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T.L. James Archives

July 23, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Left-Handed Hooves

By T.L. James at 07:00

By T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series.

As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

Nasrudin received an invitation to join a nobleman for a day's hunting. Unaccustomed to such grand events, the Mulla was worried that his lack of riding experience would show. With this in mind, he bribed the nobleman's equerry to lend him the horse he was to ride on the big day. In secret, he practised mounting and dismounting until he had mastered the manouvre.

On the day of the hunt the Mulla swaggered to the stables full of confidence, but was dismayed to find that the horse he had trained on had gone lame, and an unfamiliar animal had been saddled up in its place. Nervously, the Mulla got onto the horse's back. Relieved to find that he had executed the mount without apparent hitch, he prepared to ride off. Reaching for the reins, he realised that he was facing the animal's tail.

'Why was I not informed that this was a left-handed horse?' he angrily asked the stable hand.

NOTE: Today's Sufi Wisdom entry is going to be my last for a
while. I have a bit of "blogger burnout" on this feature, so I'm taking a break. Joe will take it back, unless someone else wants to pick it up (email Joe@thisdomain.net if so).


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  • Ruth: Sorry to hear you are burning out. Please know that read more
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July 16, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: The Camel and the Tent

By T.L. James at 07:00
by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.
A bedouin, making a long desert trek, pitched his small black tent and lay down to sleep. As the night grew colder his camel woke him up with a nudge. 'Master, it is cold. May I put my nose inside the tent to warm it?' The traveller agreed, and settled down to sleep again. Scarcely an hour had passed, however, before the camel began to feel colder. 'Master, it is much colder. Can I put my head inside the tent?'

First his head was admitted to the tent, then, on the same argument, his neck. Finally, without asking, the camel heaved his whole bulk under the cloth. When he had, as he thought, settled himself, the bedouin was lying beside the camel, with no covering at all. The camel had uprooted the tent, which hung, totally inadequately, across his hump.

'Where has the tent gone?' asked the confused camel.
(From Idries Shah's Caravan of Dreams.)
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  • Ken Harrow: Deuteronomy 28:43 says it similar - The alien who lives read more

July 9, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Who Is To Blame?

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

One night, thieves broke into Nasrudin's house and stole everything he owned. When, next morning, he awoke and discovered the loss, he rushed straight to the palace.

'Last night, burglars made off with all my belongings, and it falls upon you to compensate me for my loss,' he told the King.

'But I have taken nothing of yours, Mulla,' said the monarch.

'Not directly,' Nasrudin replied, 'but as ruler of this land, you are responsible for all that happens here.'
What is Nasrudin's real complaint, and with whom does he have it?
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  • Joe Katzman: Nasruddin is complaining to G-d about the existence of evil read more

July 2, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Not What They Seem

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it's important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

This week, Idries Shah discourses on self-deception (but don't worry, it's only other people who do it, right?):

"To me, it is hurtful to have to deal with people whom you would like to teach when -- pretending to themselves that they seek knowledge -- they only want a social community, friendship, 'togetherness', attention and the like.

All these things are delightful: and all the more delightful when consciously indulged in, rather than found by means of deception. Deception in this case is pretending to oneself that one is studying when one is seeking stimuli.


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June 25, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: How to Find a Bride

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

Nasrudin's oldest son was looking for a wife.

'Which qualities are you seeking?' Nasrudin asked the youth.

'Intelligence rather than beauty,' replied the young man.

'If that is the case,' said the Mulla, 'I have an excellent way of finding you the perfect bride.'

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  • Joe Katzman: Good response, David. I was just going to be brief read more
  • David Blue: Nasrudin's oldest son was a fool, and too much under read more

June 18, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: The Tiger and the Fox

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

This week's wisdom is a tale from Sa'adi of Shiraz, on drawing the wrong conclusions:

A fox who lived in the deep forest of long ago had lost its front legs. No one knew how: perhaps escaping from a trap. A man who lived on the edge of the forest , seeing the fox from time to time, wondered how in the world it managed to get its food. One day when the fox was not far from him he had to hide himself quickly because a tiger was approaching. The tiger had fresh game in its claws. Lying down on the ground, it ate its fill, leaving the rest for the fox.


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  • Dave Schuler: "Trust in G-d, but tie your camel." Ignatius Loyola said read more
  • Khashi: http://www.secularhumanism.org/fi/index.htm read more
  • DaveK: Or, perhaps: God helps most those who help themselves. DRK read more

June 11, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Water and Weeds

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

This week's Sufi Wisdom comes from Rumi, and concerns -- among other things -- imperfections:

Water doesn't lose purity because of a bit of weed.
The weeds float on the surface;
the pure water flows on undisturbed.

