Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Lesson

I had an instructive experience and lesson from my Shaykh some time ago that may be interesting.

I have just spent the last five days away from the home Dergah on business for my Shaykh, and having concluded it drove to Shaykh Taner's Pizza Parlor to spend some time with him.

I arrived arrived at Taner Baba's pizzeria, and after greetings and a little time catching up on news I found myself deep in conversation with Baba about all manner of interesting things, when this fellow came through the door to talk with Shaykh. He insisted that Taner Baba come sit with him at another table and talk.

Within a couple of minutes this fellow had disrupted what was going on and made himself the center of attention. He was bordering on rudeness toward Baba and after listening to him talk for a few sentences I realized that he had come not to ask questions and learn, but to prove to us and receive some sort of confirmation that he already knew everything and had attained a Really high state.

The conversation went on in this vein for quite some time. I expected Taner Baba to rake this person across the coals for his bad manners and lack of adab (and if you have ever experienced Shaykh explaining why he is unhappy with your behavior you know what I mean by "rake"), but the more obnoxious the guy became, the milder Taner Baba responded.

Now I have to admit that by this time I was becoming more than a little irritated with this fellow's loutish behavior. The other folks at the pizzeria were giving me that look that says "don't do anything that will break more furniture than you can afford to pay for dewd", and I was starting to think about how much fun I could have playing show and tell with this guy's vital organs.

But I knew that Shaykh Taner would not approve and I did not want say anything without my Shaykh's permission, so I bit my tongue, sat on my hands and listened. In listening to the conversation, I noticed that the more this person said "I, Me, My", Shaykh said Allah, Allah, Allah, and didn't draw attention to himself at all, so I decided to pay attention to what was being said rather than indulging my Nafs by dribbling the fellow out the door for his bad manners.

The discussion went on for another 20 minutes or so until the fellow found himself offering the point of view that he was arguing against. Shaykh then said "Good! That ends this conversation as we are in agreement." The fellow, looking more than a little confused got up and left.

I thought a good deal about what I had just seen but could come up with no good explanation of why Shaykh had put up with this fellow.

As we were driving back to Shaykh's house I suddenly remembered a story that Baba had recently related about his Shaykh having put up with some bad behavior on someone's part because he didn't want to hurt the person's feelings and break his heart. In a sort of sudden flash I saw the events in a new light. I turned to Baba and said, " I think I've got it! You treated that guy so nice even though he was a complete jerk because if he saw the truth about himself he would not have been able to bear it.

Shaykh Taner said that this was indeed the case. The fellow was actually extremely fragile and would have been crushed if he had seen himself for what he actually was. Baba went on to tell me that though this person was mostly lost in his ego, that he had some good traits that could, over time, be brought more to the surface. Baba explained that he had taken on an obligation to the man's father to help his son in a way that the father could not and so Shaykh was content to make one small change at a time. Perhaps only one a year for the moment, knowing that these changes will be cumulative.

Ya Sabur!

When we arrived at Baba's home I opened a book of poetry by Yunus Emre
and found this verse.

If you've broken a single heart,
The prayers you make aren't accepted.

The seventy-two peoples of the world
Could not wash your hands and face.

So many masters have come and gone.
They migrated. Only their ancient lands remain.

They opened their wings and flew to Al Haqq,
Not as geese but as eagles.

A Way is true if it is straight.
An eye is that which can see the Real.

And doing good even once is no small thing.
It can return a thousandfold.

Yunus combines words
As if mixing honey into butter.

He's in business among people,
With goods of the highest worth.
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