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Teaching Stories

By Javad Hashtroudian D.C.H.

I wrote these many years ago. They are not mine but are traditional teaching stories from many traditions. These versions (the words) are mine.

A few years ago I saw a web page which was an exact copy of my page. I didn't know to be pleased (someone liked my writing enough to copy it) or peeved that they did not give any attribution.

Please if you use any of these words (you can redo them in your own words) at least give attribution to the author.

 

The Mullah Nasrudin:

Many of these teaching stories come from Sufi sources and are about a character called Mullah Nasrudin. Many nations of the Middle East claim the Mullah as their own, however, the Mullah, like all mythological characters, belongs to all humanity. The Mullah is a wise fool and his stories have many meanings on multiple levels of reality. These stories show among other things that things are not always as they appear and often logic fails us. When reading a Mullah story just enjoy it and allow your unconscious mind to get the deeper significance of the tale. Many of these stories were originally told by great Sufi poets such as Mullana Jalaludin-E-Rumi, Hafiz, Sadi, but were retold as Mullah stories. I'll start with a simple story called the boatman:
The mullah was earning his living by running a ferry across a lake. He was taking a pompous scholar to the other side. When asked if he had read Plato's Republic, the Mullah replied, "Sir, I am a simple boatman. What would I do with Plato?" The scholar replied, "In that case half of your life's been wasted." The Mullah kept quite for a while and then said, "Sir, do you know how to swim." "Of course not," replied the professor, "I am a scholar. What would I do with swimming." The Mullah replied, "In that case, all of your life's been wasted. We're sinking."


The key:

There is a story by Rumi where a drunk is searching the ground under a street lamp. A friend gets there and asks him what he is doing. The drunk slurs, "I'm looking for my key." The friend helps him search every where. Half an hour later they still have not found the key. The friend asks, "Are you sure you lost it here?" "No," replies the drunk, "I lost it inside my house." "Then why are you looking here?" "Because the light is here."



The car dealership:

In the late 70s, when American cars were not in such a great demand, this guy owned a Chrysler dealership in a small town in the Midwest. This guy was not doing so well. He saw his competitors, selling Hondas, Toyotas and other Japanese cars, with customers lining up to buy their small gas efficient vehicles, while he whiled away his time pining for even one person to enter his dealership to examine his gas guzzlers. Anyway, one day he went fishing and caught this little goldfish who, to his surprise, said, "Please sir, I am a special fish with magical powers. Let me go and I'll give you one wish." The guy thought to himself, "What have I to lose?" and let the fish go free. The fish thanked him and told him to write his wish on a piece of paper and put it under his pillow and sleep on it. In the morning his wish would be fulfilled. So that night the guy wrote, "I wish to own an foreign car dealership in a large cosmopolitan city." He put the paper under his pillow and the last thing he thought of before going to sleep is, "Here goes nothing." Next morning he woke up in Tokyo owning a Chrysler dealership.


The elephant and the blind men:

Six blind men heard of this giant wondrous animal called the elephant. Since they were blind they could only feel the form of an elephant. As it happens a circus was passing by and the six blind men went to the circus and asked the elephant keeper if they could feel his great beast. The keeper agreed and each went in and felt the elephant. When they came out, they described the elephant. The first said, "I now know the elephant is like a pillar." "No, you are wrong my friend," said the next, "The elephant is like a great big wall." The others disagreed one-by-one: "The elephant is like a leather fan." "The elephant is like a great saber." "It is like a piece of rope." "My friends, you are all wrong, you must be blind in your hands as well as your eyes, can't you see, the elephant is like a fire hose." The blind men started to argue and nearly came to blows, when the elephant keeper came over and interrupted their bickering, "My friends, you are all right, and yet you are all wrong. You, each, have felt part of the elephant, but not all. You felt the leg, which is like a pillar. You, the body, which seems like a wall, and you the ear, you, the tusk, you, the tail, and finally you felt the trunk."



The magic ring:

A king was fed up with the ups and downs of life. He had great highs and extreme lows. He asked his viziers and advisors to make him a magic ring which would pacify his extreme emotions. All the wise men of the nation were consulted, but none could make such a ring. As it happened the Mullah was passing through this country at the time and he heard about the kings need. He got an audience with the great potentate and presented him with a simple ring he wore on his own hand. This ring had the magic property desired. On it was written, "This too shall pass."


