Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Unknown Savior, A Sufi Tale

Bashu lived in a village at the base of a mighty mountain. He had married when quite old by his people's standards to a much younger woman. His wife, Beganda, had been a favorite of the young men of the village. She had ignored them all and pressed her father to ask Bashu for a proposal. Bashu who had been provident in his ways offered Beganda's father several goats and three cows for his daughter's hand.

The entire village came to the wedding feast which was memorable in its unexpected opulence. People danced until the wee hours of the morning. Bashu and Beganda quietly slipped away to Bashu's house and closed the door. Once inside, they spoke earnestly to each other well into the next day and later they made love for the first time.

 It was a happy marriage that produced three children. The oldest child was quiet and solemn. The second was mischievous and playful. The youngest was filled with wonder and the joy of life.

This youngest child, a boy named Aeso, had a vision that he must climb the mountain. When he shared his vision with others in the village they laughed at him. "No one," they told him, "has ever climbed the mountain and no one ever will. Release such silly thoughts from your head." Aeso was silent, but his resolve deepened.

The waters from the mountain drained into the valley nourishing the villagers' crops. Without that water the villagers would starve. And one day the water stopped.

"What can we do?" the villagers wailed, "We are doomed. Without the water from the mountain we will all starve."

 Everyone became very discouraged and hopeless over the situation. Everyone except Aeso. He waited until night fall and then packing a rucksack with a crust of bread and some dried fruit he set out to climb the mountain.

As he went up the slope the air became cooler. Soon Aeso's hands and feet were chilled. But he kept on. When he thought the cold might kill him he came upon a solitary hut on the slope. He walked to the door and stood outside.

"Come in," the old gravelly voice of a woman called to him. Aeso entered. Through the haze in the tiny hut he saw an old woman seated beside a small fire roasting turnips. Aeso was hungry and tired so he sat down gratefully and ate with the old woman. They did not speak for some time.

When Aeso started to tell the woman of his quest, she raised her hand commanding silence, "I know why you have come," she said, "Are the people of the village so meek and fearful that they send a young boy to save them?"

Aeso said, "They do not know that I am here." to which the old woman responded, "All the more shame upon them."

"I will tell you,"she said, "what awaits you on the mountain. A group of men from the city have come and they have diverted the water away for their own purposes. These men have mighty machines which serve them and protect them. They will not listen to the words of a small boy. You must find another way. I can help you. But first tonight we must rest."

In the morning the old woman took Aeso to the opening of a cave. They entered and using a torch traveled deep into the bowels of the mountain. After many hours, they came upon a rushing underground stream. The stream disappeared into a hole in the floor of the cave. A large boulder hovered precariously near the hole.

"Come" said the old woman, "help me." And she began to throw her weight against the boulder. But it did not budge.

Aeso too pushed against the boulder but it would not move. Then his eye caught a large branch. "Where could such a branch have come from?," he wondered, "There are no trees for many miles." Nevertheless, Aeso took the branch and using it as a lever he gave a mighty pull and the boulder shifted suddenly and fell into the hole blocking the stream. The stream began to flow down the path of the cave. It flowed out of the mouth of the cave and down the side of the mountain. Far below the villagers noticed that the waters had returned. They were elated and began to rejoice.

Aeso and the old woman. however, were trapped in the cave by the rising waters and drowned.

The people of the village never knew about the old woman and Aeso. They assumed Aeso had run off to the city. But every year they hold a feast called The Return of the Waters and celebrate that which gives them life.

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