The King and the Handmaiden and the Doctor


By RumiColorful sunset and reflection at lake

Do you know why your soul-mirror
does not reflect as clearly as it might?

Because rust has begun to cover it.
It needs to be cleaned.

Here’s a story…
about the inner state that’s meant by soul – mirror.

In the old days there was a king
who was powerful in both his kingdoms,
the visible as well as the spiritual.

One day as he was riding on the hunt, he saw a girl and was greatly taken with her beauty.

As was the custom, he paid her family handsomely and asked that she come to be a servant at the palace.  He was in love with her.

The feelings trembled and flapped in his chest like a bird newly put in a cage.

But as soon as she arrived, she fell ill. The king was like the man who had a donkey, but no saddle for the pack. Then he bought a saddle, and wolves killed the donkey. He had a water jar, but no water. Then he found water but the pitcher fell and broke.

He brought his doctors together.
“You have both our lives in your hands. Her life is my life. Whoever heals her will receive the finest treasure I have, the coral inlaid with pearls, anything!”

“We will do what we can. Each of us is the healing – savior of our regions. Surely we can find a cure.”

They neglected, in the pride of their accomplishments, to say if God wills. I don’t mean that just the saying of the phrase would have helped.  There was a coldness and a closed quality beneath the omission. There are many who don’t say Inshallah and yet their whole soul resonates with it all the time!

So the doctors began, but no matter what they did, the girl got worse.

Oxymel produced bile.
Almond oil caused dryness.
Myrobalen, instead of loosening the bowels, constricted them.
Water seemed to feed the fever.

The king saw that his doctors were helpless. He ran barefooted to the mosque. He knelt on the prayer rug and soaked the point of it with his tears.

He dissolved to an annihilated state,
and as he came out of that, he spoke this prayer:

“You know what’s hidden here. I don’t know what to do. You have said, ‘Even though I know all secrets, declare it outwardly with an action.'”

He cried out loud for help, and the ocean of grace surged over him. He slept on the prayer rug in the midst of his weeping.

In his dream an old man appeared. “Good king, tomorrow a stranger will come. I have sent him. He is the physician you can trust. Listen to him.”

As dawn rose, the king was sitting up in the belvedere on his roof. He saw someone coming, a person like the dawn.

He ran to meet this guest.

Like two swimmers who love the water, their souls knit together without being sewn, no seam.

The king said, “You are my beloved, not the girl! What should I do?”

We should always ask for discipline. One who has no self control cannot receive grace.
And it’s not just himself he hurts. Undisciplined people set fire to the landscape!

A table of food was coming down from the sky to feed Moses and his people, when suddenly voices from the crowd called out, “Where’s the garlic?” and “We want lentils.”

At once the bread and the dishes of grace-food disappeared. Everyone had to keep digging with mattocks and cutting with long scythes.

Then Jesus interceded and sent more trays of food. But again some insolent people showed no respect. They grabbed like it wouldn’t be enough, even though Jesus kept telling them, “This food will last. It will always be here.”

To be suspicious and greedy when majesty arrives is the worst arrogance. The gates closed.

Withhold your giving, no rain clouds will form.  When sex goes on between everyone all the time, epidemics spread in every direction.

When you feel gloomed over, it’s your failure to praise.  Irreverence and no discipline rob your soul of light.

The king opened his arms and held the saintly doctor to him.  He kissed his hand and his forehead and asked how his journey had been.

He led him to the head table.
“At last, I have found what patience can bring, this one whose face answers any question, who simply by looking can loosen the knot of intellectual discussion.”

They talked and ate a spirit-meal. Then the king took the doctor to where the girl lay.
The secret of her pain was opened to him, but he didn’t tell the king. It was love, of course.

Love is the astrolabe that sights into the mysteries of God. Earth-love, spirit-love, any love looks into that yonder, but whatever I try to say explaining love is embarassing!

A pen went scribbling along. When it tried to write love it broke.

If you want to expound on love, take your intellect out and let it lie down in the mud. It’s no help.

