This is a story adapted from “A thousand and one nights”. Long ago the enlightened men knew that to teach what they had discovered in the realm of enlightenment they had, by all means, to act the part in their respective societies. Enlightenment is the same and does not change through time and space. To gain access to the wealthy residences in order to teach enlightenment and to show the wealthy that they misunderstand the concept of prosperity in relation to godliness, such men had no option but to use expedient means to Teach. Enjoy the story, as narrated by a barber concerning his sixth brother Shakashik.
Setting: Ancient Baghdad, Persia (now Iran)
My sixth brother, he who had both his lips cut off, Prince of the Faithful, is called Shakashik. In his youth he was very poor. One day, as he was begging in the streets of Baghdad, he passed by a splendid mansion, at the gates of which stood an impressive array of attendants. Upon inquiry my brother was informed that the house belonged to a member of the wealthy and powerful Barmecide family.
Shakashik approached the doorkeepers and solicited alms.
“Go in,” they said, “and our master will give you all that you desire.”
My brother entered the lofty vestibule and proceeded to a spacious, marble-paved hall, hung with tapestry and overlooking a beautiful garden. He stood bewildered for a moment, not knowing where to turn his steps, and then advanced to the far end of the hall. There, among the cushions, reclined a handsome old man with a long beard, whom my brother recognized at once as the master of the house.
“What can I do for you, my friend?” asked the old man, as he rose to welcome my brother.
When Shakashik replied that he was a hungry beggar, the old man expressed the deepest compassion and rent his fine robes, crying: “Is it possible that there should be a man as hungry as yourself in a city where I am living? It is, indeed, a disgrace that I cannot endure!”
Then he comforted my brother, adding: “I insist that you stay with me and partake of my dinner.”
With this the master of the house clapped his hands and called out to one of the slaves: “Bring in the basin and ewer.” Then he said to my brother: “Come forward, my friend, and wash your hands.”
Shakashik rose to do so, but saw neither ewer nor basin. He was bewildered to see his host make gestures as though he were pouring water on his hands from an invisible vessel and then drying them with an invisible towel. When he finished, the host called out to his attendants: “Bring in the table!”
Numerous servants hurried in and out of the hall, as though they were preparing for a meal. My brother could still see nothing. Yet his host invited him to sit at the imaginary table, saying, “Honor me by eating of this meat.”
The old man moved his hands about as though he were touching invisible dishes, and also moved his jaws and lips as though he were chewing.
Then said he to Shakashik: “Eat your fill, my friend, for you must be famished.”
My brother began to move his jaws, to chew and swallow, as though he were eating, while the old man still coaxed him, saying: “Eat, my friend, and note the excellence of this bread and its whiteness.”
“This man,” thought Shakashik, “must be fond of practical jokes.” So he said, “It is, sir, the whitest bread I have ever seen, and I have never tasted the like in all my life.”
“This bread,” said the host, “was baked by a slave girl whom I bought for five hundred dinars.” Then he called out to one of his slaves: “Bring in the meat pudding, and let there be plenty of fat in it!”
Thereupon the host moved his fingers as though to pick up a morsel from an imaginary dish, and popped the invisible delicacy into my brother’s mouth. The old man continued to enlarge upon the excellences of the various dishes, while my brother became so ravenously hungry that he would have willingly died for a crust of barley bread.
“Have you ever tasted anything more delicious,” went on the old man, “than the spices in these dishes?”
“Never, indeed,” replied Shakashik.
“Eat heartily, then,” said his host, “and do not be ashamed!”
“I thank you, sir,” answered Shakashik, “but I have already eaten my fill.”
Presently, however, the old man clapped his hands again and cried: “Bring in the wine!” “Sir,” said Shakashik, “your generosity overwhelms me!” He lifted the invisible cup to his lips, and made as if to drain it at one gulp.
“Health and joy to you!” exclaimed the old man, as he pretended to pour himself some wine and drink it off. He handed another cup to his guest, and they both continued to act in this fashion until Shakashik, feigning himself drunk, began to roll his head from side to side.
Then, taking his bounteous host unawares, he suddenly raised his arm so high that the white of his armpit could be seen, and dealt him a blow on the neck which made the hall echo with the sound. And this he followed by a second blow.
The old man rose in anger and cried: “What are you doing, vile creature?”
“Sir” replied my brother, “you have received your humble slave into your house and loaded him with your generosity; you have fed him with the choicest food and quenched his thirst with the most potent wines. Alas, he became drunk, and forgot his manners! But you are so noble, sir, that you will surely pardon his offence. ”
When he heard these words, the old man burst out laughing and said: “For a long time I have jested with all types of men, but no one has ever had the patience or the wit to enter into my humors as you have done. Now, therefore, I pardon you, and ask you in truth to eat and drink with me, and to be my companion as long as I live. ”
Then the old man ordered his attendants to serve all the dishes which they had consumed in fancy, and when he and my brother had eaten their fill they repaired to the drinking chamber, where beautiful young women sang and made music. The old Barmecide gave Shakashik a robe of honor and made him his constant companion.