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Chapter 7: On the Softest Substance

Lao Tzu says on the softest substance:

The softest substance of the world
Goes through the hardest.
Penetrates that-which-has-no-crevice;
Through this I know the benefit of taking no action.
The teaching without words
And the benefit of taking no action
Are without compare in the universe.

The other night I was reading a Sufi story - I loved it, I rejoiced in it, it was sheer beauty, and I would like to share it with you.

It happened that a Sufi dervish, in search of God, was wandering from one country to another. He came across many teachers but nobody could satisfy him; nowhere could he find a place where he could surrender his heart. Disappointed, despondent, he thought to move into the forest and to be alone and to listen to the inner master and forget about outer masters.

He came across a beautiful oak grove. Many oak trees, old, ancient, had made a grove - their branches were entangled with each other in such a way that there was a natural protection from the rain, from the sun and from the elements of nature. And the grove was so silent, near a lake, and it was so deep in the forest that nobody ever passed by it.

He went into it, he loved it, the place had a charm of its own. He started meditating there. Once a week for a few hours he would move out and go to the nearest village to procure some food, and then for seven days he would be lost in his meditations.

Sufis continuously repeat the name of God, “Allah.” Mohammedans have their mantra, the mantra means: “There is no God but God,” but Sufis have cut it down to a single word, Allah or God, because they say it is possible that some day you may die when you are just in the middle of repeating the mantra. If you are repeating the mantra and you die just in the middle of it, you would have said: “There is no God,” so you die an atheist. At the last moment you don’t bear witness to the divine; on the contrary, you die in a negativity. So they say that it is dangerous, and they don’t repeat the Mohammedan mantra in its complete form, they simply repeat “Allah, Allah, Allah” so that at the last moment their heart is filled, their breath is filled with the name of Allah, with the remembrance of him. That’s what they call zikr.

The Sufi chanted his mantra - “Allah, Allah, Allah” - for months. He started feeling very calm and quiet and cool and collected. It was so silent around the grove, so peaceful, and the same peace started filling him inside, in the interior-most parts of his being: But he was not happy. It was not enough. Enlightenment, nirvana, was yet far away.

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