There is a story sometimes told in the east, that once there was a man lying by the side of the road, completely oblivious to the activity of the world around him. A thief happened to pass that way, and seeing the man lying there, he said to himself, “Surely this man is a thief who has been busy all night long stealing, and now, worn out, he has fallen asleep here. But he has chosen a bad place, as I know from my own experience, for the police will soon come and find him and begin to ask many difficult questions!’ And not wanting to wait until the police arrived, the thief immediately ran away.
Then it happened that a drunk came along the road. As he staggered by, he saw the man lying beside the road, and said, ‘Aha! A drinker! But what a disgrace, you have had too much, my friend. You should have had the wisdom to drink one cup less, like me, and then you would still be able to walk.’ And feeling superior, the drunk stumbled on his way.
Then a dervish came along the same road, and when he saw the man lying by the side of the road, he knew at once it was a holy man, deep in the state of samadhi. With silent reverence, he sat down near the holy man, happy to have the privilege simply to breathe the atmosphere of his presence.
Although we believe that we see the world in an objective way, our view is always shaped by our own frame of reference, retold to us in our own language. The human may think of the house-cat as a purring, friendly companion, but the mouse behind the wall regards the cat as a sharp-clawed demon. We can understand that this principle is the secret of harmony with our fellow humans, and we sometimes manage, by fighting with our ego or nafs to accommodate the views of those around us, but what are we to do with the discrepancy between our point of view and the Divine point of view? Hazrat Inayat Khan refers to this in his lecture on the symbol of the cross, found in vol. XIV of the Message series, where he says:
…the crucifixion is when that thought of self, that nafs, is fought with until there comes an understanding that there exists no self before the vision of God. It is this which is the real crucifixion, but with this crucifixion there comes still another, which has always followed and which every soul has to experience; the perfection of every soul, the liberation of every soul lies in this crucifixion. It is that part of his being which he has created in himself, that false part of his being, which is crucified, not his real self, although on the way it always seems that he has crucified his own self. This is not self-denial, it is the false self that is denied. The mystery of perfection lies in annihilation – not in annihilation of the real self, but of the false self, of the false conception which man has cherished in his heart and always has allowed to torture his life.
As Hazrat Inayat goes on to say, it is not difficult to see in the lives of those around us how their self-conception makes endless difficulties for them, but we are mostly blind to the way in which we make all of life a problem for ourselves. For many around the world, today is the celebration of Resurrection, and so we could perhaps take the opportunity to pause for a moment, and breathe the atmosphere of hope that comes from a soul that has passed through the real, meaning the inner, crucifixion, and realised perfect union with the One.