Two students came to the khanka of their Murshid, and greeted him with reverence. The Murshid warmly welcomed them, and asked them about their life, since it was some time since he had seen them.
“Murshid,” they replied, “we find that life in the world is very discouraging. Everyone we meet seems to be asleep. Nothing seems to wake them. They are negligent of the gifts of God, and wander like lost souls, harming themselves and others. Their ignorance seems to be intentional – we do not understand why they do not see the virtues of the spiritual life.”
The Murshid thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is a story that has been told. There is, in a certain land, a place where the people are very much given to drinking. Every evening they drink bowl after bowl of wine, and when they are completely intoxicated, they stagger about, not having any idea where they are. In the morning they can be seen lying everywhere – in the middle of the road, in the muddy ditch, on the rubbish heap, everywhere, completely unconscious.
“But there are also a few beings who have compassion on these drunkards. In the morning, they go about collecting them and taking them back to their home. Their method is that they have a large sack, and they put the feet of the intoxicated one into the sack, so that they can carry him over their shoulder.
“One morning, it happened that one such drunk, being carried home in this manner, roused a little from his deep sleep, lifted his head, and began to look about him. Staring blearily around, he saw nearby one of his drinking companions, still asleep, being carried in the same way.
“‘You should be ashamed,’ said the one who was waking. ‘If you understood restraint, as I do, you would have had one less bowl of wine, and still be able to walk around – like me!'”
When the Murshid finished the story the two students looked at each other shamefacedly. “We understand,” said one, a fine student who had a heart of silver. “Forgive us, Murshid, we have no right to criticise anyone. We will try to do better.”
But the other student had a heart of gold. “Murshid,” said this one earnestly, “how may we have communion with the ones who carry the sacks?”