A lesson in Sufism from Idries Shah:

Because the average person thinks in patterns and cannot accomodate himself to a really different point of view, he loses a great deal of meaning in life. He may live, even progress, but he cannot understand all that is going on. The story of the smuggler makes this very clear:

Nasrudin used to take his donkey across a frontier every day, with the saddlebags loaded with straw. Since he admitted to being a smuggler when he trudged home every night, the frontier guards searched him again and again. They searched his person, sifted the straw, steeped it in water, even burned it from time to time. Meanwhile, he was visibly becoming more and more prosperous.

Then he retired and went to live in another country. Here one of the customs officers met him years later.

“You can tell me now, Nasrudin,” he said. “Whatever was it that you were smuggling that we could never catch you out?”

“Donkeys,” said Nasrudin.


The story also emphasizes one of the major contentions of Sufism — that supernatural experience and the mystical goal is something nearer to mankind than is realized. The assumption that something esoteric or transcendental must be far off or complicated has been assumed by the ignorance of individuals. What people call truth is relative to their situation.

From: The Sufis by Idries Shah

Photo source: donkey train! (Santorini, Greece)