Book learning

This post was written by admin on July 16, 2009
Posted Under: sufi story,teaching stories

One property of teaching stories is that they come from deep within the human psyche and will be told in different cultures using fictional and historical heroes of the locality.

Many teaching stories are mythological and a few did happen to somebody at sometime but not necessarily to the person ascribed to. The value of the teaching story is in he story in itself and not whether it really happened or not.

Some teaching stories exist in variations with slightly different or at times diametrically opposite meanings.

Here is one such story – first one about Ibn Sina (Avecina) the great Iranian physician, and scholastic philosopher:

When Ibn Sina was a young man he had all his books with him on his donkey. A band of brigands came by him and took everything he had – his donkey, his clothes, and his books. He pleaded with the brigand leader, "Please sir, take everything I have but leave me my books as they are my knowledge."

The brigand leader was a kind and wise rogue after a few days of spending time with Ibn Sina and appreciating his erudition and humor he said give him back all his belongings and told Ibn Sina, "You can have your books back this once, but remember the only knowledge you have is whatever you carry in your head."

The second story is about Al Ghazali, the Iranian Sufi poet:

Al Ghazli was carrying all his books on the back of a donkey when thieve came by and stole all his books. Eight years later after he was enlightened he saw the prophet Al Khadir (Elijah) who told him, "That thieve was sent by God to do you a favor."

This Sufi story explains that gnosis and enlightenment cannot come from book learning.

So here we have the two similar stories one about knowledge in one book knowledge is exalted but it’s suggested to keep that valuable knowledge in your head. Given that we have all that knowledge available to us online, I suppose today the equivalent advice would be, "Understand what to do with facts to transform them into knowledge."

The second story is about direct experience of Ultimate Reality (God, Infinite Intelligence, Nature, Self, Spirit) and about how book learning will not help here.

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