Chapter 1: Until You Die
There was a rich and generous man of Bokhara. Because he had a high rank in the invisible hierarchy, he was known as the President of the World. Every day he gave gold to one category of people - the sick, widows, and so on. But nothing was given to anyone who opened his mouth.
Not all could keep silent.
One day it was the turn of the lawyers to receive their share of the bounty. One of them could not restrain himself and he made the most complete appeal possible.
Nothing was given to him.
This, however, was not the end of his efforts. The following day invalids were being helped, so he pretended that his limbs had been broken.
But the President knew him, and he obtained nothing. Again and again he tried, even disguising himself as a woman, but without result.
Finally the lawyer found an undertaker and told him to wrap him in a shroud. “When the President passes by,” said the lawyer, “he will perhaps assume that this a corpse, and he may throw some money towards my burial - and I will give you a share of it.”
This was done. A gold piece from the hand of the President fell upon the shroud. The lawyer seized it out of fear that the undertaker would get it first. Then he spoke to the benefactor: “You denied me your bounty - note how I have gained it!”
“Nothing can you have from me,” replied the generous man, “until you die.”
This is the meaning of the cryptic phrase “Man must die before he dies.” The gift comes after this ‘death’ and not before. And even this ‘death’ is not possible without help.
There are religions and religions, but Sufism is the religion - the very heart, the innermost core, the very soul.
Sufism is not part of Islam; rather, on the contrary, Islam is part of Sufism. Sufism existed before Mohammed ever was born and Sufism will exist when Mohammed is completely forgotten. Islams come and go; religions take form and dissolve. Sufism abides, continues, because it is not a dogma, it is the very heart of being religious.
You may not have ever heard of Sufism and you may be a Sufi - if you are religious. Krishna is a Sufi and Christ too; Mahavira is a Sufi and Buddha too - and they never heard about the word, and they never knew that anything like Sufism exists.
Whenever a religion is alive it is because Sufism is alive within it. Whenever a religion is dead it shows only that the spirit, the Sufi spirit, has left it. Now there is only a corpse, howsoever decorated - in philosophy, in metaphysics, in dogmas, doctrines - but whenever Sufism has left, religion stinks of death. This has happened many times. This is happening already almost all over the world. One has to be aware of it, otherwise one can go on clinging to a dead corpse.