Monday, September 10, 2012

[Sunlight] "Do the careful donkey-tending work"



"After the Meditation"

Now I see something in my listeners
that won't let me continue this way.

The ocean flows back in
and puts up a foam barrier,
and then withdraws.

After a while,
it will come in again.

This audience wants to hear more
about the visiting sufi and his friends
in meditation. But be discerning.

Don't think of this as a normal character
in an ordinary story.

The ecstatic meditation ended.
Dishes of food were brought out.

The sufi remembered his donkey
that had carried him all day.

He called to the servant there, "Please,
go to the stable and mix the barley generously
with the straw for the animal. Please."

"Don't worry yourself with such matters.
All things have been attended to."

"But I want to make sure that you wet the barley first.
He's an old donkey, and his teeth are shaky."
"Why are you telling me this?
I have given the appropriate orders."

"But did you remove the saddle gently,
and put salve on the sore he has?"

"I have served thousands of guests
with these difficulties, and all have gone away
satisfied. Here, you are treated as family.
Do not worry. Enjoy yourself."

"But did you warm his water
just a little, and then add only a bit of straw
to the barley?"
"Sir, I'm ashamed for you."

"And please,
sweep the stall clean of stones and dung,
and scatter a little dry earth in it."

"For God's sake, sir,
leave my business to me!"

"And did you currycomb his back?
He loves that."

"Sir! I am personally
responsible for all these chores!"

The servant turned and left at a brisk pace ...
to join his friends in the street.

The sufi then lay down to sleep
and had terrible dreams about his donkey,
how it was being torn to pieces by a wolf,
or falling helplessly into a ditch.

And his dreaming was right!
His donkey was being totally neglected, weak and gasping
without food or water all the night long.
The servant had done nothing he said he would.

There are such vicious and empty flatterers
in your life. Do the careful,
donkey-tending work.

Don't trust that to anyone else.
There are hypocrites who will praise you,
but who do not care about the health
of your heart-donkey.

Be concentrated and leonine
in the hunt for what is your true nourishment.
Don't be distracted by blandishment-noises,
of any sort.

-- Mathnawi II: 194-223; 260-63
Version by Coleman Barks
"The Essential Rumi"
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995



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