. Maybe, he sees in me faults I do not see in myself, O King.”

Any one who saw his own faults before (seeing those of others) —how indeed should he be unconcerned with correcting himself?
These people (of the world) take no heed of themselves, O father: consequently they blame one another. O idolater (dualist), (if) I do not behold my own face (reality), I behold your face and you beholdest mine. He that beholds his own face (reality)—his light is greater than the light of the creatures (of God).

885. Though he die, his sight is everlasting, because his sight is the sight of the Creator.

That light by which he sensibly beholds his own face (reality) before him, is not the light of sense. The King said, “Now tell his (your fellow-servant's) faults, just as he spoke of yours,
That I may know whether you are solicitous for me and a (good) house-steward of my property and business.”

He replied, “O King, I will tell his faults, though he is to me a pleasing fellow-servant.

890. His faults are affection and loyalty and humanity; his faults are sincerity and keen wittedness and cordial comradeship. His least fault is generosity and bounty—the generosity that even gives up life.”
God has brought to view myriads of lives (in return for the life given up): what generosity would there be (in him) that saw not those?
And if he saw them, how should he grudge his life? How should he become so grieved for the sake of one life? On the river-bank, water is grudged by him (alone) that is blind to the stream of water.

895. The Prophet said, “Whosoever knows for sure his recompense on the day of Resurrection—

That his compensation will be ten for one—at every moment a different (act of) munificence will issue from him.”

All munificence is from seeing compensations; therefore seeing the compensation is opposed to fearing (and shrinking from the act of munificence).

Miserliness consists in not seeing compensations: the prospect of pearls keeps the diver glad.

Hence no one in the world is miserly, since no one hazards anything without (seeing) what is to be received in exchange.

900. Generosity, then, comes from the eye, not from the hand: It is seeing that matters; none but the seer is saved.

Another fault (of his is) that he is not self-conceited; he is anxious to find fault with his self-existence.

He has (always) been one who speaks in blame of himself and seeks to blame himself; he has (always) been good (kind) to all and bad (unkind) to himself.”

The King said, “Do not show (such) eagerness in praising your friend, do not introduce praise of yourself in the mask of (your)
praise of him;

Because I will bring him to the test, and shame will befall you in the upshot.”

How the slave, from the purity of his thought, swore to the truth and loyalty of his friend.

905. He said, “Nay, by Allah, and by the great God, the possessor of kingdom, and by the Merciful and Compassionate One; By the God who sent the prophets, not in (His) need (of them), but in grace and majesty;
By the Lord who from the lowly earth created (those) glorious princely riders,

(And) purified them from the temperament of earthly beings, and caused them to outrun the celestials;

(By Him) who took up from the Fire and fashioned into pure Light—and then it outstripped all (the other) lights—

910. That splendour of lightning which shone over the spirits, so that Adam gained from that Light (his) knowledge (of

The hand of Seth gathered that which grew from Adam: therefore Adam, when he saw that (Light in him), made him his vicar. Since Noah had enjoyment of that Jewel, he showered pearls (of Divine wisdom) in the air of the Sea of Soul.
From (possession of) that mighty radiance the spirit of Abraham went fearlessly into the flames of the fire.

When Ismá‘íl (Ishmael) fell into the stream thereof, he laid his head before his (Abraham's) flashing knife.

915. The soul of David was heated by its rays: iron became soft in his hand-loom.

When Solomon was suckled on (the milk of) union with it, the demon became a thrall to his command and obedient.

When Jacob bowed his head (in submission) to the (Divine) destiny, it (the Light) illumined (gladdened) his eye with the scent of his (lost) son.

When the moon-faced Joseph beheld that Sun, he became so wide-awake (wise) in the interpretation of dreams.

When the rod drank water (was imbued with the influence of the Light) from the hand of Moses, it made one mouthful of
Pharaoh's empire.

