Many of these teaching
stories come from Sufi sources and are about a character called Mullah Nasrudin.
Many nations of the Middle East claim the Mullah as their own, however, the
Mullah, like all mythological characters, belongs to all humanity. The Mullah
is a wise fool and his stories have many meanings on multiple levels of reality.
These stories show among other things that things are not always as they appear
and often logic fails us. When reading a Mullah story just enjoy it and allow
your unconscious mind to get the deeper significance of the tale. Many of these
stories were originally told by great Sufi poets such as Mullana Jalaludin-E-Rumi,
Hafiz, Sadi, but were retold as Mullah stories. I'll start with a simple story
called the boatman:
The mullah was earning his living by running a ferry across a lake. He was taking a pompous scholar to the other side. When asked if he had read Plato's Republic, the Mullah replied, "Sir, I am a simple boatman. What would I do with Plato?" The scholar replied, "In that case half of your life's been wasted." The Mullah kept quite for a while and then said, "Sir, do you know how to swim." "Of course not," replied the professor, "I am a scholar. What would I do with swimming." The Mullah replied, "In that case, all of your life's been wasted. We're sinking."
There is a story by Rumi where a drunk is searching the ground under a street lamp. A friend gets there and asks him what he is doing. The drunk slurs, "I'm looking for my key." The friend helps him search every where. Half an hour later they still have not found the key. The friend asks, "Are you sure you lost it here?" "No," replies the drunk, "I lost it inside my house." "Then why are you looking here?" "Because the light is here."
The car dealership:
In the late 70s, when American cars were not in such a great demand, this guy owned a Chrysler dealership in a small town in the Midwest. This guy was not doing so well. He saw his competitors, selling Hondas, Toyotas and other Japanese cars, with customers lining up to buy their small gas efficient vehicles, while he whiled away his time pining for even one person to enter his dealership to examine his gas guzzlers. Anyway, one day he went fishing and caught this little goldfish who, to his surprise, said, "Please sir, I am a special fish with magical powers. Let me go and I'll give you one wish." The guy thought to himself, "What have I to lose?" and let the fish go free. The fish thanked him and told him to write his wish on a piece of paper and put it under his pillow and sleep on it. In the morning his wish would be fulfilled. So that night the guy wrote, "I wish to own an foreign car dealership in a large cosmopolitan city." He put the paper under his pillow and the last thing he thought of before going to sleep is, "Here goes nothing." Next morning he woke up in Tokyo owning a Chrysler dealership.
The elephant and the blind men:
Six blind men heard of this giant wondrous animal called the elephant. Since they were blind they could only feel the form of an elephant. As it happens a circus was passing by and the six blind men went to the circus and asked the elephant keeper if they could feel his great beast. The keeper agreed and each went in and felt the elephant. When they came out, they described the elephant. The first said, "I now know the elephant is like a pillar." "No, you are wrong my friend," said the next, "The elephant is like a great big wall." The others disagreed one-by-one: "The elephant is like a leather fan." "The elephant is like a great saber." "It is like a piece of rope." "My friends, you are all wrong, you must be blind in your hands as well as your eyes, can't you see, the elephant is like a fire hose." The blind men started to argue and nearly came to blows, when the elephant keeper came over and interrupted their bickering, "My friends, you are all right, and yet you are all wrong. You, each, have felt part of the elephant, but not all. You felt the leg, which is like a pillar. You, the body, which seems like a wall, and you the ear, you, the tusk, you, the tail, and finally you felt the trunk."
The magic ring:
A king was fed up with the ups and downs of life. He had great highs and extreme lows. He asked his viziers and advisors to make him a magic ring which would pacify his extreme emotions. All the wise men of the nation were consulted, but none could make such a ring. As it happened the Mullah was passing through this country at the time and he heard about the kings need. He got an audience with the great potentate and presented him with a simple ring he wore on his own hand. This ring had the magic property desired. On it was written, "This too shall pass."
Every first of the month the Mullah would cross the border with thirty donkeys with two bails of straw on each. Each time the custom person would ask the Mullah's profession and the Mullah would reply, "I am an honest smuggler." So each time The Mullah, his donkeys and the bails of straw would be searched from top to toe. Each time the custom folk would not find anything. Next week the Mullah would return without his donkeys or bails of straw. Years went by and the Mullah prospered in his smuggling profession to the extent that he retired. Many years later the custom person too had retired. As it happened one day the two former adversaries met in a country far from home. The two hugged each other like old buddies and started talking. After a while the custom person asked the question which had been bugging him over the years, "Mullah, please let me know what were you smuggling all those years ago?" The mullah thought for a few seconds and finally revealed his open secret, "Donkeys."
