Related by Joseph Campbell
“There is a charming story told of the great nineteenth century Indian saint Ramakrishna. A lady came to him in some distress because she realized that she did not actually love and truly worship God. ‘Is there, then, nothing you love?’ He asked her; and when she replied that she loved her baby nephew, ‘There,’ said he, ‘there is your Krishna, your Beloved. In your service to him, you are serving God.’ ”
(from Myths to Live By)
Stories Related by Murshida Ivy Duce of Sufism Reoriented
A story Murshida Ivy Duce used to tell about Meherjee, one of the mandali of Indian (Parsi) mystic, Meher Baba. She had always an odd feeling that there was some wonderful thing of peace about him but she couldn’t put her finger on it and then one day she said, “I have it! He never worries!”
And when she confronted Meherjee about that worrying thing, he said, “Of course not! The master forbids it!”
A church elder asked a seven year old boy what he would do with his life. The boy said he would be a pirate until he was seventy, and then he would “turn to the Lord.”
A certain town was long besieged by drought. It was agreed the townspeople would all assemble in a local church to pray for rain. According to Murshida it did rain shortly thereafter but only because of one little girl who had had sufficient faith to bring an umbrella. No one else had done so.
At sea amid a violent storm which threatened to capsize the ship, a woman asks the captain what is to be their fate.
He replies, “Can’t say, Ma’am. It’s in the hands of God!”
To which she replied, “Oh! It’s as bad as that?”
Stories Related by Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Prophet (Mohammed) and his companion Siddiq were hiding behind a rock when a troop of men were following to attack them and when the noise of the hoofs of horses came to their ears, Siddiq said, “Hark they are coming!”
“Why fear?” said the Prophet.
“They are very near!”
“What matter?” said the Prophet.
Siddiq said, “They are many and we are only two.”
“No”, said the Prophet,“We are three: you and I and God.”
A peasant girl was passing through a farm while going to another village. There was a Muslim offering his prayers on his prayer-rug in the open. The law is that no one should cross the place where anyone is praying. When this girl returned from the village this man was still sitting there.
He said, “O girl, now what terrible sin have you committed!”
“What did I do?” asked she.
“I was offering prayers here, and you passed over this place.”
The girl asked, “What do you mean by offering prayers?”
“Thinking of God,” he replied.
The girl said, “Yes? Were you thinking of God? I was thinking of my young man whom I was going to meet, and I did not see you. Then how did you see me while you were thinking of God?”
There is a story told of the King Akbar that when he was grieving with an almost ungovernable grief over the death of his mother, his ministers and friends tried to comfort him by reminding him of his influence and power.
Akbar replied, “Yes, that is true, and that only makes my grief greater; for while I have everyone to bow before me, to give way to me, to salute me and obey me, my mother was the one person before whom I could humble myself; and I cannot tell you how great a joy that was to me.”
There is a story of a slave called Ayaz, who was brought before a king with nine others; and the king had to select one to be his personal attendant.The wise king gave into the hands of each of the ten a wineglass and commanded him to throw it down. Each one obeyed the command. Then the king asked each one of them, “Why did you do such a thing?”
The first nine answered, “Because Your Majesty gave me the order”: the plain truth, cut and dried.
And then came the tenth slave, Ayaz. He said, “Pardon Sire, I am sorry,” for he realized that the king already knew it was his command; in the reply “Because you told me,” nothing new was said to the king. This beauty of expression enchanted the king so much that he selected him to be his attendant.
It was not long before Ayaz won the trust and confidence of the king, who gave him the charge of his treasury, the treasury in which precious jewels were kept.
This sudden rise from slave to treasurer of the king, an envied position, made many jealous. No sooner did people know that Ayaz had become a favorite of the king than they began to tell numerous stories about him in order to bring him into disfavor.
One of the stories was that Ayaz went every day into the room where the jewels were locked In the safe, and that he was stealing them little by little.
The king answered, “No, I cannot believe such a thing. You have to show me.”
So they brought the king as Ayaz entered this room, and had him stand in a place where there was a hole looking into the room. And the king saw what was going on there.
Ayaz entered the room and opened the door of the safe. And what did he take out from it? His old, ragged clothes which he had worn as a slave. He kissed them and pressed them to his eyes, and put them on the table. There incense was burning, and what he was doing was something sacred to him.
