“The story that we are going to go into today is one of the greatest stories. It has that special flavor that only a Sufi story can have.” (Part 1)
There was once a man named Mojud. He lived in a town where he had obtained a post as a small official, and it seemed likely that he would end his days as Inspector of Weights and Measures.
One day when he was walking through the gardens of an ancient building near his home, Khidr, the mysterious guide of the Sufis, appeared to him, dressed in shimmering green. Khidr said, “Man of bright prospects! Leave your work and meet me at the riverside in three days’ time.” Then he disappeared.
Mojud went to his superior in trepidation and said that he had to leave. Everyone in the town soon heard of this and they said, “Poor Mojud! He has gone mad.” But, as there were many candidates for his job, they soon forgot him.
On the appointed day, Mojud met Khidr, who said to him, “Tear your clothes and throw yourself into the stream. Perhaps someone will save you.”
Mojud did so, even though he wondered if he were mad.
Since he could swim, he did not drown, but drifted a long way before a fisherman hauled him into his boat, saying, “Foolish man! The current is strong. What are you trying to do?” Mojud said, “I don’t really know.”
“You are mad,” said the fisherman, “but I will take you into my reed hut by the river yonder, and we shall see what can be done for you.”
When he discovered that Mojud was well-spoken, he learned from him how to read and write. In exchange, Mojud was given food and helped the fisherman with his work. After a few months, Khidr again appeared, this time at the foot of Mojud’s bed, and said, “Get up now and leave this fisherman. You will be provided for.”
Mojud immediately quit the hut, dressed as a fisherman, and wandered about until he came to a highway.
As dawn was breaking he saw a farmer on a donkey on his way to market. “Do you seek work?” asked the farmer, “because I need a man to help me bring back some purchases.”
Mojud followed him. He worked for the farmer for nearly two years, by which time he had learned a great deal about agriculture but little else.
One afternoon when he was baling wool, Khidr appeared to him and said, “Leave that work, walk to the city of Mosul, and use your savings to become a skin merchant.”
In Mosul he became known as a skin merchant, never seeing Khidr while he plied his trade for three years. He had saved quite a large sum of money, and was thinking of buying a house, when Khidr appeared and said, “Give me your money, walk out of this town as far as the distant Samarkand, and work for a grocer there.”
Mojud did so.
Presently he began to show undoubted signs of illumination. He healed the sick, served his fellow man in the shop during his spare time, and his knowledge of the mysteries became deeper and deeper.
Clerics, philosophers and others visited him and asked, “Under whom did you study?”
“It is difficult to say,” said Mojud.
His disciples asked, “How did you start your career?”
He said, “As a small official.”
“And you gave it up to devote yourself to self-mortification?”
“No, I just gave it up.” They did not understand him.
People approached him to write the story of his life.
“What have you been in your life?” they asked.
“I jumped into a river, became a fisherman, then walked out of his reed hut in the middle of the night. After that, I became a farmhand. While I was baling wool, I changed and went to Mosul, where I became a skin merchant. I saved some money there, but gave it away. Then I walked to Samarkand where I worked for a grocer. And this is where I am now.”
“But this inexplicable behavior throws no light upon your strange gifts and wonderful examples,” said the biographers.
“That is so,” said Mojud.
So the biographers constructed for Mojud a wonderful and exciting story: because all saints must have their story, and the story must be in accordance with the appetite of the listener, not with the realities of life.
And nobody is allowed to speak of Khidr directly. That is why this story is not true. It is a representation of a life. This is the real life of one of the greatest Sufis.
The story that we are going to go into today is one of the greatest stories. It has that special flavor that only a Sufi story can have. It is incomparable. If you can understand this story, you will have understood the very secret of religion. If you can’t understand this story, you will not be able to understand religion at all.
This belongs to the very foundation of religious consciousness. Without it there can be no religious transformation. So listen to this story as attentively as possible. Let this story sink into your being. This story can open a door, this story can become such a radical change in your life that you may never be the same again. But the story has to be understood very minutely, very carefully, very lovingly, because it is a strange tale.
It is not just a story; Sufi stories are not just stories. They are not to entertain you. They are not to just give you an occupation. They are teaching devices. They indicate something, they show something, they point to something. They are pointers, they are arrows towards the unknown, fingers pointing to the moon. And remember this saying of the Sufis: Don’t bite my finger, look where I am pointing.
