When a Sufi mystic, Hassan, was dying, somebody asked, "Hassan, who was your Master?" Hassan replied, "It is too late to ask. Time is short, I am dying." Still, the inquirer implored, "You can simply say the name. You are still alive, still breathing and talking." Hassan spoke, "That will be difficult, for I had thousands of Masters. If I tell their names, it will take months and years. Three Masters I will tell you about, however."
Hassan spoke of his Master that was a thief. He said, "I got lost in the desert, and when I reached the village, half the night was gone. There was not a single human being to be seen. I searched for somebody to assist me. I found one man. He was trying to make a hole in the wall of a house. I asked him where I could stay, and he said, 'I am a thief, and you look like a Sufi mystic to me. Right now, it will be very difficult to find any place to stay, but you can come to my home. You can stay with me, if you can stay with a thief.' I hesitated a little bit. Then, I thought, 'If the thief is not afraid of a Sufi, why should the Sufi be afraid of a thief? In fact, he should be afraid of me.' So, I told him, 'Yes, I will come.' The man was so kind and warm-hearted, I stayed for one month! Nightly, he would say to me, 'I am going to my work. You rest, you pray, and do your work.' When he would come back, I would ask, 'Did you get anything?' He would say, 'Not tonight. Tomorrow, I will try again. You are a man of God, so pray for me. God willing, it will happen tomorrow.' Yet, even though always empty-handed when he returned home, he was never in a mood of hopelessness." Hassan said, "When I was meditating for years, nothing was happening, and many times I almost quit. I would think, 'All this prayer is madness,' and, suddenly, I would remember the thief who would say every night, 'God willing, it will happen tomorrow.' And,'If the thief was so hopeful,' I would think, 'I should try at least one day more.' And one day, it happened. And I was thousands of miles away from the thief and his house, but I bowed down in his direction. He was my first Master."
Hassan continued, "My second Master was a dog. I was thirsty, and I was going to the river, and a dog came. He was thirsty. He looked into the river and saw another dog there, and he became afraid. He barked, and the other dog barked. But his thirst was so much he would go back. He would look into the water and see the other dog. One time, he jumped into the water, and the image disappeared. He drank the water, and he swam in it. I was watching, and I knew a message had come to me from God - One has to jump in despite all fears. When I was on the verge of jumping into the unknown, the same fear was there. I would go to the edge, hesitate, and come back. And I would recall the dog, thinking, 'If the dog could jump in, why not I?' And one day, I jumped into the unknown. I disappeared, and only the unknown was left behind. The dog was my second Master."
"And," said Hassan, "my third Master was a small child. I entered a town, and a small child was walking while holding a small, lit candle. He was going to the mosque to place it there. And I asked, 'Did you light the candle?' He said, 'Yes, sir, I did.' Jokingly, I said, 'Can you tell me from where the light came from? There was a moment when the candle was unlit, and, then, a moment when the candle was lit. Can you show me the source from which the light came? You lit it, so you must have seen the light coming - from where?' And the boy laughed and blew out the candle, and asked, 'Now, you have seen the light going. Where has it gone? You tell me!' My ego was shattered, and all my knowledge, too. And that moment, I saw my own ignorance. Since then, I have abandoned all claims to know."
Through these three spiritual teachers, Hassan learned about the hope that leads to persistence, the courage to let go of the self into God, and the wisdom of unknowing. And, like Hassan, we have many such teachers. We meet our guides all along our way. The world of living beings, all around us, speaks to us of the Ways of Life. And we may receive guidance from a source unseen. Who are your teachers? What have they been teaching you? How might you be more attentive to listening to them?
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.