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Nasrudin (Nas'r-ud-din)

(Nas’r-ud-din). A fictitious character central to many Sufī tales who is known all over the Middle East. A collection of these tales is available in English titled The Subtleties of the Incomparable Nasrudin and two stories from that book will serve to illustrate the way in which they are used to painlessly convey Sūfī teachings. Nasrudin was ferrying an academic across rough water. “Have you ever studied grammar?” asked the scholar. “No” replied Nasrudin. “Then half your life has been wasted.” A few minutes later Nasrudin asked the scholar, “Have you ever learned to swim?” “No.” “Then all your life is wasted. We’re sinking.” Nasrudin was down on his hands and knees in the street looking for something. A neighbor asked, “What have you lost?” “My key.” “Where did you drop it?” “At home.” “Then why, for heaven’s sake, are you looking here?” “There’s more light here.” Some of these stories may possibly work in the same way as Zen koans since on first encounter they seem to have no logical content. Others may be interpreted on a number of levels. The second of these stories, at the first level of understanding illustrates how we may search for enlightenment in the wrong places. The first story deals with the Sūfī belief that effective living is much more relevant than intellectualism. It may lead to the comprehension that a head stuffed with theory is an impediment to spiritual progress.


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