Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Beatnik's Guide to the Galaxy VI

Spiritual Languages
By Brother Beatnik
April 6, 2004

Four people were given some money. The first was a Persian. He said, "I want to buy some angur." The second man was an Arab. He disagreed, "No, you're not buying any angur because I want inab." The third was a Turk. He said, "Hang on, I don't want angur or inab, what I want is uzum." The fourth was a Greek, and he said that what he desperately wanted was stafil. The four started bickering and fighting; each did not understand the meaning behind the names. They had information but no knowledge.

A man passed by; the fuss and the racket in the street had alerted him; he walked over to the four men who were bitterly arguing about how to use the money. To put an end to the tumult, he said, "Give me the money and I'll get each of you what you want." The four men agreed. The stranger bought what each of the men wanted: grapes.

This is a traditional Sufi story told by Rumi in his masterpiece the Mathnavi. The passerby in this story is a linguist. He understands what the men want because he knows their languages. The Sufi is described as a spiritual linguist. He understands the spiritual languages of humankind (Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc) and speaks with each according to his or her understanding. The Sufi thus understands that although the names and sounds of religious concepts are different in different religions the underlying reality that they refer to is the same.

Most people fall into the category of the four men, squabbling over differences in names, concepts, procedures and practices. These people miss the essence and get obsessed by the form. They confuse the container with the content.
For an explanation of who Brother Beatnik is go here.

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