It is very easy to be entertained by such stories, but that is not their purpose. You miss the point. They are reflections of the beyond. They say that which cannot be said and they try to express that which is inexpressible. They are not about ordinary life, they are not about the mundane world. They belong to the innermost search for truth, they belong to the center of your being. They are beautiful devices. If you simply pay attention, if you meditate on the story, parallel to the story something else will start revealing itself in your being. The story is on one plane, but the revelation is on another plane, parallel to it. Unless you start tasting that parallel revelation, remember, you have missed the point. And to miss the point is very easy. No intelligence is needed to miss the point; any stupid person can do it. But to understand, it will require great intelligence. So pull yourself together. Become integrated for these few moments. Listen as totally as possible, just become your ears. Be there. Something of immense value is being imparted in this story.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass there comes this beautiful passage:
The queen said to Alice, who was standing in a world she could not believe, “I dare say you have not had much practice. Why, sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
Yes, that is the secret of this story. Lewis Carroll is imparting something immensely valuable there. The secret of the story is the art of believing, the art of trusting, the art of saying yes to existence. Believing in the impossible, the impossible becomes possible. How does it happen?
In fact, things are impossible only because you don’t have the courage to believe. Each thought can become a thing, and all that happens inside the consciousness can create its reality outside. All that happens outside has to happen first inside. The seed is absorbed inside and the tree shows outside. If you have the believing heart, nothing is impossible – even God is not impossible.
But you need to have a believing heart. A believing mind won’t do, because mind basically cannot believe. It is incapable of belief. Mind can only doubt: doubt is natural to mind, doubt is intrinsic to mind. The head cannot but doubt. So if you start forcing beliefs in the head, those beliefs will only hide your doubts. Nothing will happen out of them. And that is where Mohammedans and Christians and Hindus and Jains exist: their belief is of the mind and mind is incapable of belief. It is not possible for the mind to believe, mind can only doubt. Doubt grows out of mind as leaves grow out of trees.
Belief grows out of heart. The heart cannot doubt, it can only believe. So the mind-belief – that I believe in the Bible, that I believe in the Koran, that I believe in Das Kapital, that I believe in Mahavir, or Moses or Mao Tse Tung – is just a pseudo-phenomenon. The head can only create pseudo things, substitutes. You can remain engaged in them but your life will be wasted. You will remain a wasteland, a desert. You will never bloom, you will never know what an oasis is. You will never know any joy, any celebration.
So when I say believing can make impossible things possible, I mean believing in the heart – an innocent heart, the heart of the child which knows not how to say no, which knows only yes, yes not against no. Not that the child says no inside and says yes outside; then it is of the head. That is the way of the head: yes outside, no inside, no outside, yes inside. The head is a schizophrenic. It is never total and one. When the heart says yes it simply says yes. There is no conflict, there is no division. The heart is integrated in its yes; that is true believing, trust. It is a heart phenomenon. It is not a thought but a feeling, and ultimately it is a being, not even a feeling.
In the beginning trust is a feeling, in its final flowering it is being.
The so-called beliefs remain in the head, they never become your feeling, and they cannot become your being. And unless something becomes your being it is just an ideal dream. It is a wastage of energy.
But believing needs risking. You will be surprised to know this: that doubt is very cowardly. Ordinarily you must have heard that brave people doubt, that cowards believe. That too is true, in a sense. The head-belief is cowardly, and you know only the head-believers, so it corresponds with the reality. If you go into the mosques and the churches and the temples, you will find them full of cowards. But real belief is not cowardly, real belief is a great courage; it is heroic.
Doubt arises out of fear; how can it be brave? Doubt is rooted in fear. Doubt arises because there is a longing to defend oneself, to protect oneself, to be secure. You can trust only if you are ready to go into insecurity, if you are ready to go into the uncharted, if you are ready to sail your boat without any map into the unknown. Trust means immense courage, and only a courageous person can be religious, because only a courageous person can say yes.
Doubt is defense. And even if you are defended by it, you remain stuck, you cannot move – because each movement brings fear, because each movement is movement into the unknown, the unfamiliar. Doubt is a by-product of fear, remember it.
