Three visits to a sage.


Bahaudin Naqshband was visited by a group of seekers.
They found him in his courtyard, surrounded by disciples, in the midst of what seemed obviously to be revels.
Some of the newcomers said:
"How obnoxious — this is no way to behave, whatever the pretext."
They tried to remonstrate with the master.
Others said:
"This seems to us excellent— we like this kind of teaching, and wish to take part in it."
Yet others said:
"We are partly perplexed and wish to know more about this puzzle."
The remainer said to one another:
"There may be some wisdom in this, but whether we should ask about it or not we do not know."
The teacher sent them all away.
And all these people spread, in conversation and in writing, their opinions of the occasion. Even those who did not allude to their experience directly were affected by it, and their speech and works reflected their beliefs about it.
Some time later certain members of this party again passed that way. They called upon the teacher.
Standing at his door, they noticed that within the courtyard he and his disciples now sat, decorously, deep in contemplation.
"This is better," said some of the visitors, "for he has evidently learned from our protests.
"This is excellent," said others, "for last time he was undoubtedly only testing us.
"This is too sombre," said others, "for we could have found long faces anywhere."
And there were other opinions, voiced and otherwise.
The sage, when the time of reflection was over, sent all these visitors away.
Much later, a small number returned and sought his interpretation of what they had experienced.
They presented themselves at the gateway, and looked into the courtyard. The teacher sat there, alone, neither revelling nor in meditation. His disciples were now nowhere to be seen.
"You may at last hear the whole story," he said, "for I have been able to dismiss my pupils, since the task is done.
"When you first came, that class of mine had been too serious — I was in process of applying the corrective. The second time you came, they had been too gay — I was applying the corrective.
"When a man is working, he does not always explain himself to casual visitors, however interested the visitors may think themselves to be. When an action is in progress, what counts is the correct operation of that action. Under these circumstances, external evaluation becomes a secondary concern.


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