The Mullah's wife sent him to buy some bread. When the Mullah arrived at the bread shop he saw a long line waiting to buy bread. He thought he would do something to get in front of the line. He shouted, "People, don't you know the Sultan's daughter is getting married tonight and he is giving away free bread?" The multitude ran toward the palace as the Sultan was generous to a fault and loved his daughter more than anyone. The Mullah was now in front of the line and was about to buy his bread when he thought to himself, "Mullah, you are truly a fool. All the citizen's are getting free bread tonight and I am about to pay for it. So he ran to the palace and when he got there was thoroughly beaten by the disappointed people.
It is forbidden to lie:
The Sultan was told by his teacher that lying was a great crime and should be banned. So the Sultan ordered his executioner to the city gate and told him to ask each person entering the city why he was visiting and execute any who lied. Next morning the Mullah stood in line to go to the market in the city. The executioner asked him on the penalty of death, "Why are you entering the city?" The Mullah replied, "I am going to be executed!"
The one-eyed monk:
In ancient times itinerant Zen monks when arriving at a Zen monastery could challenge the monks to a theological contest and would be given food and shelter if they won but would have to go to the next monastery if they lost. There was a monastery occupied by two brothers a wise monk with two eyes and a foolish monk with one eye. One night it was raining cats and dogs and an itinerant monk knocked on the door. The wise brother wishing to be kind to wet fellow suggested he has a contest with his brother. Five minutes later the contest was over. The traveling monk entered the room, bowed and admitted defeat. The wise brother asked, "Tell me what happened?" The other replied, "Your brother is a genius. We decided to debate in silence. I went first and showed a single finger signifying the Buddha. Your brother showed two fingers, meaning the Buddha and his teachings. I replied with three fingers, indicating the Buddha, his teachings and his followers. Your brother replied with coup de grass when he showed me his fist proving that in reality the Buddha, his teachings and his followers are all one." The poor monk bowed once more and left in the stormy night. Just then the brother entered. He was totally irate. "That man was so rude. If he was not our guest I would have given him the beating he deserved." "What happened?" The one-eyed brother replied, "We decided to have a silent debate and the first thing he indicated was to put a single finger up meaning, ‘I see you have only one eye'. So I put up two fingers out of courtesy to him, meaning, ‘I see you have two eyes.' But the guy was so rude, he put up three fingers telling me that together the two of us have three eyes. I got so mad, I shook my fist at him, telling him, ‘If you don't stop talking about eyes, I'm going to punch your lights out.'"
Many years ago a wise peasant lived in China. He had a son who was the gleam in his eyes and a white stallion which was his favorite belonging. One day his horse escaped from his grounds and disappeared into the fields outside the village. The villagers came to him one by one and announced their condolences. They said, "You are such an unlucky man. It is so bad." The peasant answered, "Who knows. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good." The populous left. The next day the stallion returned followed by twelve wild horses. The same people returned and told our wise man about how lucky he was. "It's so good." He replied once more, "Who knows. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad." As it happens, the next day his one and only son was attempting to break in one of the wild horses when the horse fell down and broke his leg. Once more everyone came to condole him. They said, "It's so bad." Again he replied, ""Who knows. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good." Three days passed and his poor son was limping around the village with his broken leg, when the emperor's army entered the village announcing that a war was starting and they conscripted all the young men of the village. However, they left the son since he had a broken leg. Once more, everyone was so jealous of our man. They surrounded him talking about his shier luck. "It is so good for you," they said. He answered all thus, ""Who knows. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad."
The pregnant pot:
One day the Mullah went to his neighbor and asked to borrow his huge pot. The neighbor reluctantly loaned him the pot indicating a lack of trust. Next day he returned the pot with a small pot saying, "Your pot was pregnant, had labor and here's the baby. It belongs to you." The neighbor thought this was odd but accepted the gift believing that one should not look into the mouth of a gift horse. A week went by and once again the Mullah borrowed the pot and returned it next day with a small pot as the new born child. Next week when the Mullah asked to borrow the pot the neighbor was only to pleased to comply. Next day went by and the Mullah did not return the pot and the neighbor became worried. On the third day the neighbor went to the Mullah demanding the return of his pot. Mullah told him, "Alas my friend that's impossible your pot passed away in labor." The neighbor was maddened and screamed, "Look, you idiot, who do you take for a fool. We all know pots do not die in labor." "My friend," the Mullah replied calmly, "We have already established that pot become pregnant, have labor and you even have two of the babies. I cannot help it if you were unlucky that your pot could not survive three labors in such a short time. You should have looked after it better."