920. When Jesus, the son of Mary, found its ladder, he sped to the topmost height of the Fourth Dome (of Heaven). When Mohammed gained that Kingdom and Felicity, he in a moment clave the disk of the moon in two halves.
When Abú Bakr became a signal example of (God's) favour, he became the Companion of such a King (as Mohammed) and
(received the name) Siddíq.
When ‘Umar became distraught with that Beloved, he became a Fárúq (discerner), like the heart, between truth and falsehood. When ‘Uthmán became the fountain of that clear (Essence), he was light overflowing and became Dhu ’l-Núrayn (Lord of the
Two Lights).

925. When at (the sight of) its countenance Murta (‘Alí) began to scatter pearls (of spiritual truth), he became the Lion of
God in the pasture of the soul.

When Junayd received that support (which he received) from its army, his maqámát (stages of progress in the mystical life)
became innumerable.

Báyazíd saw the way into its superabundance, and heard from God (heard God bestow upon him) the name, “Pole of the
When Karkhí became the guard of its city, he became the vicar of (Divine) love and inspired by the Divine breath. The son of Adham joyously rode his steed towards it, and became the supreme sovereign of justice.

930. And that (famous) Shaqíq by cleaving (traversing) that venerable Way became a sun of (clear) judgement and keen- sighted.

Hundreds of thousands of hidden (spiritual) kings are holding their heads high (in the region) beyond this world; Because of God's jealousy their names remained hidden: every beggar did not pronounce their names.
By the truth of that Light and by the truth of those illumined ones who are as fishes in that Sea—

It is not fitting if I call it the Sea of the Soul and the Soul of the Sea: I am seeking a new name for it;—

935. By the truth of that That from which this and that are (derived), and in relation to which (all) kernels are as rinds, (I swear) that the (good) qualities of my fellow-servant and friend exceed my description (of them) a hundredfold.
That which I know of the (spiritual) endowments of that comrade (of mine) would not be believed by you: what shall I say, O
noble (king)?”
The King said, “Now speak of your own (case); how long will you speak of what concerns this or that one? What do you possess and what have you gained? What pearls have you fetched from the bottom of the Sea?

940. On the day of death this sense-perception of yours will vanish: have you the spiritual light that should be the companion of your heart?

When dust shall fill these eyes in the tomb, have you that which will make the grave bright?

At the time when your hands and feet shall be torn in shreds, have you wings and plumes that your spirit may fly aloft? At the time when this animal soul is no more, it behoves you to set the everlasting spirit in its place.
The stipulation of (implied in) he that comes with good (shall be rewarded tenfold) does not consist in doing (good); it consists in bringing this good to the presence of God.

945. You have a substance (essence) human or asinine (bestial): (bring that to God): how can you bring (to Him) these accidents (of word or deed) which have passed away?

As regards these accidents of prayer and fasting—since (that which) does not endure for two moments becomes naught—

It is impossible to carry over the accidents (into another state); but they (may) take away diseases (defects) from the substance, So that the substance becomes changed by means of this accident, as when disease is removed by abstinence.
By exertion abstinence, (which is) the accident, becomes the substance: through abstinence the acrid mouth becomes (sweet as) honey.

950. Land, through sowing, is turned into ears of corn; remedies for the hair turn the hair into chains (make it long and curly).

Conjugal intercourse was the accident; it passed away, and the substance, (which is) the child, was produced from us. The mating of horse or camel is the accident; the object is the birth of the colt, (which is) the substance.
Similarly, the planting of the garden is the accident; the produce of the garden became the substance—behold the object (for which the garden was planted)!

Regard, also, the practice of alchemy as the accident; if a substance is produced by that alchemy, bring (it into view).

955. Burnishing is the accident, O prince; from this accident is born the substance, purity.

Do not say, then, I have done deeds’; show the income (fruit) of those accidents, do not evade (my request). This attribution of qualities is (only) an accident. Be silent: do not kill for sacrifice the goat's shadow!”
The slave said, “O King, the mind cannot but despair if you say that accidents are not carried over.

O King, there is nothing but despair for the servant (of God), if the accident that has gone is not coming back.

