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(Masnavi Book 3: 48) The meaning of Prudence

The meaning of prudence, and a parable of the prudent man.

Either consider what happened to the former (peoples), or fly with a (great) prudence towards the latter end.
What is prudence? Precaution in (the case of) two (alternative) plans: of the two you will take that one which is far from craziness.
One person may say, “On this road there is no water for seven days, and there is foot-scorching
Another may say, “This is false: push on, for you will find a running fountain every night.

2845. It is prudence that you take water (with you), so that you may be saved from dread and may be on the right (side).
If there be water (on the road), spill this (water which you have taken with you); and if there be none, alas for the obstinate man!
O children of the Vicegerent (Adam), deal justly: act with prudence for the sake of the Day of
Tryst (Judgement).
That enemy who took vengeance upon your father and dragged him from ‘Illiyyín to prison,
And checkmated that king of the spiritual chessboard and made him, (cast out) from Paradise, a thrall to calamities—

2850. How often in combat did he seize him by sleight, that he might wrestle with him and throw him (to the ground) in disgrace!
Thus has he done to that paladin (Adam): do not regard him with contempt, O ye others! That envious one nimbly snatched away our mother's and father's crown and ornament.
There he made them naked and wretched and despicable: (many) years did Adam weep bitterly, So that (sweet) herbs grew from the tears of his eyes: (he wept, wondering) why he was inscribed in the scroll of lá (negation).

2855. Judge you of his (the Devil's) impudent cheatery from the fact that on account of him such a prince (as Adam) rends his beard (in sorrow).
Beware, O clay-worshippers, of his malice: smite the sword of hawl on his head!
For he sees you from ambush, so that ye see him not. Take care!
The fowler scatters grain incessantly: the grain is visible, but the deceit is hidden. Wherever you see the grain, beware, lest the trap confine your wings and pinions,

2860. Because the bird that takes leave of (relinquishes) the grain (bait), eats grain from the spacious field (of Reality) that is without imposture.
With that (grain) it is contented, and escapes the trap: no trap confines its wings and pinions.

The banefulness of the action of the bird that abandons prudence from (motives of)
greed and vain desire.

Again, a bird settles on a wall and fastens its eyes upon the grain in a trap.
Now it looks towards the open country, (while) now its greed leads it to look at the grain. This look struggles with that look and suddenly makes it (the bird) empty of wisdom.

2865. Again, a bird that has abandoned that vacillation turns its gaze away from that (grain)
and fixes it upon the open fields.
Glad (glistening) are its wings and pinions: how goodly it is, since it has become the leader of all the free.
Every one who makes it his model is saved and sits in the abode of security and freedom, Because his heart has become the king of the prudent, so that the rosery and garden (of Paradise) has become his dwelling-place.
Prudence is pleased with him, and he pleased with Prudence: do likewise, if you would act with foresight and resolution.

2870. Many a time have you fallen into the snare of greed and given up your throat to be cut; Again He that graciously disposes (hearts) to repentance has set you free and accepted your repentance and made you glad.
He has said, If ye return thus, We will return thus: We have wedded the actions to the retribution.
When I bring one mate to Myself, the other mate inevitably comes running (after it).
We have mated this action with the effect: when one mate arrives, another mate arrives.

2875. When a raider carries off the husband from the wife, the wife comes after him, seeking her husband.
Once more ye have come towards this snare and have thrown dust in the eyes of repentance.
Again that Forgiving One has loosed that knot for you and has said, Beware! Flee! Set not your face in this direction!”
Again, when the mandate of forgetfulness arrived, it drew your soul towards the Fire. O you moth, do not show any forgetfulness and doubt: look once at your burnt wing!

2880. Since you are saved, the thanksgiving is this, that you should have no inclination towards that grain,
In order that, when you say thanks, He may bestow on you the daily bread that is without snare and without fear of the enemy.
In thanksgiving for the bounty shown in setting you free, it behoves you to commemorate the
bounty of God.
How oft in sorrows and in tribulation have you cried, O God, deliver me from the snare,
That I may do suchlike service (to Thee) and practise beneficence and throw dust in the eyes of the Devil!”

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