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(Masnavi Book 2: 62) The search for the Tree of Life

On seeking the tree whereof none that eats  the fruit shall die.

A learned man (once) said, for the sake of (telling) a story, “In India there is a certain tree: Whoso takes and eats of its fruit, he grows not old nor ever dies.”
A king heard this (tale) from a veracious person: he became a lover of the tree and its fruit.

From the Divan of culture he sent an intelligent envoy to India in search (of it).

3645. For (many) years his envoy wandered about India in quest (of the tree).

He roamed from town to town for this object: neither island nor mountain nor plain was left (unvisited).

Every one whom he asked made a mock of him, saying, “Who would search after this, unless perhaps a madman in confinement?”

Many slapped him jocosely; many said, “O fortunate man,

How should the enquiry of a clever and clear-minded person like you be devoid (of result)? How should it be vain?”

3650. And this (ironical) respect was to him another slap, and it was harder (to bear) than the visible slap. They extolled him sarcastically, saying, “O great sir, in such and such a place there is a very huge tree.
In such and such a forest there is a green tree, very tall and broad, and every branch of it is big.”
The king's envoy, who had braced his belt for the quest, was hearing a different kind of report from every one; So he travelled there for years, (whilst) the king kept sending money to him.

3655. After he had suffered much fatigue in that foreign land, at last he became too exhausted to seek (any longer). No trace of the object of pursuit was discovered: of what he wanted nothing appeared but the report.
The thread of his hope snapped, the thing he had sought became unsought in the end. He resolved to return to the king, (and set out) shedding tears and traversing
the way.

How the Shaykh explained the hidden meaning of the tree to the seeker who was in the bondage of formalism.

There was a wise Shaykh, a noble Qutb, at the halting-place where the king's intimate fell into despair.

3660. He (the envoy) said, “Being without hope, I will go to him, and set out on the road (again) from his threshold, In order that his prayer (blessing) may accompany me, since I have no hope of (winning) my heart's desire.”
With tearful eyes he went to the Shaykh: he was raining tears, like a cloud.

O Shaykh,” he cried, “it is the time for mercy and pity; I am in despair: now is the time for kindness.”

He (the Shaykh) said, “Say plainly what is the cause of your despair: what is your object? what have you in view*?”

3665. He answered, “The Emperor chose me out to seek a certain branching tree,

For there is a tree, unique in (all) the quarters (of the world): its fruit is (of) the substance of the Water of Life. I have sought (it) for years and seen no sign (of it) except the gibes and ridicule of these merry men.”
The Shaykh laughed and said to him, “O simpleton, this is the tree of knowledge in the sage—

Very high and very grand and very far-spreading: (it is) a Water of Life from the all-encompassing Sea (of God).

3670. you have gone after the form, you have gone astray: you canst not find (it) because you have abandoned the reality. Sometimes it is named ‘tree,’ sometimes ‘sun’; sometimes it is named ‘sea,’ sometimes ‘cloud.’
(It is) that one (thing) from which a hundred thousand effects arise: its least effects are everlasting life.

Although (in essence) it is single, it has a thousand effects: innumerable names befit (may be properly applied to) that one

One person may be father in relation to you; in regard to another individual he may be son.

3675. In regard to another he may be wrath and a foe; in regard to another he may be graciousness and a friend.

(He has) hundreds of thousands of names, (but) he is one man: the owner of every quality belonging to him is blind to
(incapable of) giving any (true) description (of him).

Whoever seeks the (mere) name, if he is entrusted (with a confidential mission) he is hopeless and in distraction, even as you art.

Why do you stick to the name ‘tree,’ so that you art left bitterly disappointed and ill-fortuned?

Pass on from the name and look at the attributes, in order that the attributes may show you the way to the essence.”

3680. The disagreement of mankind is caused by names: peace ensues when they advance to the reality (denoted by the name).

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