How to tame a giant elephant:
In India elephant keepers train baby elephants to stay put by tying a rope, with a stake on the one side, around one leg and placing the stake into the ground. The baby elephant pulls and pulls on the rope to no avail. This teaches the elephant that no matter what he does he cannot get away when attached to the rope. Later when the elephant is grown up and the keeper wants the elephant to stay put all he does is to tie a small piece of rope on that leg and the giant elephant is held to the spot by his own mind.
If one places gnats inside a test tube and closes the top, at first the gnats try to jump out and each time they hit the closed top. After about an hour they give up and one can open the top and the gnats will remain put and eventually die of hunger.
Where is the cat?
The Mullah was giving a party for his friends and bought six pounds of best lamb and asked his wife to cook as the best kabob as only she knew how to. The lamb was the tastiest and soon the wife was tempted and she cooked the most delicious kabob and eat it all herself. That night when the Mullah arrived home the wife told him to buy some more meat since the cat had eaten the meat. The Mullah got his scales and weighed the cat. It weighed exactly six pounds. He asked his wife, "If this is the cat, where is the meat? And if this is the meat, where is the cat?"
The Mullah had recently moved up in the world and was now at the court of the Sultan. As it happened the Sultan loved aubergines (eggplants) and asked the chef to cook him aubergine dishes every day. Each day the chef devised different ways of presenting aubergines to the great Sultan and the Mullah who was seated near the king would pontificate on the wonderful health giving characteristics of the aubergine. He would explain how the aubergine would heal all diseases known and unknown. He explained how this wondrous vegetable reduced one's temperature if one had a fever or raised it if it dropped too low. It was full of vitamins A,B,C,D,E,to Z and furthermore had mystical properties that would absolve one of one's sins if eaten every day. For six months the chef would cook the aubergine, the Sultan would relish the dishes, while the Mullah would sing the praises of aubergine. As thing happen, eventually the great Potentate became sick to death having aubergines everyday and ordered the chef on pain of death to never again cook aubergines. The Mullah who heard this immediately said, "Your Highness, you are so right. This plant is a curse to humanity. It is full of noxious poisons and is the cause of most maladies known and unknown." The Sultan asked the Mullah, "Mullah, only yesterday you said aubergine was the king of all vegetables, how come you change your tune so soon." "Sire,"the Mullah replied, "I am the Sultan's servant not the aubergine's."
Feed my clothes:
One day the Mullah went to a rich merchant's house for a feast. As he was wearing a laborer's clothe he was shown to the servant's entrance and given a few scraps. Next week he was invited to the same place and he dressed in his best attire looking as good as any prince. He was welcomed at the front door and given the place of the honor next to the host. He ate a morsel of bread and then started putting all the rich food offered him into his sleeves. His host asked him, "What are doing my good man?" "I'm feeding my clothes," the Mullah replied, "It deserves the good food since my worth was established last week."
The moon is more useful than the sun:
One day, the Mullah's son asked him, "Which is more useful, the sun or the moon." The Mullah replied, "My son, of course the moon is more useful. It provides us light at night, when it is dark. The sun, alas shines during the day, when it is already light."
The Mullah was a judge and arbitrator in a dispute. First the advocate of the first side gave an eloquent discourse advancing his claims. The Mullah who had been listening intently agreed and said, "That's right." Next it was the other advocates turn and he was just as erudite. Once more the Mullah agreed adding, "That's right." His clerk listening to the Mullah's pronouncements commented, "They can't both be right." "The Mullah agreed by saying, "That's right!"
Ali and the spit:
Ali, the prophet's
cousin, son in law, and the bravest of all Muslim's had caught an evil unbeliever
and enemy of the faithful. He drew his scimitar and was about to chop off the
infidel's head when the evil one spat in the face of the most just of all. Ali
paused and placed his scimitar back into his scabbard and left. The infidel
ran after him and asked, "You were about to kill me and I spat in you face
and you left. How come?" Ali replied, "When I drew my scimitar I was
going to execute you for your crimes against Islam and all the Moslems you have
murdered. When you span in my face, I became angry. If I had killed you I would
have murdered you for the sake of my ego." The former infidel fell upon
the ground upon hearing this and accepted God and Islam. He was now a totally
changed man and became a great Muslim saint.
It works, doesn't
The Mulah was beating a drum as hard as he could. The neighbors were fed up at the racket and asked him what he was doing. He replied, "Keeping wild tigers at bay." A neighbor shouted, "But Mullah, there are no wild tigers within a thousand miles of here." The Mullah smiled and replied, "It works, doesn't it!"