He then put on these clothes and looked at himself in the mirror and said, as one might say a prayer, “Listen, O Ayaz, see what you used to be before. It is the king who has made you, who has given you the charge of this treasure. So regard this duty as your most sacred trust, and this honor as your privilege and as token of the love and kindness of the king. Know that it is not your worthiness that has brought you to this position. Know that it is his greatness, his goodness, his generosity which has overlooked your faults, and which has bestowed that rank and position upon you by which you are now being honored. Never forget, therefore, your first day, the day when you came to this town; for it is the remembering of that day which will keep you in your proper place.”
He then took off the clothes and put them in the same place of safety and came out. As he stepped out, what did he see? He saw that the king before whom he bowed was waiting eagerly to embrace him; and the king said to him, “What a lesson you have given me, Ayaz! It is this lesson which we all must learn, whatever be our position. For before that King in whose presence we are all but slaves, nothing should make us forget that helplessness through which we were reared and raised and brought to life, to understand and to live a life of joy. People told me that you had stolen jewels from our treasure house, but on coming here I have found that you have stolen my heart.”
Stories of Mulla Nasrudin (The Sufis’ Yogi Berra)
One day Nasrudin and a friend were traveling along a hot dusty road, when they came to an inn, so they went inside to buy a glass of milk. Nasrudin noticed his companion was furtively undoing a twist of sugar but before Nasrudin got too excited the companion declared, (as he quickly dumped it all into his glass) “There’s only enough for one.”
Whereupon Nasrudin pulled out from a hidden sack a fistful of salt and dumps it into both glasses of milk, saying enthusiastically, “Look friend! I have salt! And there is enough for both of us!”
One night Mulla Nasrudin was seen in the street under the streetlamp, looking for something. A passerby said, “Mulla what are you looking for?”
Nasrudin said he had lost his key in the cellar and was looking to find it. When asked why then he was seeking it in the street, he replied, “The light is better here!”
One day Mulla Nasrudin was in a rapt conversation with a devout animal lover. When Nasrudin enthused in apparent support, saying that once his life was saved by a fish, the man excitedly pressed him for details, and Nasrudin said, “I was starving, and the fish sufficed me for three days!”
Nasrudin was walking in the bazaar with a large group of followers. Whatever Nasrudin did, his followers immediately copied. Every few steps Nasrudin would stop and shake his hands in the air, touch his feet and jump up yelling “Hu Hu Hu!”. So his followers would also stop and do exactly the same thing.
One of the merchants, who knew Nasrudin, quietly asked him: “What are you doing my old friend? Why are these people imitating you?”
“I have become a Sufi Sheikh,” replied Nasreddin. “These are my Mureeds (spiritual seekers); I am helping them reach enlightenment!”
“How do you know when they reach enlightenment?”
“That’s the easy part! Every morning I count them. The ones who have left have reached enlightenment!”
Nasrudin was constantly crossing the border with donkeys laden only with straw, but with a roguish glint in his eye so the customs inspector is forever feverishly tearing apart the straw bales and never finding anything, in the teeth of Nasrudin’s mocking stare.
Years later the inspector is retired and they are together in a public house and he says to Nasrudin, “You can tell me now, I no longer can do anything to you, so please satisfy my curiosity! What was it you were smuggling?”
Nasrudin was throwing handfuls of crumbs around his house. ‘What are you doing?’ someone asked him. ‘Keeping the tigers away.’ ‘But there are no tigers in these parts.’ ‘That’s right. Effective, isn’t it?’
Stories from the Kashf Al-Mahjub (The Revelation of the Mystery)
by Shaykh Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Uthman al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri, (990-1077)
-Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson
He (Abu Hamid Ahmad B. Khadruya Al-Balkhi–787-886) is recorded to have said, “Hide the glory of thy poverty,” i.e. do not say to people, “I am a dervish,” lest thy secret be discovered, for it is a great grace bestowed on thee by God.
It is also related that he said:“A dervish invited a rich man to a repast in the month of Ramadan, and there was nothing in the house except a loaf of dry bread. On returning home the rich man sent him a purse of gold. He sent it back, saying, ‘This serves me right for revealing my secret to one like you.’ The genuineness of his poverty led him to act thus.”
