The Gluttonous Sufi
In a certain convent there lived a Sufi whose conduct gave just offence to the brethren. They brought him before their Shaikh and thus accused him, “This Sufi has three very bad qualities; he babbles exceedingly like a bell, at his meals he eats more than twenty men and when he sleeps he is as one of the Seven Sleepers.” The Shaikh then admonished him, insisting on the obligation of keeping to the golden mean; and reminding him that even the prophet Moses was once rebuked by Khizr for speaking to excess. But the delinquent excused himself on the grounds that the mean is relative, what is excess in one man being moderation in another, that he who is led by the spirit is no longer subject to the outward law, and that, the “inner voice,” which rules such an one s conduct, is its own evidence.
The mean is relative.
He said, “Though the path of the mean is wisdom,
Yet is this same mean also relative.
The water which is insufficient for a camel
Is like an ocean to a mouse.
Whoso has four loaves as his daily allowance,
Whether he eat two or three, he observes the mean.
But if he eat all four he transgresses the mean,
A very slave to greed, and voracious as a duck.
Whoso has an appetite for ten loaves,
Know, though he eat six, he observes the mean.
If I have an appetite for fifty loaves,
While you can manage only six, we are not on a par.
You are wearied with ten prostrations in prayer,
Whilst I can endure five hundred.
Such an one goes barefoot to the Ka’ba,
Whilst another faints with going to the mosque.”
The ecstatic state which exalts the subject of it above law.
“At times my state resembles a dream,
My dreaming seems to them infidelity.
Know my eyes sleep, but my heart is awake;
My body, though torpid, is instinct with energy.
The Prophet said, ‘Mine eyes sleep,
But my heart is awake with the Lord of mankind.’
Your eyes are awake and your heart fast asleep,
My eyes are closed, and my heart at the ‘open door.’
My heart has other five senses of its own;
These senses of my heart view the two worlds.
Let not a weakling like you censure me,
What, seems night to you is broad day to me;
What seems a prison to you is a garden to me.
Busiest occupation is rest to me.
Your feet are in the mire, to me, mire is rose,
What to you is funeral wailing is marriage drum to me.
While I seem on earth, abiding with you in the house,
I ascend like Saturn to the seventh heaven.
‘Tis not I who companion with you, ’tis my shadow;
My exaltation transcends your thoughts,
Because I have transcended thought,
Yea, I have sped beyond reach of thought.
I am lord of thought, not overlorded by thought,
As the builder is lord of the building.
All creatures are enslaved to thought;
For this cause are they sad at heart and sorrowful.
I send myself on an embassy to thought,
And, at will, spring back again from thought.
I am as the bird of heaven and thought as the fly,
How can the fly lend a helping hand to me?
Whoso has in him a spark of the light of Omnipotence,
However much he eats, say ‘Eat on;’ ’tis lawful to him.”
To the spiritual man the “inner voice” is its own evidence, and needs no other proof.
“If you are a true lover of my soul,
This truth-fraught saying of mine is no vain pretence,
‘Though I talk half the night I am superior to you;’
And again, ‘Fear not the night; here am I, your kinsman.’
These two assertions of mine will both seem true to you
The moment you recognize the voice of your kinsman.
Superiority and kinsmanship are both mere assertions,
Yet both are recognized for truth by men of clear wit.
The nearness of the voice proves to such an one
That the voice proceeds from a friend who is near.
The sweetness of the kinsman’s voice, too, O beloved,
Proves the veracity of that kinsman.
But the uninspired fool who from ignorance
Cannot tell the voice of a stranger from a friend’s,
To him the friend’s saying seems a vain pretension,
His ignorance is the material cause of his disbelief.
To the wise, whose hearts are enlightened,
The mere sound of that voice proves its truth.”
“When you say to a thirsty man, ‘Come quickly;
This is water in the cup, take and drink it,’
Does the thirsty man say, ‘This is a vain pretension;
Go, remove yourself from me, O vain pretender,
Or proceed to give proofs and evidence
That this is generic water, and concrete water thereof ‘?
Or when a mother cries to her sucking babe,
‘Come, O son, I am thy mother,’
Does the babe answer, ‘O mother, show a proof
That I shall find comfort from taking thy milk’?
In the hearts of every sect that has a taste of the truth
The sight and the voice of prophets work miracles.
When the prophets raise their cry to the outward ear,
The souls of each sect bow in devotion within;
Because never in this world hath the soul’s ear
Heard from any man the like of that cry.
That poor man in that strange sweet voice
Recognizes the voice of God, ‘Verily I am nigh.'”
The Gluttonous Sufi