The death of the Mullah
One day the Mullah's wife asked him when would be the end of the world and the last judgment day. The Mullah replied the end of the world and the last judgement day is the day that I die.
When I was Alive....
One day the Mullah had climbed a neighbor's apple tree to steal some fruits. His neighbor walked in the orchard and the Mullah fell as he tried to hide in the tree. The people crowded around the dazed Mullah and imagined that he had died. They started to carry him home. As they carried him, they got to a roundabout and did not know which road to take. The Mullah who had just revived pointed to a road and said, "When I was alive, I would take that road!"
A farmer came to town as a guest of the Mullah. The farmer brought a goose as a gift for the Mullah. That night Mullah Nasrudin's wife cooked the goose and served it in a feast with many other delicacies to the Mullah and others with the farmer siting in the place of honor among the guests.
The farmer returned home the next day and a week later a stranger knocked on the Mullah's door saying, "I am the friend of the guy who brought you the goose." The Mullah welcomed him and asked his wife to cook a big meal and invited the stranger to dinner. Hardly a week had gone by when another stranger came claiming to be the friend of the friend of the guy who had brought the goose. Once again the stranger was fed a big meal and so was the next stranger who was the friend of the friend of the friend of the guy who had brought the goose.
By this time the Mullah and his wife had become pretty fed up of feeding all the countryside. Nasrudin's wife told him that they had only one chicken left. Mullah said not to worry since he had a plan.
When the next friend of the friend of the friend of the friend of the guy who had brought the goose arrived the Mullah told his wife to boil some water and serve it in a soup bowl. The guest tasted the water and asked what kind of a soup was this. The Mullah replied, "Sir you have before you the soup of the soup of the soup of the soup of the goose that the friend of your friend of your friend of your friend brought." No more stranger's visited Mullah after that.
The architect's last palace
An excellent architect lovingly built many beautiful palaces for the Sultan. Eventually he was tired of his labor and went to the Potentate and asked if he could retire. The great king asked the architect to build him one last palace. He said, "Money is absolutely no objection. You have one year to build me the best palace possible."
The architect started eagerly but he was exhausted and soon he started to do shoddy work. He cut a corner here and a corner there. After all, this was his last project and no one would notice. When it came to the materials he used cheaper materials since he could not be bothered to search for the best. After all, who would notice? Only he, was the one who could tell the difference. One by one the architect did less than his best. Eventually even though no one else could tell the difference the architect knew that this palace was no where near his best. However, he was still pleased that it was complete and at last he could retire.
The year had passed and the architect presented his substandard work to the Sultan. The Sultan inspected the palace and was well pleased. When the inspection was over, he turned to the architect and said, "You have done well. This is my retirement gift to you."
"I have no time
to sharpen my ax"
The Mullah was using a rusted ace to cut a huge oak tree. A friend was passing by and saw that the Mullah was make no progress at all. At this rate it would take him years to chop the mighty tree down. He said, "Mullah, why don't you sharpen your ace?" The Mullah replied, "I can't afford the time. Must cut this tree by tomorrow."
Cherish this life
The Shahanshah, the King of Kings, had passed away unexpectedly before he could bequeath his empire to one of his many suns. In order to stop a civil war the Viziers asked the Mullah to intervene and discover the Great ruler's desire. The Mullah fasted and meditated for many days and then went into a deep trance. His spirit momentarily left his body and went to the other world. When he saw the Supreme Sovereign, he was in the most beautiful palace imaginable. He was surrounded by stunning Houris and most powerful Genies of all kinds. Verily, this was a true paradise. The Shahanshah told the Mullah which of his sons should succeed him and the added, "I would give up all this wealth and glory I have in this world to spend one more day back on Earth, alive, as even the humblest servant to the least of my subjects."
Death looks for Hassan in Samarkand
Hassan was a novice in Baghdad. He went to a Sufi Sheik to have his fortune read. The Sheik told him that he was under grave danger and death might visit him soon. As it happened death entered Baghdad that day to take the life of ten thousand whose time had come. Upon hearing about the carnage and how everyone was dying of the plague, Hassan flew to far away city of Samarkand. As he left Baghdad, he shivered with fright as he passed the shadow of death. Death who saw Hassan looked in his book and thought to himself, "I wonder what is going on? I am supposed to take him to the other side in four weeks in Samarkand. Why is he in Baghdad?