Then what is believing? Believing is a by-product of love. Only those who know how to love know how to believe. Love arises from the heart, and belief also. Doubt arises in the head, and fear also. The person who lives in the head remains a coward. In fact, because he is cowardly, he lives in the head. He is afraid to move towards the heart because one never knows where the heart will take you.
The heart is an adventurer, the explorer of the mysteries, the discoverer of all that is hidden. The heart is always on a pilgrimage. It is never satisfied, it has an innermost discontent, a spiritual discontent. It never settles anywhere. It is very much in love with movement, with dynamism.
The heart is satisfied only when it has come to the ultimate, beyond which there is ‘no go’. The mundane cannot satisfy it. The heart is never conventional, the heart is always in revolution. It is always leaping from one state into another state. It is always groping, it is always risking. Whatsoever it has, it is always ready to gamble it for the unknown. Its desire is to know that which truly is; that’s what God is all about.
The heart longs for adventure, it longs for danger, it longs for the uncharted, the unknown, the insecure. It hankers for the oceanic experience; it wants to dissolve. It wants to disappear into the totality. The head is afraid, afraid of dying, afraid of disappearing.
When the river faced the desert, encountered the desert, it was the head that was saying, “Don’t evaporate. Otherwise, who knows where you will land? Who will you be then? Your identity may be erased forever. You may not be able to be again as you are now.” It was head. But the heart understood the whisperings of the desert. Something deep inside felt a conviction, “Yes, this is not my destiny, to be just a river losing itself in the desert. I have to go beyond, and I have to risk. It is dangerous and there is no guarantee.” But the moment the river started thinking of risking, somewhere deep in the unconscious it started feeling, glimpses, memories started arising. It started feeling, “Yes, there is somewhere, some experience. I have been in the hands of the winds before too.”
When you trust, your unconscious starts revealing many things to you. It reveals itself only to the trusting mind, only to the trusting being, only to the trusting consciousness. Religion is the fragrance of this trust, impeccable, absolute. Atheism is an act of weakness, of impotency. It is decadent. A society becomes atheist only when it is dying, when it has lost vigor and youth. When a society is young, alive, vigorous, it hankers for the unknown, it longs for the danger. It tries to live dangerously because that is the only way to live.
I would like you to listen to one story:
One day an atheist was walking along a cliff when he slipped and fell over the edge. As he plunged downward he managed to grab the branch of a small tree that was growing from a crevice in the rock. Hanging there, swaying in the cold wind, he realized how hopeless his position was, for below were ragged boulders and there was no way to climb up. His grip on the branch was weakening.
“Well,” he thought, “only God can save me now. I have never believed in God, but I might be wrong. What have I to lose?” So he called out, “God! If you exist, save me and I will believe in you!” There was no answer.
He called again, “Please, God. I never believed in you, but if you will save me now, I will believe in you from now on.”
Suddenly a great voice boomed down from the clouds, “Oh, no you won’t! I know your kind!”
The man was so surprised he almost lost his grip on the branch. “Please, God! You are wrong! I really mean it! I will believe!”
“Oh, no you won’t! That is what they all say!”
The man pleaded and argued.
Finally God said, “Alright, I will save you…. Let go of the branch.”
“Let go of the branch!” the man exclaimed. “Do you think I am crazy?”
Atheism is always cowardly. The really brave person is bound to become religious, and the religious person is necessarily brave. So if you find a cowardly person religious, then you can know something is wrong. A cowardly person cannot be religious. His religion is nothing but a defense, an armor. His yes is not coming out of love and courage, his yes is coming out of fear. If it were possible to say no, he would say no. His yes is coming because death is there, disease is there, danger is there. So he thinks, “What am I to lose? Why not believe? Why not pray?” His prayer is bogus, his prayer is nothing but an expression of fear. Out of fear he goes to the temple and to the church and to the priest.
