By Niladri Moitra
Rediscover humor with Mulla Nasruddin, the 13th century mystic jester
Mulla Nasruddin was a Sufi visionary who lived during the 13th century in the Middle East. Roaming around the deserts of Arabia, this mystic jester brought humor to the Sufi tradition and life to stoicism. His stories appear in literature and oral traditions from nations in the Middle East to China. Most of them claim this lovable son of the soil to be their own native.
It was Idries Shah who introduced us to the wisdom, wit and charm of this mysterious mentor through his collection of stories. These teaching stories are like koans of the Zen tradition, which reveal the paradoxes of conditioned living with humor.
In one such story, Nasruddin is a magistrate who in his first case agrees with both the plaintiff and the defendant. When the court clerk objects that both cannot be right, Nasruddin says: ”I believe you are right.” Here we are able to see the paradox clearly. In our conditioning, we see things as either right or wrong, black or white. Linear thinking does not allow one to think holistically. Our minds wrestle in the dark dens of logic and lose the gist of life.
According to legend, Nasruddin was blessed with an open mind to carry the message of freedom. He was chosen because he could make people laugh, and his humor was sharp enough to crack even the most rigidly conditioned mind.
Even today, Sufis use these stories as teaching exercises.
Mulla Nasruddin used to carry a door with him wherever he went. When somebody asked him about it, he replied: ”It is just a security measure. Nobody can enter my house except through the door. So I carry the door.”
After his death, his disciples followed his last wish and put the door and its key beside his grave. Though it may appear foolish to some, it is actually a satirical rejoinder to those who confine themselves in their castles in this ever-changing world.
REMEDY FOR SADNESS
One day Nasruddin saw a man sitting in a pall of gloom. When asked for the reason behind his sorrow, the man replied that his life had become so miserable that he had collected all his money and was wandering around seeking happiness. All of a sudden, Nasruddin picked up the man’s purse and dodging him disappeared from his sight. After some time Nasruddin placed the bag at a place where the frantic man could see it and then hid himself behind a tree. When the man found his purse he forgot his grief and began dancing with joy. Mulla murmured: ”Isn’t there another way to bring happiness to a sad man?”
Once Nasruddin bought some meat and asked his wife to prepare kababs. But his wife felt tempted and ate it all herself.
When asked, she blamed the house cat. The amount of meat being one kilogram, it was hard for Nasruddin to believe that a cat could eat so much.
So he weighed the cat on a balance. It weighed exactly one kilogram. Nasruddin exclaimed: ”If this is the same cat, then where is the meat? Or, if this is the meat, then where has the cat gone?”
SEARCHING FOR THE KEY
Once, a man found Mulla Nasruddin searching for something on the ground outside his house. On being asked, Nasruddin replied that he was looking for his key. The man also joined in the search and in due course asked Mulla: ”Where exactly did you drop it?”
Mulla answered: ”In my house.”
”Then why are you looking here?” the man asked.
”There is more light here than in my house,” replied Mulla.
A SUFI WAY OF TEACHING
Once, Mulla Nasruddin went to a fair with his disciples, where people were shooting arrows. Mulla joined the sport and took the first shot, which fell short. The crowd started laughing and the Mulla said: ”This is what happens when you live with an inferiority complex. You cannot reach the target because your heart is not wholly in it.” The next arrow surpassed the target but Mulla turned to say: ”This is what happens to a man who thinks very highly of himself. He runs so fast that he bypasses the goal.” Now Mulla shot the third arrow, hitting the target accurately and he said: ”This is me!”.
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