The smuggler:

Every first of the month the Mullah would cross the border with thirty donkeys with two bails of straw on each. Each time the custom person would ask the Mullah's profession and the Mullah would reply, "I am an honest smuggler." So each time The Mullah, his donkeys and the bails of straw would be searched from top to toe. Each time the custom folk would not find anything. Next week the Mullah would return without his donkeys or bails of straw. Years went by and the Mullah prospered in his smuggling profession to the extent that he retired. Many years later the custom person too had retired. As it happened one day the two former adversaries met in a country far from home. The two hugged each other like old buddies and started talking. After a while the custom person asked the question which had been bugging him over the years, "Mullah, please let me know what were you smuggling all those years ago?" The mullah thought for a few seconds and finally revealed his open secret, "Donkeys."


Free bread:

The Mullah's wife sent him to buy some bread. When the Mullah arrived at the bread shop he saw a long line waiting to buy bread. He thought he would do something to get in front of the line. He shouted, "People, don't you know the Sultan's daughter is getting married tonight and he is giving away free bread?" The multitude ran toward the palace as the Sultan was generous to a fault and loved his daughter more than anyone. The Mullah was now in front of the line and was about to buy his bread when he thought to himself, "Mullah, you are truly a fool. All the citizen's are getting free bread tonight and I am about to pay for it. So he ran to the palace and when he got there was thoroughly beaten by the disappointed people.


It is forbidden to lie:

The Sultan was told by his teacher that lying was a great crime and should be banned. So the Sultan ordered his executioner to the city gate and told him to ask each person entering the city why he was visiting and execute any who lied. Next morning the Mullah stood in line to go to the market in the city. The executioner asked him on the penalty of death, "Why are you entering the city?" The Mullah replied, "I am going to be executed!"


The one-eyed monk:

In ancient times itinerant Zen monks when arriving at a Zen monastery could challenge the monks to a theological contest and would be given food and shelter if they won but would have to go to the next monastery if they lost. There was a monastery occupied by two brothers a wise monk with two eyes and a foolish monk with one eye. One night it was raining cats and dogs and an itinerant monk knocked on the door. The wise brother wishing to be kind to wet fellow suggested he has a contest with his brother. Five minutes later the contest was over. The traveling monk entered the room, bowed and admitted defeat. The wise brother asked, "Tell me what happened?" The other replied, "Your brother is a genius. We decided to debate in silence. I went first and showed a single finger signifying the Buddha. Your brother showed two fingers, meaning the Buddha and his teachings. I replied with three fingers, indicating the Buddha, his teachings and his followers. Your brother replied with coup de grass when he showed me his fist proving that in reality the Buddha, his teachings and his followers are all one." The poor monk bowed once more and left in the stormy night. Just then the brother entered. He was totally irate. "That man was so rude. If he was not our guest I would have given him the beating he deserved." "What happened?" The one-eyed brother replied, "We decided to have a silent debate and the first thing he indicated was to put a single finger up meaning, 'I see you have only one eye'. So I put up two fingers out of courtesy to him, meaning, 'I see you have two eyes.' But the guy was so rude, he put up three fingers telling me that together the two of us have three eyes. I got so mad, I shook my fist at him, telling him, 'If you don't stop talking about eyes, I'm going to punch your lights out.'"


Who knows:

Many years ago a wise peasant lived in China. He had a son who was the gleam in his eyes and a white stallion which was his favorite belonging. One day his horse escaped from his grounds and disappeared into the fields outside the village. The villagers came to him one by one and announced their condolences. They said, "You are such an unlucky man. It is so bad." The peasant answered, "Who knows. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good." The populous left. The next day the stallion returned followed by twelve wild horses. The same people returned and told our wise man about how lucky he was. "It's so good." He replied once more, "Who knows. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad." As it happens, the next day his one and only son was attempting to break in one of the wild horses when the horse fell down and broke his leg. Once more everyone came to condole him. They said, "It's so bad." Again he replied, ""Who knows. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good." Three days passed and his poor son was limping around the village with his broken leg, when the emperor's army entered the village announcing that a war was starting and they conscripted all the young men of the village. However, they left the son since he had a broken leg. Once more, everyone was so jealous of our man. They surrounded him talking about his shier luck. "It is so good for you," they said. He answered all thus, ""Who knows. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad."



The pregnant pot:

One day the Mullah went to his neighbor and asked to borrow his huge pot. The neighbor reluctantly loaned him the pot indicating a lack of trust. Next day he returned the pot with a small pot saying, "Your pot was pregnant, had labor and here's the baby. It belongs to you." The neighbor thought this was odd but accepted the gift believing that one should not look into the mouth of a gift horse. A week went by and once again the Mullah borrowed the pot and returned it next day with a small pot as the new born child. Next week when the Mullah asked to borrow the pot the neighbor was only to pleased to comply. Next day went by and the Mullah did not return the pot and the neighbor became worried. On the third day the neighbor went to the Mullah demanding the return of his pot. Mullah told him, "Alas my friend that's impossible your pot passed away in labor." The neighbor was maddened and screamed, "Look, you idiot, who do you take for a fool. We all know pots do not die in labor." "My friend," the Mullah replied calmly, "We have already established that pot become pregnant, have labor and you even have two of the babies. I cannot help it if you were unlucky that your pot could not survive three labors in such a short time. You should have looked after it better."