960. If there were no carrying over and resurrection of accidents, action would be vain and words (mere) babble. These accidents are carried over in another guise: the resurrection of everything mortal is another (mode of) existence. The carrying over of everything is just as befits it: what befits the herd is its drover.
At the time of the Resurrection every accident has a (particular) form, and the form of every accident has a turn (of appearing before God).

Look on yourself. Wert not you an accident—the movement of copulation, and copulation with a purpose?

965. Look on houses and edifices: they were as tales in the (mind of) the architect.

Such-and-such a house, which seemed to us beautiful, of which the hall, roof, and door were well-proportioned—

(It was) the accident (design) and ideas (proceeding) from the architect (that) brought the tools and pillars (into existence) from
(their respective) handicrafts.

What but some fancy and accident and idea is the origin and source of every handicraft?

Look disinterestedly on all the (various) parts of the world: they are not the result of (anything) except accident.

970. The beginning, which is thought, comes to an end in action; know that in such wise was the construction of the world in eternity.

The fruits are first in the mind's thought, (but only) at the last do they become manifest actually:

When you have done work (and) planted the tree—at the end (when the fruit appears) you read the first words. Although its boughs, leaves, and roots are first, (yet) all those are sent for the sake of the fruit.
Hence that hidden Thought which was the brain (core) of those (nine) heavens was in the end the lord of lawlák.

975. This discussion and talk are (involve) the carrying over of accidents; this lion and jackal are (examples of) the carrying over of accidents.

Indeed, all created beings were accidents (once), so that in this sense (the text) was revealedDid there not come? Whence arise those accidents? From ideas. And whence arise these ideas? From thoughts.
This world is one thought (emanating) from the Universal Intellect: the Intellect is like a king, and the ideas (are his) envoys.

The first world is the world of probation; the second world is the (world of) recompense for this and that.

980. your servant, O King, commits a sin: that accident becomes (a substance, namely) chains and prison.

When your slave performed goodly service, did not that accident become a robe of honour in the battle (between the flesh and the spirit)?

This accident with the substance (belonging to it) is egg and bird: this is produced by that, and that by this, in succession.” The King said, “Take the meaning (to be) so: (why then) have these accidents of yours not produced any substance?”
(Divine) Wisdom,” replied the slave, “has kept it concealed, in order that this world of good and evil may be a mystery,

985. Because, if the (substantial) forms of thought were to become manifest, infidel and believer (alike) would speak naught but praise (of God).

Then, were this clearly seen, O King, not hidden, and were the mark of religion or infidelity (visible) on the forehead, How would there be idol and idolater in this world? How would any one have the stomach to mock (at holy things)? Then this world of ours would be (like) the Resurrection: who commits sin and wrong at the Resurrection?”
The King said, “God has veiled the retribution of evil, but (only) from the vulgar, not from His own elect.

990. If I entrap one Amír, I keep it hidden from the (other) Amírs, (but) not from the Vizier.

God, then, has shown to me the retribution of work and myriads of the (substantial) forms of actions. Give a sign (outwardly), for I know all: the cloud does not veil the moon from me.”
The slave said, “Then what is the object of my speaking, since you knowest what is (the real nature of) that which has been?”

The King said, “The wisdom (of God) in making the world manifest (was) that the (thing) known should come forth (to be seen) plainly.

995. Until He made visible that which He knew, He did not lay upon the world the pain of parturition and the throes

You cannot sit inactive for one moment: (you cannot rest) till some badness or goodness has issued from you.

These demands (cravings) for action were appointed in order that your inward consciousness should come clearly into
(outward) view.
How, then, should the reel, which is the body, become still, when the thread's end, which is the mind, is pulling it? The sign of that pulling is your anguish: to be inactive is to you like the death-agony.

1000. This world and that world are for ever giving birth: every cause is a mother, the effect is born (from it as) a child. When the effect was born, that too became a cause, so that it might give birth to wondrous effects.
These causes are generation on generation, but it needs a very well illumined eye (to see all the links in their chain).” The King, in conversation with him, arrived at this point, that he saw from him a sign (which was) not apparent.
If that searching King saw (such a sign), It is not strange; but we are not permitted to mention it.

