بخش 20

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بخش 20

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متن انگلیسی فصل

The Novice

BAGHDAD, SEPTEMBER 30, 1243

Behind Shams of Tabriz, I rode my stolen horse. Hard as I tried to keep a safe distance between us, it soon proved impossible to trail him without making myself apparent. When Shams stopped at a bazaar in Baghdad to refresh himself and buy a few things for the road, I decided to make myself known and threw myself in front of his horse.

“Ginger-haired ignoramus, what are you doing there lying on the ground?” Shams exclaimed from his horse, looking half amused, half surprised.

I knelt, clasped my hands, and craned my neck, as I had seen beggars do, and implored, “I want to come with you. Please let me join you.”

“Do you have any idea where I am going?”

I paused. That question had never occurred to me. “No, but it makes no difference. I want to become your disciple. You are my role model.”

“I always travel alone and want no disciples or students, thank you! And I am certainly no role model for anyone, much less for you,” Shams said. “So just go on your way. But if you are still going to look for a master in the future, please keep in mind a golden rule: There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the Light of God pass through them.” “Please give me a chance,” I implored. “All the famous travelers had someone to assist them on the road, like an apprentice or something.”

Shams scratched his chin pensively, as if acknowledging the truth in my words. “Do you have the strength to bear my company?” he inquired.

I jumped to my feet, nodding with all my heart: “I certainly do. And my strength comes from within.”

“Very well, then. Here is your first task: I want you to go to the nearest tavern and get yourself a pitcher of wine. You will drink it here in the bazaar.”

Now, I was used to scrubbing the floors with my robes, polishing pots and pans till they sparkled like the fine Venetian glass I had seen in the hands of an artisan who had escaped from Constantinople long ago when the Crusaders had sacked the city. I could chop a hundred onions in one sitting or peel and mince cloves of garlic, all in the name of spiritual development. But drinking wine in the midst of a crowded bazaar to that end was beyond my ken. I looked at him in horror.

“I cannot do that. If my father learns, he’ll break my legs. He sent me to the dervish lodge so that I could become a better Muslim, not a heathen. What will my family and friends think of me?” I felt the burning glare of Shams on me and shivered under the pressure, just like the day I had spied on him behind closed doors.

“You see, you cannot be my disciple,” he pronounced with conviction. “You are too timid for me. You care too much about what other people think. But you know what? Because you are so desperate to win the approval of others, you’ll never get rid of their criticisms, no matter how hard you try.” I realized that my chance to accompany him was slipping away and rushed in to defend myself. “How was I to know you were not asking that question on purpose? Wine is strictly forbidden by Islam. I thought you were testing me.” “But that would be playing God. It is not up to us to judge and measure each other’s devoutness,” Shams answered.

I looked around in despair, not knowing what to make of his words, my mind pounded like dumpling dough.

Shams went on: “You say you want to travel the path, but you don’t want to sacrifice anything to that end. Money, fame, power, lavishness, or carnal pleasure—whatever it is that one holds most dear in life, one should dispose of that first.” Patting his horse, Shams concluded with an air of finality, “I think you ought to stay in Baghdad with your family. Find an honest tradesman and become his apprentice. I have a feeling you might make a good merchant someday. But don’t be a greedy one! Now, with your permission, I need to get going.” With that, he saluted me one last time, kicked his horse, and galloped away, the world sliding under its thundering hoofs. I hopped onto my horse and chased him toward the outskirts of Baghdad, but the distance between us got greater and greater until he was no more than a dark spot in the distance. Even long after that spot had disappeared on the horizon, I could feel the weight of Shams’s stare on me.

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