You ask me, “If you had given me IHMN to meditate over, I would have silently accepted it out of trust….” He had not accepted it out of trust. If he had known even a little bit of trust, if the master had seen even a little trust in his being, this puzzle would not have been given to him. There was no trust. The man must have been a doubter because thinkers live through doubt. They live in doubt; doubt is their very medium of functioning.
A student comes to the master with all kinds of doubts. That is the difference between a student and a disciple. When the disciple comes, he comes all in trust.
The Sufi said, “Go away and ponder this – IHMN.”
The man went away.
Not because he trusted, not because he was a devotee, not because he was in any love relationship with the master, but just because he said, “Okay, so I will bring the answer. Just give me a little chance. I have all the capacities and the intelligence and the talent, and I have worked out many puzzles before. Soon I will be here with the answer.”
When he came back, the Sufi was dead.
“Now I shall never know the truth!” moaned the puzzler.
But he could not get anything out of those four puzzling letters, IHMN – because there was nothing to get out of them.
At that moment the Sufi’s chief disciple appeared.
“If,” he said, “you are worrying about the secret meaning of IHMN, I will tell you. It is the initials of the Persian phrase ‘In Huruf Maani Nadarad’ – which means: ‘These letters have no meaning.’”
“But why should I have been given such a task?” cried the puzzling man.
“Because when a donkey comes to you, you give him cabbages.That is his nutrition, no matter what he calls it.Donkeys probably think that they are doing something far more significant than eating cabbages.”
The master had given such an absurd thing to meditate over because the man wanted some challenge to his ego. He was not interested in truth. He was interested in some great puzzle so he could fight with the puzzle, find out a solution to the puzzle, and feel good that “I have got the intelligence, that I have got such power, that I am no ordinary man; I am a great philosopher” – although he was only a donkey, and only cabbages were given to him.
You say, “If you had given me IHMN to meditate over, I would have silently accepted it out of trust…” First, I will not give such a thing to any of my disciples. But sometimes I give a few puzzles to people – because they are not disciples, even if they think they are. If they are not disciples, or only pretending to be disciples, I give them a few puzzles. But if they can accept those puzzles out of trust, that very phenomenon immediately makes them disciples.