You want proof that the sun exists, so you stay up all night.
Finally you sleep as the sun comes up.

Look at it!  Nothing is so strange in this world as the sun. The sun of the soul is even more so. It has no yesterday!  The physical sun is unique, but it’s possible to imagine something like it.

The spiritual sun has nothing comparable, inner or outer.  Imagination cannot contain it.  Word of that sun, Shams, came, and everything hid.  Now Husam touches my arm. He wants me to say more about Shams.

Not now, Husam. I don’t know how to make words make sense, or praise. In the Friend-place nothing true can be said. Let me just be here.

But Husam begs, “Feed me. Hurry! Time is a sharp downstroke. A Sufi is supposed to be a child of the moment! Aren’t you a Sufi? Don’t say tomorrow or later.”

And I reply, “It’s better that the way of the Friend be concealed in a story. Let the mystery come through what people say around the lovers, not from what lovers say to each other.”

“No! I want this as naked and true as it can be. I don’t wear a shirt when I lie down with my beloved.”

“O Husam! If the Friend came to you naked, your chest could not stand it.  You wouldn’t be here in your body any longer.  Ask for what you want, but within some limits!”

This has no end.

Go back to the beginning, the end of the story                                                                             of the king and the lovesick maiden and the holy doctor, who said,
“Leave me alone with the girl.”                                                                                                            It was done, and quietly he began.

“Where are you from? Who are your relatives? Who else are you close to in that region?”

On and on he gently asked about her life.  When someone steps barefooted on a thorn, he immediately puts his foot on his knee and searches with a needle, and when he can’t locate the tip, he moistens around the place with moisture from his lips.  A splinter is often difficult to get out.

How much more difficult a thorn in the heart!  If everyone could find that thorn in themselves, things would be much more peaceful here!

Someone puts a clump of burrs under a donkey’s tail.  The donkey doesn’t now what’s wrong.  He just starts jumping and bucking around.

An intelligent, thorn-removing doctor must come and investigate.

So the divine physician asked about her friends and held her hand to feel the pulse.  She told many stories mentioning many names. He would say the names again to test the response of her pulse.

Finally he asked, “When you visit other towns, where are you most likely to go?” She mentioned one town and another, where she bought bread and where salt,
until he happened to say Samarcand! The dear city sweet as candy.

She blushed. Her breath caught. O she loves a goldsmith in Samarkand! She misses him so.

“Where exactly does he live?”

“At the head of the bridge on Ghatafar Street.”

“Now I can heal you. Don’t be afraid.  I will do to you what rain does to a meadow.  But don’t tell this to anyone, certainly not the king.  When the love center in your chest becomes the grave for such a secret, then what you want will be quickly yours.”

Seeds must hide in the ground to become whatever is in them.  The girl felt better.  She trusted him.

The doctor went to the king and told him only part of the story. “On some pretext we must bring a certain goldsmith from Samarkand. Lure him with the prospect of wealth and honors.”

The king’s messengers went and easily persuaded the man to leave his town for a while.

He arrived, and the doctor said,

“Marry the girl to this man and she will be completely cured.” It was done, and for six months those two loved and made love and completely satisfied themselves with each other. The girl was restored to perfect health.

Then the physician gave the goldsmith a potion, so that he began to sicken. His handsomeness faded. He became sunken-cheeked and jaundiced and ugly.
The girl stopped loving him.

Any love based on physical beauty is not the deepest love. Choose to love what does not die. The generous one is not hard to find.

But what about the doctor’s poisoning the poor goldsmith! It was not done for his friend the king’s sake.  The reason is a mystery, like Khidr’s cutting the boy’s throat. When someone is killed by a doctor like this one, it’s a blessing, even though it might not seem so.

Such a doctor is part of a larger generosity. Don’t judge his actions. You are not living so completely within the truth as he is.

Author: DrRachel

Rachel Magnell, Ph.D. is studied in Counseling Psychology, Neuroscience, Jungian Depth Psychology, Hypnosis, Yoga Philosophy and Meditation.

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