Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What's in a word? (From Mystical Horizons)

There once was a man – let us call him Earl – who liked to read about mysticism, and, as a result of his studies, he knew a fair amount about the theory of various esoteric traditions. Although Earl, for reasons he had never been able to understand fully, was intrigued by the teachings and stories of the mystics, nevertheless, he had a lot of reservations about whether much of what he read was actually true.

Because he lived in a rather remote region, Earl had very little opportunity to come in contact with people who were actively involved in mystical practices. Even when he went into some of the more populated areas of his country, and despite persistent efforts over many years, he had not been able to locate an actual spiritual guide.

If he were able to meet with a mystical teacher, Earl had lots of questions to ask. For the most part, the books he had read were good -- at least as far as they went -- but there were many issues which needed to be probed in a way that just wasn’t possible through books.

Via snail mail and e-mail, Earl had tried to contact the authors and publishers of several of the mystical books which he particularly liked. However, in each of these instances, his attempts had gone unrequited.

He was beginning to suspect that, perhaps, the reason why his efforts had gone nowhere was because, in fact, there was really nowhere to go. Maybe, the authors were hiding from him because they knew the whole mystical idea was just a big hoax and didn’t appreciate people asking embarrassing questions -- questions which might affect their book sales should their answers prove inadequate or implausible and, then, become known to the general public.

Still, Earl’s heart was restless. The doubts he had were very hard to ignore, and, yet, he hoped, somehow, there was some element of truth in the books he had been reading.

During one of his vacation periods, Earl had decided to visit a famous resort along the west coast of his country. Between difficulties at work and his constant vacillation about whether, or not, to pursue the mystical path any further than just reading books, Earl felt he needed to just get away from things for awhile, and since he always had wanted to visit the resort area, he thought he would try to accomplish several goals at the same time.

On the fourth day of his vacation, Earl was reading the local paper in search of something interesting to do when an ad caught his attention. A woman, from some place he had never heard of, was going to give a lecture on mysticism that evening in the city’s main library. Apparently, the woman was a highly regarded spiritual teacher – although this might have been just promotional hype.

Because there was going to be a question and answer session following the talk, Earl believed the event was tailored made for his needs. Not only would he get a chance to listen to the answers given to the questions asked by others, but, as well, he might even be able to ask a question, or two, of his own. This was too good an opportunity to pass up.

That evening, Earl found his way to the library’s auditorium where the talk was to be given. While there were quite a few empty seats, nonetheless, Earl was somewhat surprised at the number of people who had showed up.

Although much of the material covered by the speaker already was familiar to Earl from his previous studies of the literature, it was quite informative and did supply some insights which were new to him. The next portion of the program - that is, the question and answer session – was the aspect which most interested Earl, and he awaited it eagerly.

The first four or five questions which were raised by people in the audience annoyed Earl for they could have been answered by the people themselves if they had listened attentively to the speaker. Earl was becoming frustrated because the time allotted for the Q & A session was rapidly being consumed by unnecessary questions.

Ever since he had come across the ad in the paper, Earl had been trying to think of what would be the best question to ask for he might only get one opportunity to do so. He found it an excruciating exercise to try to distill all his doubts, questions, worries, and concerns down to one or two questions, but he finally settled on one question.

Earl had decided to raise a question which would give expression to his skeptical side. He knew the issue he wished to raised would be rather confrontational, but, he felt justified in asking it, and, who knows, other people attending the talk might be grateful to him for broaching the subject.

When the speaker asked for another question, Earl raised his hand and hoped the intensity of his body language might attract the woman’s attention. His hopes were realized for the woman pointed to him and waited for him to state his question.

Earl rose and began: “I enjoyed your talk and found it very stimulating, but I must confess that I have many doubts about the amount of truth that exists in what you have to say. Part of me would like to believe you, but there is another part of me which finds much of what is said to ... let us say ... strain credulity. So, here is my question, and I would like you to answer me as truthfully as possible.”

He paused for a few seconds, mentally composing his question and, then, took the verbal plunge: “In your talk you mentioned the idea of chanting the Name of Divinity and indicated this to be a very important practice on virtually every mystical path. Now, why should I, or anyone here, believe that merely repeating a few words will be able to change our spiritual condition?”

The woman waited a few seconds to make sure that Earl had completed his question, and when she saw that he had, she began to respond. She looked directly at Earl and asked a question: “What is your name, please?”

Earl spoke his name. She closed her eyes and was silent, as if concentrating very hard on something.

A few moments passed, and, then she opened her eyes again. Once again, she looked at Earl and spoke: “Your father was a dishonest man. He cheated the people he worked for. He stole money from several of the community organizations with which he was affiliated. He lied to you about many things.

Moreover, your mother was unfaithful to your father. She had numerous affairs with men from your father’s work place, as well as with the husbands of some of the women in your neighborhood.”

The speaker was about to go on when Earl interrupted her. He was more angry than he could ever remember being.

He shouted at her, spittle jettisoning from his mouth: “You have no right to say those things. You don’t even know my parents. You’ve never met them. I want – no, I demand an apology from you. I really don’t know who you think you are, but I have never been so hurt in all my life. I hoped to come here tonight and be enlightened, and I have, because now I know that you and your kind, lady, are nothing but con artists.”

The woman held up her hand, as if pleading for Earl to stop. But, Earl was so beside himself with anger and outrage that it was a few minutes before he stopped berating the speaker – and he stopped not because his anger had dissipated but because he seemed to have run out of words to express his feelings.

When he paused, the woman began to speak: “I’m very sorry Earl. I really don’t know what came over me. I am quite certain that your parents are very good, decent, moral people who never harmed anyone in their lives. I am just as positive that they were, and are, wonderful parents who are pillars of your neighborhood and community.”

The more she lauded Earl’s parents, the more Earl’s earlier anger began to lessen. Soon, Earl’s anger had subsided completely.

When the speaker saw that Earl had calmed down, she said: “Earl, I am sorry for upsetting you, but I wanted to answer your question, as you requested me to do so, in a very truthful, direct way. I said negative things about your parents which you knew, and I knew, were not true, and, yet, your condition changed dramatically. Furthermore, when I began to praise your parents, even though I have never met them and do not know what kind of people they are, and you knew that I do not know them, nonetheless, your condition changed again.

“Now, if the saying of a few words, which are either false, or not based on true knowledge, can alter your condition in such a dramatic fashion, don’t you think it is possible that repeating the Name of Divinity can alter your spiritual condition just as dramatically, if not
more so?”

2 comments:

Shaik Abdul Khafid said...

Masha'Allah!

Sadiq M. Alam said...

I read the story in the beginning, skipped the middle and read again in the last.

And when i ended, my whole body shaked with something. Praise be to Lord ! This was wonderful.