Tales : What is it worth?

Once a certain student came to see his Murshid, and the Murshid saw at once that the student was unhappy, although he tried to conceal it.

“What has made you sad, my child?”

“Master, it is difficult to tell you. I heard someone say something bad about you.”

The Murshid smiled. “Perhaps it is true.”

“No, master, it is was not true! But why can’t others see you as I do?”

The Murshid thought for a moment, and then went to a drawer, and took from it a small leather box. Opening this, he showed the student a simple ring adorned with a jewel.

“Take this and go to the jeweller’s shop next to the butcher’s market. Observe the man and his shop carefully. Show this ring to the jeweller, and ask him what he would give you for it. But do not sell it! Simply ask him for a price, and then come back.”

Shortly the student returned, and told his teacher, “Master, the shop was small, and cluttered, and not clean. The jeweller was hard, and coarse. He made me feel that I was wasting his time. He said he will give no more than four silver pieces. but he must have the box as well.”

“Good,” said the master. “Now go again, this time to the jeweller who sits at the far end of the alley of goldsmiths, and ask the same question.”

When the student returned, he seemed confused. “Master, it was not really a shop – it was a carpeted room in the jeweller’s own home. It was clean and quiet, and the jeweller was also very quiet and respectful. He first gave me tea. And when he saw the ring, he examined it carefully and then – he offered a hundred pieces of gold for it!”

“Yes,” said the Master, “and it is the same ring, with the same jewel. The difference is in the eye that observes it – is it not so?” And then he added, “The first jeweller saw what he saw, and we cannot blame him. And the second jeweller saw more. That is his station in life.”

2 Replies to “Tales : What is it worth?”

  1. Howard Olivier

    One of the things I like is that the Murshid says that the first jeweler ”Saw what he saw (an extremely respectful way of phrasing what could easily be couched in judgmental characterizations).” The second Jeweler saw more, as that was his station at this time. There is an old poem I heard long ago, and even wrote a tune to sing with it. The point of the poem overlaps with rather than echo’s Murshid Nawab’s teaching story.

    Much love,

    The Touch of the Master’s Hand
    ‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
    Thought it scarcely worth his while
    To waste much time on the old violin,
    But held it up with a smile.
    “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
    “Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
    “A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
    Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”

    “Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
    Going for three…” But no,
    From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
    Came forward and picked up the bow;
    Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
    And tightening the loosened strings,
    He played a melody pure and sweet,
    As a caroling angel sings.

    The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
    With a voice that was quiet and low,
    Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
    And he held it up with the bow.
    “A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
    Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
    Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
    And going and gone,” said he.

    The people cheered, but some of them cried,
    “We do not quite understand.
    What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
    “The touch of the Master’s hand.”
    And many a man with life out of tune,
    And battered and scarred with sin,
    Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
    Much like the old violin.

    A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
    A game — and he travels on.
    He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
    He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
    But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
    Never can quite understand
    The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
    By the touch of the Master’s hand.


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