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Shah On Prayer

January 10, 2013

Excerpted from The Commanding Self, by Idries Shah:


Q: If one small prayer can bring comfort, as we know it does, does continuous prayer, as practiced by some ascetics, not give even more?

A: There was once a poor old half-blind woman.  She stumbled in a crowded street market, and her iron-tipped stick tore the hem of the robe of a courtier who had paused beside a shop.

A crowd gathered as the nobleman’s servants berated the old lady.

But the aristocrat was kindly, compassionate.  Saying, “accidents will happen, Mother’, he gave the woman a gold piece and went on his way.

It happened that there was an idiot in the crowd. “A gold piece for a tear in a robe!’ he exclaimed to himself.  This really is something to follow up.’

As idiots will, he made his plans, based on his own conception of the situation.

The next time he saw the rich man in the market, the idiot ran up to him, tore off the brocade robe and, ripping it to pieces, cried, “torn ten times!  You owe me ten pieces of gold…’

The old lady had been innocent and contrite; the idiot was foolish and greedy.  What you do not see may be the determining factor in an occasion or other matter.  Effects will depend upon your own inner state just as much as upon anything else.

The purpose of Sufic preparation is to become attuned to higher, subtler things: not to try to impose formulas upon a mind which still contains too much greed and also mistakes it for legitimate aspiration.

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