I heard an old man relate that one day he went to the place where al-Daqqaq (916-1000 A. D.) held his meetings, with the intention of asking him about the state of those who trust in God. Al-Daqqaq was wearing a fine turban manufactured in Tabaristan, which the old man coveted. He said, to Al-daqqaq: “What is trust in God?”
The Shaykh replied, “To refrain from coveting people’s turbans.” With these words he flung his turban in front of he questioner.
One day I was seated in the Shaykh’s presence and was recounting to him my experiences and visions, in order that he might test them, for he had unrivalled skill in this. He was listening kindly to what I said. The vanity and enthusiasm of youth made me eager to relate those matters, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps the Shaykh, in his novitiate, did not enjoy such experiences, or he would not show so much humility towards me and be so anxious to inquire concerning my spiritual state.
The Shaykh perceived what I was thinking. “My dear friend,” he said, “you must know that my humility is not on account of you or your experiences, but is shown towards Him who brings experiences to pass. They are not peculiar to yourself, but common to all seekers of God.”
The story of the dervish who fell into the Tigris is well known. Seeing that he could not swim, a man on the bank cried out to him, “Shall I tell someone to bring you ashore?”
The dervish said, “No.”
“Then do you wish to be drowned?”
“What, then, do you wish?”
The dervish replied, “That which God wishes! What have I to do with wishing?”
A certain young man came to Junayd (830-910 A. D.) and said: “Be present with me for a moment that I may speak to thee.”
Junayd answered “O young man, you demand of me something that I have long been seeking. For many years I have been wishing to become present with myself a moment, but I cannot; how, then, can I present with you?”
I have read in the Anecdotes that a disciple of Junayd imagined that he had attained to the degree of perfection and that it was better for him to be alone. Accordingly he went into retirement and withdrew from the society of his brethren. At nightfall a camel used to appear and he was told that it would take him to paradise; on mounting it, he was conveyed to a pleasant demesne, with beautiful inhabitants and delicious viands and flowing streams, where he stayed until dawn; then he fell asleep. And on waking found himself at the door of his cell.
These experiences filled him with pride and he could not refrain from boasting of them. When Junayd heard the story he hastened to the disciple’s cell, and having received from him a full account of what had passed, said to him: “Tonight when you come to that place, remember to say thrice, ‘There is no strength or power but in God, the High, the Great.’”
The same night he was carried off as usual and though in his heart he did not believe Junayd, by way of trial he repeated those words thrice. The crew around him shrieked and vanished, and he found himself seated on a dunghill in the midst of rotten bones. He acknowledged his fault and repented and returned to companionship.
One day Shibli (861-946 A. D.) purified himself. When he came to the door of the mosque a voice whispered in his heart: “Art thou so pure that thou enterest My house with this boldness?”
He turned back but the voice asked: Dost thou turn back from my door?”
He uttered a loud cry.
The voice said dost thou revile Me?
He stood silent.
The voice said, “Dost thou pretend to endure my affliction?”
Shibli exclaimed, “O God, I implore Thee to help me against Thyself!”
Abdallah B. Mubarak (?-? A. D.) says: “In my boyhood I remember seeing a female ascetic who was stung by a scorpion in forty places while she was praying, but no change of expression was visible in her countenance.
When she was finished I said,‘O mother, why didst not thou fling the scorpion away from thee?’
She answered, ‘Ignorant boy! Dost thou deem it right that while I am engaged in God’s business, I should attend to my own?’“
Abu l’Khayr Aqta (967-1049 A. D.) had a gangrene in his foot. The physicians declared that his foot must be amputated, but he would not allow this to be done. His disciples said, “Cut it off while he is praying, for at that time, he is unconscious.”
The physicians acted on this advice. When Abu l’Khayr finished his prayers he found that his foot had been amputated.
A certain dervish relates as follows: “Once I set out from Kufa to visit Mecca. On the way I met Ibrahim Khawwas (?-913 A. D.) and begged him to let me accompany him. He said, ‘In companionship, it is necessary that one should command and the other should obey: Which do you choose?’
I answered, ‘You be the commander.’
He said, ‘Now do not fail to comply with my orders.’ When we arrived at the halting-place he bade me sit down and himself drew water from the well and, since the weather was cold, he gathered sticks and kindled a fire, and whenever I attempted to do anything he told me to sit down. At nightfall it began to rain heavily. He took off his patched frock and held it over my head all night. I was ashamed and could not say a word on account of the condition imposed on me.
