Monday, June 09, 2008

[Sunlight] The story of the mouse and the camel


From Rumi's Mathnawi, Book II, verses 3436-3474, comes the story
of the mouse and the camel, in a version from Coleman Barks
(interpreted from the classic English translation by Reynold
Nicholson), in a partial translation by William Chittick, and in a
partial version by Kabir Helminski:


"The Mouse and the Camel"

A mouse caught hold of a camel's leading ˆrope
in his two forelegs and walked off with it,
imitating the camel-drivers.

The camel went along, letting the mouse feel heroic.
"Enjoy yourself," he thought. "I have something
to teach you, presently."

They came to the edge of a great river.
The mouse was dumbfounded.
"What are you waiting for? Step forward into
the river. You are my leader. Don't stop here."

"I'm afraid of being drowned."

The camel walked into the water. "It's only
just above the knee."

"Your knee! Your knee is a hundred times
over my head!"

"Well, maybe you shouldn't be leading a camel.
Stay with those like yourself. A mouse has
nothing really to say to a camel."

"Would you help me get across?"

"Get up on my hump. I am made
to take hundreds like you across."

You are not a prophet, but go humbly on the
Way of the Prophets and you can arrive where
they are. Don't try to steer the boat. Don't open
a shop by yourself. Listen. Keep silent.
You are not God's mouthpiece. Try to be an ear,
and if you do speak, ask for explanations.

The source of your arrogance and anger is your
lust and the rootedness of that is in your habits.

Someone who makes a habit of eating clay
gets mad when you try to keep him from it.
Being a leader can also be a poisonous habit,
so that when someone questions your authority,
you think, "He's trying to take over."
You may respond courteously, but inside you rage.

Always check your inner state
with the Lord of your Heart.
Copper doesn't know it's copper,
until it's changed to gold.

Your loving doesn't know its Majesty,
until it knows its helplessness.

-- Mathnawi: II, 3436-3474
Version by Coleman Barks
"This Longing"
Threshold Book, 1988


Since you are not a prophet, follow the Way!
Then one day you may come out of this pit and reach
a high station.

Since you are not a sultan, be a subject! Since
you are not the captain, take not yourself the helm!

Since you are not perfect, take not a shop alone!
Be pliant to the hand, so that you may become leavened

Listen to the text, Be silent! and be silent! Since
you have not become God's tongue, be an ear!

-- Mathnawi II: 3453-56
Translation by William C. Chittick
"The Sufi Path of Love"
State University of New York Press, Albany, 1983


Since you're not spiritually perfect,
don't open a shop on your own.
Be pliant to the hand,
so you may become leavened and kneaded like dough.
Listen to the Divine command, "Keep silence."*
Be mute.
Since you haven't become the tongue of God,
be an ear.
If you do speak,
let it be to ask for explanations:
speak as a humble beggar
at the hand of the spiritually great.

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `

Chon na'i kâmel dokkân tanhâ ma-gir
dast-khvosh mi bâsh tâ gardi khamir
"Ansetu"*-râ gush kon khâmush bâsh
chon zabân-e Haqq na-gashti gush bâsh
Var be-guyi shakl-e estefsâr gu
bâ shahanshâhân to meskin vâr gu

*al-A`râf, 204

-- Mathnawi II: 3455-3457
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Daylight"
Threshold Books, 1994
Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyá Monastra




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