The Missing Donkey
One day the Mullah took his eleven donkeys to the bazaar to sell. On the way he counted his donkeys and noticed that there were only ten. He thought to himself, "What a fool I am, I lost one of my donkeys." So he got off his donkey and counted again and this time he counted eleven. "Thanks be to God," he thought, "I have found my lost beast." He rode his donkey again and when he counted in a little while again he counted only ten. He became anxious thinking that he must have left one behind. Again when he counted he had eleven donkeys. He said to himself, "It's best I walk to the bazaar, else I'll lose a donkey for sure."
I'm not that lazy
The mullah got a job at the Bazaar as a porter. Today he had to load bags of wheat onto a cart. The foreman noticed that he was carrying one bag where the other workers carried two. The Forman asked the Mullah, "How come you only carry one bag at a time and all the others carry two?" The Mullah replied, "I'm not that lazy to make one trip when I can make two."
The Treasure Chest.
A guy felt unlucky. Whatever he did ended up wrong and he never had enough money. He saw this wise old woman who gave him a tiny little locked treasure chest and told him it had an exotic magic object inside which would bring him luck. She told him to take it with him everywhere he went and shake it three times whenever he entered a new room. So the guy took the treasure chest everywhere and he started noticing things. As he shook his treasure chest and paid attention, he noticed an opportunity here and a danger or pitfall there. A year went by and his luck had totally changed. He went back to the wise old woman and asked for the key to the lock. The old woman at first refused but eventually acquiesced to his pleas and opened the treasure chest. The man looked inside and there was no magical object within.
A tale from one thousand and one nights.
This merchant in Baghdad had some bad luck. A thief robbed his house of all his gold. The authorities caught the thief but he would not reveal where he had hidden the merchant gold. One night in a dream he was told by a Genie to go to Cairo to seek his fortune. So with great difficulty he made his way to Cairo. When he got there as it happened there was a robbery and the people caught him and beat him up and then took him to the Captain of the guard. He told his story of how he had left his home in Baghdad and arrived in Cairo in search of his fortune. The Captain told him, "You fool, three times I dreamt a Genie who said that if I went to Baghdad I would find a great oak tree next to a well on top of a hill overlooking the great mosque. He said if I searched the well, I would find a great treasure. But, I'm wise. I stayed home. You don't find me going on a wild goose chase. The merchant recognized the well as that in his own home and returned home. He searched his well and found his stolen wealth.
But you chose us since we were the best teachers
(A true story)
In the beginning of a school year, the school principle and some research psychologists called three teachers in for a meeting. They told the three teachers that they had been chosen since they were the best teachers at the school to teach extra gifted students. They were told that the students had been given an IQ test and the cream of the crop were assigned to them. However, in order not to have the parents complain they could not say a single word about the fact that they had the best students to anyone, specially the students. By the year's end these "gifted" students were all straight A and excelled at most subjects. The teachers had another meeting with the principle and the psychologist and were asked about their charges. They said that they were so brilliant, so attentive, so easy to teach. They were now informed that this had been a test and that the students had been assigned to them randomly and were no different from their students of previous years. To this the teachers replied, "Maybe, but they did so well because we were the best teachers." To this came the reply, "No you were chosen by lottery too. In fact we chose you three because you were the average teachers at this school."
The above is based on a true research study on effects of expectation on learning. I changed the story to jazz it up but the facts have not been altered. This research has been repeated many times with the same results. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right."
You only own what is in your head.
When Avicenna (Ibn-e-Sina), the great Iranian physician and philosopher, was young, one day he was traveling to another city. He was riding a mule and had all his books loaded on another mule. As it happened he crossed the territory of a band of brigands. The bandits saw the lone rider and the two mules as easy prey and attacked and overcame the hapless scholar. They robbed him of all his belongings and the two mules. Avicenna pleaded with the chief of the outlaws to let him have his books back since they were no use to them, but they were the sum total of his knowledge. As it happens the head bandit was a wise and insightful person and could tell that this young student had much potential. He gave him a single mule and his books back and told him, "Remember only that knowledge is yours which is contained in your head." Avicenna headed the thief's advice and was on his way to becoming one of the greatest physicians in the history of humanity.
It is there but is it available?
Today it was raining cats and dogs... Thank God I had my umbrella and my raincoat with me. However, my umbrella was locked in my car's trunk and my raincoat locked inside my car. I was thinking about this as I was running to my car and I was getting soaked. I realized that this was a wonderful metaphor for the way we pass through the tempests of life: each one of us has the inner resources needed to face up with whatever life has to throw in our path. The problem is that often our resources are locked up inside where they cannot immediately do us any good. One of the best ways of freeing our inner resources is through hypnosis and NLP.