I have always loved the beautiful Sufi story…
A king dreams in the night that a dark shadow is putting her hand on his shoulder. He looks back. He is horrified. It is just a dark shadow, but the shadow speaks and says, “There is no need to be worried. I have just come to inform you — it is not routine; you are a great king; it is an exception — otherwise I never come to inform anybody. I come without any information.”
The king said, “But who are you?”
The dark shadow laughed and said, “I am your death, and be prepared. Tomorrow, as the sun will be setting, I am going to come to you.”
Naturally, this nightmare woke him up. Even after he was awake, knowing well that it was only a dream, he was trembling and perspiring. And his heart was beating so loudly he could hear it himself. He immediately called the council of all his wise men, and particularly the royal astrologers, prophets, and told them the dream. He asked them the meaning of it — is it true that death is going to happen? The astrologers may be able to figure it out.
The wise men, the philosophers, the astrologers, the prophets, all started arguing about the dream. Perhaps it was the first dream analysis! But they could not come to any conclusion, just as they cannot come to any conclusion today. All the dream analysts, the so-called psychoanalysts, differ in their interpretations. You take the same dream to all and you will get different conclusions about the dream. You will be more confused than ever.
And so was the situation of the king from the middle of the night till the morning; he became more and more confused because everybody was saying something different. And when the sun started rising, the old man who used to serve the king… He was not only a servant, he had helped the king from his very childhood. He had taken care of him, because his mother had died and his father had appointed the man to take care of the child because he was his most trustworthy bodyguard. So the king respected him almost like his father.
The old man said, whispered in his ear, “These great thinkers and philosophers and astrologers have argued for centuries and they have never come to any conclusion; do you think they will come to any conclusion within twelve hours? Forget it; that is not possible. These are the people who know only how to argue; they never come to any conclusion. They argue well but the question is not the beauty of the argument, the question is what is the conclusion of all your philosophies? There is no conclusion at all. No two philosophers agree with each other.”
The king asked him, “Then what do you propose?”
He said, “My understanding is let them discuss; there is no harm. But you take our fastest horse and get away as far as possible from the palace. It is dangerous to be at this place, for at least the coming twelve hours. After the sun has set, you can start turning back, but not before that.” It looked practical. The old man said, “These people can go on arguing; there is no need to stop them. If they come to any conclusion, I will follow you immediately. The best way is towards Damascus, another capital of another kingdom. So I will know where to find you, to give you their conclusion. I will come behind you.”
The king was convinced by the old man. He left all those great philosophers discussing, and slipped quietly out of the palace with the best horse he had. The whole day the horse was running as fast as possible. They did not stop to eat or even to drink water. It was not a time to think of water or food. And the horse seemed to be in a certain understanding that it was a very critical moment for his master.
They reached near Damascus, just outside the city, as the sun was setting. They stopped in a mango grove and as he was tying the horse to a tree, he patted it and he said, “You prove to be a great friend. You have never run so fast before; you must have understood my situation. And we have come hundreds of miles away.”
As the sun was setting he immediately felt the same hand on his shoulder from behind. The shadow was there and said, “I also have to thank your horse. I was worried whether you would be able to reach this place at the right time or not. That’s why I had come to inform you. This is the place destined for your death, and your horse has brought you right on time.”
The Invitation #9