A Sufi of the order of the naqshbandis was asked, “Your order’s name means literally "the designers.” What do you design, and what use is it?”
He said, “We do a great deal of designing, and it is most useful. Here is a parable of one such form:
‘Unjustly imprisoned, a tinsmith was allowed to receive a rug woven by his wife. He prostrated himself upon the rug day after day to say his prayers, and after some time he said to his jailers, "I am poor and without hope, and you are wretchedly paid. But I am a tinsmith. Bring me tin and tools and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market, and we will both benefit."
Man is born without a definition. He knows he is, but he does not know who he is. He comes into the world absolutely undefined, uncategorized, unlabelled; he comes into the world as a freedom. The whole life’s task is to define himself, to know who he is.
.Man is the only animal who asks the question, “Who am I?” Only he can ask, because every other animal has a perfect definition. A rose is a rose and a dog is a dog – a man is not just a man. A man has much more in him, infinitely more. The rose is a closed phenomenon, defined; a man is open-ended. The rose is predictable, man is not so. One never knows. One may be a sinner today and tomorrow become the greatest of saints – or vice versa. Man remains open, man remains liquid, man remains flowing. Man is more like a process than like a defined thing. That is man’s glory, and his misery too – because he constantly hankers to know who he is. And again and again he stumbles into the darkness of his being. His being is not illumined – hence the search, the inquiry.
On this point man has to be understood. because only from this understanding can he start working towards a definition, towards realization, towards truth.
When I say “man is born without definition” I mean that man is not born ready-made. What existentialists say is true – they say that in man, existence precedes his essence. In a tree, the essence comes first, then the existence. The same is true about everything else, except man. Essence comes first – the seed, the essential program, the essential design. The blueprint comes first. Then the blueprint unfolds and becomes existence.
In man just the reverse is the case. First he starts existing – without any blueprint, without any design, without being programmed in any way. He simply starts existing as a nothingness, as nobody. And then, by and by, he has to create his own identity, he has to create himself. He has to work it out, hence the anxiety. One may be able to, one may not be able to – who knows? One may succeed, one may not succeed…there is no guarantee in man.
A dog is bound to succeed – he will become a dog. There is no more to it. A peacock has no fear of being a failure. A tiger need not worry, need not suffer from insomnia. He is already that which he can be.
Man is not that which he can be, man is just a beginning – and the end remains unknown. Man brings no program into the world, man is not born ready-made. He is born as utter freedom.