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The Secrets of the Self, by Muhammad Iqbal, tr. by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1920], at

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Story of the Sheikh and the Brahmin, followed by a conversation between Ganges and Himalaya to the effect that the continuation of social life depends on firm attachment to the characteristic traditions of the community.

At Benares lived a venerable Brahmin,
Whose head was deep in the ocean of Being and Not-being.
He had a large knowledge of philosophy
But was well-disposed to the seekers after God.
1235 His mind was eager to explore new problems,
His intellect moved on a level with the Pleiades;

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His nest was as high as that of the Anká; 1
Sun and moon were cast, like rue, on the flame of his thought. 2
For a long time he laboured and sweated,
But philosophy brought no wine to his Cup. 1240
Although he set many a snare in the gardens of learning,
His snares never caught a glimpse of the Ideal bird;
And notwithstanding that the nails of his thought were dabbled with blood,
The knot of Being and Not-being remained untied.
The sighs on his lips bore witness to his despair, 1245
His countenance told tales of his distraction.
One day he visited an excellent Sheikh,

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A man who had in his breast a heart of gold.
The Sheikh laid the seal of silence on his lips
1250 While he lent his ear to the Sage's discourse.
Then he said: "O wanderer in the lofty sky,
Pledge thyself to be true, for a little, to the earth!
Thou hast lost thy way in wildernesses of speculation,
Thy fearless thought hath passed beyond Heaven.
1255 Be reconciled with earth, O sky-traveller!
Do not wander in quest of the essence of the stars!
I do not bid thee abandon thine idols.
Art thou an unbeliever? Then be worthy of the badge of unbelief! 1

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O inheritor of ancient culture,
Turn not thy back on the path thy fathers trod! 1260
If a people's life is derived from unity,
Unbelief too is a source of unity.
Thou that art not even a perfect infidel
Art unfit to worship at the shrine of the spirit.
We both are far astray from the road of devotion: 1265
Thou art far from Ázar, and I from Abraham. 1
Our Majnún hath not fallen into melancholy for his Lailá's sake:
He hath not become perfect in the madness of love.
When the lamp of Self expires,
What is the use of heaven-surveying imagination?" 1270
Once on a time, laying hold of the skirt of the mountain,

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Ganges said to Himalaya:
"O thou mantled in snow since the morn of creation,
Thou whose form is girdled with streams,
1275 God made thee a partner in the secrets of heaven,
But deprived thy foot of graceful gait.
He took away from thee the power to walk:
What avails this sublimity and stateliness?
Life springs from perpetual movement:
1280 Motion constitutes the wave's whole existence."
When the mountain heard this taunt from the river,
He puffed angrily like a sea of fire,
And answered: "Thy wide waters are my looking-glass;
Within my bosom are a hundred rivers like thee.

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This graceful gait of thine is an instrument of death: 1285
Whoso goeth from Self is meet to die.
Thou hast no knowledge of thine own case,
Thou exultest in thy misfortune: thou art a fool!
O born of the womb of the revolving sphere,
A fallen-in bank is better than thou! 1290
Thou hast made thine existence an offering to the ocean,
Thou hast thrown the rich purse of thy life to the highwayman.
Be self-contained like the rose in the garden,
Do not go to the florist in order to smell sweet!
To live is to grow in thyself 1295
And gather roses from thine own flower-bed.
Ages have gone by and my foot is fast in earth:

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Dost thou fancy that I am far from my goal?
My being grew and reached the sky,
1300 The Pleiads sank to rest under my skirts;
Thy being vanishes in the ocean,
But on my crest the stars bow their heads.
Mine eye sees the mysteries of heaven,
Mine ear is familiar with angels’ wings.
1305 Since I glowed with the heat of unceasing toil,
I amassed rubies, diamonds, and other gems.
I am stone within, and in the stone is fire .
Water cannot pass over my fire!"
Art thou a drop of water? Do not break at thine own feet,
1310 But endeavour to surge and wrestle with the sea.
Desire the water of a jewel, become a jewel!

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Be an ear-drop, adorn a beauty!
Oh, expand thyself! Move swiftly!
Be a cloud that shoots lightning and sheds a flood of rain!
Let the ocean sue for thy storms as a beggar, 1315
Let it complain of the straitness of thy skirts!
Let it deem itself less than a wave
And glide along at thy feet!


109:1 A mysterious bird, of which nothing is known except its name.

109:2 Rue-seed is burned for the purpose of fumigation.

110:1 "The badge of unbelief": here the original has zunnár (ζωνάριον), i.e. the sacred thread worn by Zoroastrians and other non-Moslems.

111:1 Ázar, the father of Abraham, was an idolater.

Next: XV. On Jihad