About Making Soup

We recently published a re-tellling of the old story about Nasruddin making soup, a cheerful tale that seems to offer a whole pot full of wisdom.  Like many such stories, though, it is easier to congratulate ourselves for having recognised the morsel of truth floating in the story than it is to apply it in our own lives.

When Nasruddin offers the friend of the friend of the friend (repeat as many times as you wish) a bowl of the soup of the soup of the soup (ditto), a thoughtful person can see a clear reference to the followers of the followers  of the followers (of the followers of the followers, ad infinitum).  Throughout history, illuminated souls have inspired those around them, and those who felt the call followed them and tried to reflect the divine light shining forth from their words and deeds.  When the great soul was no more physically present, the followers carried on, and inspired others, and so begins a chain of transmission which is, very often, also a chain of dilution.  In churches, temples and places of worship all over the world, much is done in the name of the founding Teacher that bears little resemblance to what the Teacher was.  For those who want to know the Truth, therefore, we must begin, as one friend recently put it, by pouring away or decanting the murky water we have been served since childhood.  This is the process that Hazrat Inayat Khan called ‘unlearning’: divesting ourselves of the learned dogmas that unite only some, and therefore divide humanity.

But then what?  The story was presented here with the suggestion that it would be better to make our own soup – but what does that mean?  Having emptied our bowl of un-nourishing and unpalatable  ‘dishwater’, are we supposed to set about constructing our own dogmas?  Surely that seems the wrong direction–and what is more, when Sufism speaks of going beyond ‘me’ and ‘my’, can it really be the idea to declare ‘this is MY philosophy, this is what I believe’ ?

Of course, that isn’t the direction in which the story wants to send us.  The best cook is the one who loves those for whom she or he is cooking.  Since love means forgetting oneself in the thought of the beloved, this tells us that one who is entitled to cook soup, in the sense of this story, is the one who has forgotten the limitations of ego and awakened to the all-pervading Truth.

In order to make a reality of this story, then, first the pot must be empty and clean; then, there must be the fire of love beneath the pot, because every kitchen needs a fire. And if the love is strong enough, whatever we cook will feed the life around us, even to the friends of the friends.

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