When a man is really courageous he goes to a Master, not to a priest. He does not go to a dead church or a dead temple. He starts trying and searching for some alive phenomenon. He goes to a Christ or a Buddha or a Krishna, but he does not go to the church. He does not go to orthodoxies. He does not live in the past, he moves in the present. And whatsoever he does is out of courage. If he says “Yes!” he says it out of courage, out of love for existence, out of a deep understanding that he is part of this whole, he is not separate. Saying no is saying no to one’s own roots. If the tree says no to the earth, what will be the fate of the tree? It will be committing suicide. If the tree says no to the sun, what will be the fate of the tree? It will be committing suicide. The tree cannot say no to the sun, the tree cannot say no to the earth. The tree has to say yes to the sun, to the earth, to the winds, to the clouds. The tree has to remain in a yes-attitude continuously, day in, day out. Only then the tree can bloom and can remain green and alive and can grow.
Man is rooted in existence. Saying no is poisoning your own system. To whom are you saying no? – to your own earth, to your own sky, to your own sun. You will start getting paralyzed. The really courageous person looks around, feels, sees that he is part of this totality. Seeing it, he relaxes into a yes, he remains in a let-go. And he is ready to risk anything, whatsoever is needed, for his yes.
Søren Kierkegaard has written a parable:
Once there was a king who loved a humble maiden. This king was so powerful and well-established that he could not marry her without being forced to abdicate. If he were to marry her, the king knew he would make her forever grateful. It occurred to him, though, that something would be wanting in her happiness: she would always admire him and thank him but she would not be able to love him, for the inequality between them would be too great and she would never be able to forget her humble origin and her debt of gratitude.
So he decided upon another way: instead of making her a queen he would renounce the kingship. He would become a commoner and then offer her his love. In doing this he realized that he was taking a great risk. He was doing something that would be foolish in the eyes of most people in his kingdom, perhaps even in her eyes. He would lose the kingship and he might also be rejected by her, specially if she were disappointed at not becoming a queen. Yet he decided to take this risk. It was better, he believed, to risk everything in order to make love possible.
Seeking, searching for God, for truth, for bliss, this moment comes again and again – to risk. All cleverness will be against it. The whole mind will be against it. The mind will say, “What are you going to do? You may be rejected even by the woman for whom you are renouncing the kingdom. If she is really interested only in becoming a queen, she will never look at you again. And the whole kingdom will think you are foolish; and who knows, even she may think you are foolish.” But the king decided to risk.
It is better to risk all. If there is only a very, very slight possibility to attain to love, even then, one has to risk all. And one has to risk all again and again, and many times, before one arrives to the ultimate love, God.
Ordinarily we seek and search for God only in limits: whatsoever is allowed by our conditions without risking anything. You are earning money, you are having success in life; you can spare one hour for the temple or for meditation. Once in a while you can pray too. Or at least in the night, before you go to bed, you can repeat the same prayer for two minutes and fall asleep, and feel very good that you are ‘doing religion’.
Religion is not doing, it is being. Either it is there for twenty-four hours, in your being, spread all over, or it is not there at all. Just a night prayer before going to bed is a kind of deception you are playing upon yourself.
This kind of partial religion does not help. A person has to be totally in it, and cowards cannot do that. So let me remind you: religion is only for the brave, for the vigorous, for the strong of soul. It is not for the weak, it is not for those who are always bargaining. It is not for the business mind, it is for the gamblers who can risk.
Now this story. It has to be savored, tasted, digested, slowly slowly.
The title of the story: The man with the inexplicable life.
Life is always inexplicable, if you have it. If you are really alive, there is something so mysterious about it that it cannot be explained in any way. There is no explanation for it. If you can explain your life, that simply means you are dead and you are not alive. If you can find a man who can explain his life end to end, logically, you can be certain that he may be a computer, a machine, but he is not alive. Only dead things can be explained end to end. Life is a mystery, so whenever one is alive one is mysterious. Whenever you come around a person who is alive you will feel some mystery, some inexplicable phenomenon. You will be touched by something that you cannot figure out what it is all about. You cannot have any mathematics of life; life remains intrinsically poetic. It is a beauty to be seen, but not a fact to be explained.
Osho, The Wisdom of the Sands, Vol 2, Ch 1 (excerpt part 1 of 4)
Image from special edition, with illustrations by Ma Prem Pujan
Mojud: The Man with the Inexplicable Life
An Ancient Sufi Story with Commentary by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Ansu Publishing Company, Portland, Oregon, USA, 1988