1005. When that (other) slave came from the warm bath, that King and lofty personage called him to his presence, (And) said, “Health (to you)! Lasting happiness be yours! You are very fine and elegant and good-looking.
Oh, alas! If there were not in you that which so-and-so says about you,
Whoever beheld your face would become glad; the sight of you would be worth the empire of the world.” He said, “O King, utter some hint of what that miscreant said about me.”

1010. The King said, In the first place he described you as double-faced, saying that you are ostensibly a remedy (but)
secretly a disease.”

When he heard from the King the malice of his companion, at once the sea of his anger surged up. That slave foamed and reddened, so that the billows of his vituperation exceeded (all) bounds.
He said, “From the first moment that he was associated with me, he was a great eater of dung, like a dog in (time of) famine.”

As he satirised him moment after moment (continuously), like a bell, the King put his hand on his (the slave's) lips, saying, “Enough!

1015. He said, “I know you from him by that (which you have spoken): in you the spirit is foul, and in your companion
(only) the mouth.

Therefore do you sit far off, O foul-spirited one, that he may be the commander and you under his command.”

It is (said) in the Hadíth (Traditions of the Prophet): “Know, sire, that glorification (of God) from hypocrisy is like the verdure on a midden.”

Know, then, that a fair and goodly form with bad qualities (within) is not worth a farthing;

And though the form be despicable and unpleasing, (yet) when his (that person's) disposition is good, die at his feet!

1020. Know that the outward form passes away, (but) the world of reality remains for ever.

How long will you play at loving the shape of the jug? Leave the shape of the jug; go, seek the water.

You have seen its (outward) form, you are unaware of the reality; pick out from the shell a pearl, if you are wise. These shells of bodies in the world, though they all are living by (grace of) the Sea of Soul
Yet there is not a pearl in every shell: open your eyes and look into the heart of each one,

1025. And pick out what that one has and what this, because that costly pearl is seldom found.

If you go (turn your attention) to the form, by external appearance a mountain is a hundred times as much as a ruby in bigness; Also, in respect of form, your hands and feet and hair are a hundred times as much as the contour of the eye;
But this (fact) is not hidden from you, that the two eyes are the choicest of all (your) members.

By one thought that comes into the mind a hundred worlds are overturned in a single moment.

1030. If the body of the Sultan is, in form (appearance), one (only), (yet) hundreds of thousands of soldiers run behind (it). Again, the figure and form of the excellent King are ruled by one invisible thought.
Behold people without end who, moved by one thought, have gone over the earth like a flood; Small is that thought in the people's eyes, but like a flood it swallowed and swept away the world.
So, when you see that from a thought every craft in the world (arises and) subsists—

1035. (That) houses and palaces and cities, mountains and plains and rivers,

Earth and ocean as well as sun and sky, are living (derive their life) from it as fishes from the sea—

Then why in your foolishness, O blind one, does the body seem to you a Solomon, and thought (only) as an ant? To your eye the mountain appears great: (to you) thought is like a mouse, and the mountain (like) a wolf.
The (material) world in your eyes is awful and sublime: you tremble and are frightened at the clouds and the thunder and the sky,

1040. While in regard to the world of thought, O less (lower) than the ass, you are secure and indifferent as a witless stone, Because you are a (mere) shape and have no portion of intelligence; you are not of human nature, you are an ass's colt.
From ignorance you deem the shadow to be the substance: hence to you the substance has become a plaything and of slight account.

Wait till the Day when that thought and phantasy unfolds its wings and pinions without any veil (encumbrance).

You will see that the mountains have become like soft wool, (and that) this Earth of hot and cold has become naught;

1045. You will see neither the sky nor the stars nor (any) existence but God, the One, the Living, the Loving. Here is a tale, (be it) true or false, to illustrate (these) truths.

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