JK: See also Winds reader lurker's Rumi poetry as a comment re: Tarek Heggy's Friday Guest Blog "The Arab Mind."


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  • timberdoodle: Some of these big time eco-freaks have made some realy read more
  • Joe Katzman: Now THAT was very interesting, Raymond. read more
  • Raymond: It would be better if she railed against corruption, somthing read more

June 4, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Deceitful Donkey

By T.L. James at 07:00
by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.
Nasrudin was riding home from the bazaar daydreaming of the pulao he would have for his supper. With his thoughts full of the saffroned rice, juicy meat and fried onions, he did not pay much attention to the route his donkey was taking home. His daydream was finally broken when the donkey lurched to a halt outside a house.

'Come! I have all the ingredients for your best pulao,' Nasrudin called to his wife. But the woman he saw before him when he eventually looked up was a complete stranger. Realising that it was not only the wrong wife, but the wrong house and even the wrong village, the Mulla looked at his donkey severely.

'If you had told me that you wish to move here, I would perhaps have considered it, but I will not stand for deceit!'
Who is deceiving whom?
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  • Rich Walden: I accept you wisdom, oh enlighten one. Actually I am read more
  • Joe Katzman: Rich, There's historical evidence that the Hasidic movement in Judaism read more
  • Rich Walden: I have always thought of the Sufis as a crypto read more

May 21, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: The Pyramid Expert

By T.L. James at 07:00
by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.
Nasrudin was sitting among the branches of a tree, sniffing the blossoms and sunning himself.

A traveller asked him what he was doing there.

'Climbing the Great Pyramid.'

'You are nowhere near a pyramid. And there are four ways up a pyramid: one by each face. That is a tree!'

'Yes!' said the Mulla. 'But it's much more fun like this, don't you think? Birds, blossoms, zephyrs, sunshine. I hardly think I could have done better.'
What is the pyramid, and what is Nasrudin really doing up the tree?
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  • George Junior: Nasrudin strikes me as a happy fool. Much like the read more
  • David Blue: Ancient Egypt is among the earliest, most enduring, most noble read more
  • David Blue: I know what a pyramid is. An Egyptian pyramid us read more

May 14, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Three Possible Reasons

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

A dervish was sitting by the roadside when a haughty courtier with his retinue, riding past in the opposite direction, struck him with a cane, shouting:

'Out of the way, you miserable wretch!'

When they had swept past, the dervish rose and called after them:

'May you attain all that you desire in the world, even up to its highest ranks!'

A bystander, much impressed by this scene, approached the devout man and said to him:

'Please tell me whether your words were motivated by generosity of spirit, or because the desires of the world will undoubtedly corrupt that man even more?'

'O man of bright countenance,' said the dervish, 'has it not occurred to you that I said what I did because people who attain their real desires would not need to ride around striking dervishes?'
What does this tell us about the courtier, and what does it tell us about the dervish?
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  • Mr. Wise Guy: He wouldn't desire that if he'd be happy with himself. read more
  • Gary and the Samoyeds: But what if his desire is to be in a read more

May 7, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Bread and Jewels

By T.L. James at 07:00
by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.
A king once decided to give away a part of his wealth by disinterested charity. At the same time he wanted to watch what happened to it. So he called a baker whom he could trust and told him to bake two loaves of bread. In the first was to be baked a number of jewels, and in the other, nothing but flour and water.

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  • Nortius Maximus: The bread that can be eaten is not the true read more

April 30, 2005

Sufi Wisdom: Fate

By T.L. James at 07:00

by T.L. James of MarsBlog. Part of our weekly Sufi Wisdom series. As terrorist Islam does its best to discredit the religion, it is important to remember that there are other voices within the faith. One such is the Sufis, a branch of Islamic mystics with roots in many religious traditions. The lessons of Sufism are often communicated through humorous stories and mystical or romantic poetry.

There was once a Dervish who had divinatory powers, having arrived at the Fourth Stage of Understanding. A certain woman who had four young sons and was anxious for their future, approached him and begged him to take them under his protection.

The Dervish pondered, and then said:

'Ask me not why; but make sure that the first boy becomes a shopkeeper, the second a priest and the third a soldier. If they do not take up these occupations it will not go well for them: but if they do, they will be protected.'

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  • Improbulus Maximus: You know guys, it's just a metaphor, like the whole read more
  • Joe Katzman: Note the sage's exact words, Ruth: "Their occupations licensed or read more
  • Ruth: You are all seeing the recommended occupations as being a read more
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