From the rich wisdom of the sufi dervishes, my teacher told me this story.

A tourist walked into a city, and soon lost himself amongst its dazzling lights and trinkets. As the city absorbed him, he became so engrossed that he found it difficult to relate to his past life. He related instead to the trappings of the new city. The only recollection that he now has is his new identity, symbolized by his new possession. These are the gold amulet he has tied to his arm, and some more shiny stones and ornaments that he keeps on his person. He would look at the amulet and the ornaments, and that is how he relates to his self.

A wise man knew what was happening with the new visitor, for he had seen many travelers lose themselves in the city. They forgot that they were tourists, and that they had to return soon. When the time came to leave, they would be left to wander aimlessly in the wilderness, having forgotten themselves and the way home.

When the tourist is sleeping, the wise man removes the amulet and gold and stones, and ties them to himself. When the tourist is awake, he looks for familiar possessions and finds them on another person. “I am confused,” he says, “you seem to be me with all my identifying marks, but if you are not me, then who and where am I?” We enter the city of this mortal world, and begin to identify and attach ourselves with its trinkets – houses, lands, and shiny possessions, and tie our very existence to them. When the time comes to leave, we cannot hold on to these transitory objects, and we know not where we came from, and whither we will go. The teacher rids us of the desire to gather some dust and metal, and trains us to leave gracefully.  Guru Granth Sahib guides us:

The real identity consumed the assumed identity

Immaculately pure, it blended with the Divine Light.(page 490)


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