How to tame a giant elephant:

In India elephant keepers train baby elephants to stay put by tying a rope, with a stake on the one side, around one leg and placing the stake into the ground. The baby elephant pulls and pulls on the rope to no avail. This teaches the elephant that no matter what he does he cannot get away when attached to the rope. Later when the elephant is grown up and the keeper wants the elephant to stay put all he does is to tie a small piece of rope on that leg and the giant elephant is held to the spot by his own mind.


Gnats:

If one places gnats inside a test tube and closes the top, at first the gnats try to jump out and each time they hit the closed top. After about an hour they give up and one can open the top and the gnats will remain put and eventually die of hunger.


Where is the cat?

The Mullah was giving a party for his friends and bought six pounds of best lamb and asked his wife to cook as the best kabob as only she knew how to. The lamb was the tastiest and soon the wife was tempted and she cooked the most delicious kabob and eat it all herself. That night when the Mullah arrived home the wife told him to buy some more meat since the cat had eaten the meat. The Mullah got his scales and weighed the cat. It weighed exactly six pounds. He asked his wife, "If this is the cat, where is the meat? And if this is the meat, where is the cat?"


Aubergine:

The Mullah had recently moved up in the world and was now at the court of the Sultan. As it happened the Sultan loved aubergines (eggplants) and asked the chef to cook him aubergine dishes every day. Each day the chef devised different ways of presenting aubergines to the great Sultan and the Mullah who was seated near the king would pontificate on the wonderful health giving characteristics of the aubergine. He would explain how the aubergine would heal all diseases known and unknown. He explained how this wondrous vegetable reduced one's temperature if one had a fever or raised it if it dropped too low. It was full of vitamins A,B,C,D,E,to Z and furthermore had mystical properties that would absolve one of one's sins if eaten every day. For six months the chef would cook the aubergine, the Sultan would relish the dishes, while the Mullah would sing the praises of aubergine. As thing happen, eventually the great Potentate became sick to death having aubergines everyday and ordered the chef on pain of death to never again cook aubergines. The Mullah who heard this immediately said, "Your Highness, you are so right. This plant is a curse to humanity. It is full of noxious poisons and is the cause of most maladies known and unknown." The Sultan asked the Mullah, "Mullah, only yesterday you said aubergine was the king of all vegetables, how come you change your tune so soon." "Sire,"the Mullah replied, "I am the Sultan's servant not the aubergine's."


Feed my clothes:

One day the Mullah went to a rich merchant's house for a feast. As he was wearing a laborer's clothe he was shown to the servant's entrance and given a few scraps. Next week he was invited to the same place and he dressed in his best attire looking as good as any prince. He was welcomed at the front door and given the place of the honor next to the host. He ate a morsel of bread and then started putting all the rich food offered him into his sleeves. His host asked him, "What are doing my good man?" "I'm feeding my clothes," the Mullah replied, "It deserves the good food since my worth was established last week."

The moon is more useful than the sun:

One day, the Mullah's son asked him, "Which is more useful, the sun or the moon." The Mullah replied, "My son, of course the moon is more useful. It provides us light at night, when it is dark. The sun, alas shines during the day, when it is already light."


That's right:

The Mullah was a judge and arbitrator in a dispute. First the advocate of the first side gave an eloquent discourse advancing his claims. The Mullah who had been listening intently agreed and said, "That's right." Next it was the other advocates turn and he was just as erudite. Once more the Mullah agreed adding, "That's right." His clerk listening to the Mullah's pronouncements commented, "They can't both be right." "The Mullah agreed by saying, "That's right!"


Ali and the spit:

Ali, the prophet's cousin, son in law, and the bravest of all Muslim's had caught an evil unbeliever and enemy of the faithful. He drew his scimitar and was about to chop off the infidel's head when the evil one spat in the face of the most just of all. Ali paused and placed his scimitar back into his scabbard and left. The infidel ran after him and asked, "You were about to kill me and I spat in you face and you left. How come?" Ali replied, "When I drew my scimitar I was going to execute you for your crimes against Islam and all the Moslems you have murdered. When you span in my face, I became angry. If I had killed you I would have murdered you for the sake of my ego." The former infidel fell upon the ground upon hearing this and accepted God and Islam. He was now a totally changed man and became a great Muslim saint.

 


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