Chapter 9: When Shibli Is Absent
It is said that this situation created by Junnaid helped Shibli, and after a few days, just after a few days, he himself became enlightened.
Someone asked Shibli when he became enlightened, “Who have been your teachers?”
He counted many. A dog - because the dog was thirsty and tried to jump into the river and drink to his heart’s desire, but as he looked into the river he would see another dog and he was afraid. But the thirst was too much. Finally he overcame his fear and jumped into the river - and the reflection disappeared. There was no other dog, it was just a reflection. The river was just mirroring himself.
And Shibli said, “That dog was my first teacher.because there is nobody else - only I am, and everybody else is just mirroring my face, and I am unnecessarily afraid. Once I understood the art of jumping into the river, I jumped, and reflections disappeared and only the river was there - the river of God, the river of existence. And since then I have never been thirsty. I live in the river.”
He counted many. He said, “The second master was a thief, because I was lost in a town one night, and all the doors of all the serais were closed and I was at a loss to find some shelter for the night. Then I found a thief. In a dark street, he was trying to enter a house, and I asked him: ‘Where can I stay for the night? I am tired, and I am hungry.’ He said, ‘You can stay at my house, but I must be frank with you because you look like a saint - I don’t know whether you are or not because I never believe in appearances - but for me it will be bad if I don’t tell you that I am a thief. And I am really a thief. You may not be a real sage but I am a real thief. So if you are ready to be a guest in a thief’s house, you are welcome. Come!’”
Shibli hesitated a little - to go to a thief’s house and stay there, and people would come to know and what would happen to his respectability? He was an honored man.. The thief stopped immediately and he said, “You are afraid, and a real sage is never afraid. Why are you afraid? Are you afraid that the thief can convert you to an atheist? I am not afraid of you. I don’t care - you cannot change me a little bit. I am a perfect thief, but you don’t look a perfect sage.”
And Shibli said, “He was my second teacher. I stayed in his home for one month. He was really a lovely person, and very true and authentic. Every night he would go out and by the morning he would return. I would open the door and I would ask, ‘Have you been successful?’ And he would say, ‘Not today. But tomorrow..’ He was always happy - and for one month he was never successful. Every night he would go out and every morning he would come back empty-handed. But he was always laughing and happy, and he was never miserable. He could live with failure, and he could hope. His hope was great.”