When morning came I said, ‘Today it is my turn to be commander.’ He said, very well. As soon as we reached the halting-place he began to perform the same menial tasks as before, and on my telling him not to disobey my orders he retorted that it was an act of disobedience to let oneself be served by one’s commander. He continued to behave this way until we arrived at Mecca. Then I felt so ashamed I fled from him.
He spied me however at Mina and said to me: ‘O son, when you associate with dervishes see that you treat them in the same fashion as I treated you.’”
A leading man in Basra went to his garden. By chance his eye fell upon the beautiful wife of his gardener. He sent the fellow away on some business and said to the woman: “Shut the gates.”
She replied:, “I have shut them all except one, which I cannot shut.”
He asked: “Which one is that?”
“The gate,” said she, “that is between us and God.”
On receiving this answer the man repented and begged to be forgiven.
Related by Anais Nin in her Diary (1939-1944):
A Japanese Emperor was informed that his closest friend had conspired against him. He was obliged to condemn him to death. He was to be beheaded, but because of his high rank, and their long association, the beheading was to be a most ceremonious and distinguished affair. The entire court was invited to the spectacle. The beheading was to be preceded by the most aesthetic and artistic entertainment the Japanese court could provide. There were poetry tournaments, exquisite dancers, concerts, and plays. The condemned nobleman watched all the entertainment with interest for hours. But after a while he became restive. He addressed the Emperor: “I know you are offering me this last spectacle in honor of our past association, but may I say that if you once had regard for me and wished to treat my death with the greatest honors and kindness, I would beg you in memory of our past friendship, not to keep me in suspense any longer. Be compassionate and allow the beheading to take place at once.”
Then the Emperor smiled, and said: “But my dear friend, you have been beheaded.”
And Anais Nin’s comment: “No story has ever rendered in such a symbolic fashion the magic power of art.”
Other Sufi Stories
“One day Rumi was reading next to a large stack of books.
Shams Tabriz, passing by, asked him, ‘What are you doing?’
Rumi scoffingly replied, ‘Something you cannot understand.’
On hearing this, Shams threw the stack of books into a nearby pool of water.
Rumi hastily rescued the books and to his surprise they were all dry.
Rumi then asked Shams, ‘What is this?’ To which Shams replied, ‘Mowlana, this is what you cannot understand.’“
-Wikipedia (Shams Tabriz)
A king was happy with his flying carpet but his nagging mind kept wondering why it could fly. Finally he went to a holy man and asked what is the secret of that? And the holy man replied the secret is not thinking of a rhinoceros. Poor king. I guess you know what happened next. Or more precisely, what no longer happened.
Khaled Al-Faqih related the story of his first encounter with the Indian Mystic Meher Baba. He told of being in a very long, but straight line waiting to see “this famous avatar.” It seemed forever; the line was long and moving slowly. So Khaled decided to briefly step outside the line, shading his eyes to see if he could catch a fore-glimpse of Baba. He surely did, as just then Meher Baba also stepped out of the line shading his eyes as if he wanted to catch a fore-glimpse of this famous Khaled.
My Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl, told of the salient time he had experienced faith. He was in India, visiting the Mystic, Meher Baba, during the Men’s Sahavas, in 1954. Baba had set each man to the task of hitting a marble with another hand thrown marble, from across the room. Everybody had missed, and dismally. But when it came Lud’s turn, he rose to the challenge. He told us, his mureeds, that when he released the marble it felt literally like it had a rubber band connection to the other marble, and sure enough it hit.
(Lud) had a similar lesson in 1956 at the Delmonico Hotel in New York when Baba was throwing grapes to people. He gestured to Lud to hold out his cupped hands and keep them still. When Baba tossed the grape, it looked as though it would miss his cupped hands, so he extended them in order to catch it; but the grape fell just where his hands would have been if he had kept them still. Baba asked him to try again, and to keep his hands still. Again he could not resist trying to position his hands so as to catch the grape, and again the grape missed his hands. Finally on the third try he forced himself to hold still, even though he was sure the grape would not reach his hands—and yet it fell precisely into them.
–As related by Kendra Crossen