Masnavi 1V

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY III. The Sage and the Peacock.
A sage went out to till his field, and saw a peacock busily engaged in
destroying his own plumage with his beak. At seeing this insane
self-destruction the sage could not refrain himself, but cried out to the
peacock to forbear from mutilating himself and spoiling his beauty in so wanton
a manner. The peacock then explained to him that the bright plumage which he
admired so much was a fruitful source of danger to its unfortunate owner, as it
led to his being constantly pursued by hunters, whom he had no strength to
contend against; and he had accordingly decided on ridding himself of it with
his own beak, and making himself so ugly that no hunter would in future care to
molest him. The poet proceeds to point out that worldly cleverness and
accomplishments and wealth endanger man's spiritual life, like the peacock's
plumage; but, nevertheless, they are appointed for our probation, and without
such trials there can be no virtue.
"There is no monkery in Islam." 1
Tear not thy plumage off it cannot be replaced;
Disfigure not thy face in wantonness, O fair one!
That face which is bright as the forenoon sun,
To disfigure it were a grievous sin.
'Twere paganism to mar such a face as thine!
The moon itself would weep to lose sight of it!
Knowest thou not the beauty of thine own face?
Quit this temper that leads thee to war with thyself!
It is the claws of thine own foolish thoughts
That in spite wound the face of thy quiet soul.
Know such thoughts to be claws fraught with poison,
Which score deep wounds on the face of thy soul.
Rend not thy plumage off, but avert thy heart from it
For hostility between them is the law of this holy war.
Were there no hostility, that war would be impossible.
lladst thou no lust, obedience to the law could not be. 2
Hadst thou no concupiscence there could be no abstinence.
Where no antagonist, what need is there of armies?
Ah! make not thyself an eunuch, 3 not a monk,
Because chastity is mortgaged to lust.
Without lust denial of lust is impossible
No man can display bravery against the dead.
God says, "Expend;" 4 wherefore earn money.
Since expenditure is impossible without previous gain?
Although the passage contains only the word "Expend,"
Read "Acquire first, and then expend."
In like manner, when the King of kings says "Abstain," 5
It implies an object of desire wherefrom to abstain.
Again, "Eat ye," is said recognising the snares of lust,
And afterwards, " Exceed not," 6 to enjoin temperance.
When there is no subject,
The existence of a predicate is not possible. 7
When thou endurest not the pains of abstinence
And fulfillest not the terms, thou gainest no reward.
How easy those terms! how abundant that reward!
A reward that enchants the heart and charms the soul!
This is followed by the admonition that the only way to be safe from one's
internal enemies is to annihilate self, a,nd to be absorbed in the eternity of
God, as the light of the stars is lost in the light of the noonday sun.
Everything but God is at once preyed on by others, and itself preys on others,
like the fowl which, when catching a worm, was itself caught by a cat. Men are
so intent on their own low objects of pursuit that they see not their foes who
are trying to make them their prey. Thus it is said, "Before them have we
set a barrier, and behind them a barrier, so that they shall not see."
8 Persons who lust after the vile pleasures of this world, and desire
long life, not to serve God, but to satisfy their own carnal lusts, resemble
the crow slain by Abraham, because he only lived for the sake of carrion; or
Iblis, who prayed to be respited till the day of judgment, not for the purpose
of reforming himself but only to do mischief to mankind. 9
Prayers to God to change our base inclinations and give us higher aspirations.
O Thou that changest earth into gold,
And out of other earth madest the father of mankind,
Thy business is changing things and bestowing favors,
My business is mistakes and forgetfulness and error.
Change my mistakes and forgetfulness to knowledge;
I am altogether vile, make me temperate and meek.
O Thou that convertest salt earth into bread,
And bread again into the life of men;
Thou who madest the erring soul a guide to men,
And him that erred from the way a prophet; 10
Thou makest some earth-born men as heaven,
And muitipliest heaven-born saints on earth!
But whoso seeks his water of life in worldly joys,
To him comes death quicker than to the rest.
The eyes of the heart which behold the heavens
See that the Almighty Alchemist is ever working here.
Mankind are ever being changed, and God's elixir
Joins the body's garment without aid of needle.
On the day that you entered upon existence,
You were first fire, or earth, or air.
If you had continued in that, your original state,
How could you have arrived at this dignity of humanity?
But through change your first existence remained not
In lien thereof God gave you a better existence
In like manner He will give you thousands of existences,
One after another, the succeeding ones better than the former.
Regard your original state, not the mean states,
For these mean states remove you from your origin.
As these mean states increase, union recedes;
As they decrease, the unction of union increases.
From knowing means and causes holy bewilderment fails;
Yea, the bewilderment that leads you to God's presence.
You have obtained these existences after annihilations;
Wherefore, then, do you shrink from annihilation?
What harm have these annihilations done you
That you cling so to present existence, O simpleton?
Since the latter of your states were better than the former,
Seek annihilation and adore change of state.
You have already seen hundreds of resurrections
Occur every moment from your origin till now;
One from the inorganic state to the vegetive state,
From the vegetive state to the animal state of trial;
Thence again to rationality and good discernment;
Again you will rise from this world of sense and form.
Ah! O crow, give up this life and live anew!
In view of God's changes cast away your life!
Choose the new, give up the old,
For each single present year is better than three past.
This is followed by a commentary on the saying of the Prophet, "Pity the
pious man who falls into sin, and the rich man who falls into poverty, and the
wise man who falls into the company of fools." This is illustrated by an
anecdote of a young deer who was placed in the asses stable, and jeered at and
maltreated by them. This suggests.