Rumi's Bear Tale

Signs of the Unseen:
The Discourses of Jalaluddin Rumi

Introduction & Translation by W. M. Thackston, Jr.
Threshold Books, Putney, Vermont, 1994, p. 121-122

The story is told of a teacher who was so destitute that during the winter he had nothing but a length of linen. By chance a flood had caught up a bear in the mountains and swept it down with its head under the water. Some children saw the bear's back and cried out: "Teacher, here is a fur coat fallen in the ditch. Since you are cold, take it out." The teacher was in such need and so cold that he jumped into the ditch to get the fur coat. The bear dug its claw into him and held him in the water. The children cried, "Teacher, either bring the fur out, or, if you can't, let it go and come out!" The teacher said, "I've let the fur go, but it won't let me go! What am I to do?"

How then is yearning for God to let you go? It is a cause for thanks that we are not in our own hands but in God's. An infant knows only milk and its mother. God does not leave it in that state but causes it to advance to the stage of eating bread and playing. From there He advances it to the stage of rationality. In relation to the other world we are in the stage of infancy: this world is just another mother's breast. He will not leave you until He brings you to the point that you realize that this state is infancy and nothing more. "I am amazed by a people who have to be dragged to paradise in chains and fetters." Take him, and bind him, then burn him in paradise; then burn him in union; then burn him in beauty; then burn him in perfection: burn him!

Note: I opened to this story at random around 10:30 pm on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 while listening to on the radio KSFO 560 AM. The host George Noory was about to do his ouiji board experiment which I thought was unwise for him to play with. Buddha and Christ had meditated for 40 days before encountering Mara and Satan respectively. My friend Connie who listens to this program regularly decided not to tune in for fear of demonic forces coming through the air waves when George does his ouiji board experiment. I prepared myself by chanting "Om Narayana", and placed books with photos of sages on the cover around my CD-Radio: Lao Tzu, Rumi, Wang Yang-ming, Ramana Maharshi, Paul Brunton, D.T. Suzuki, Philokalia, and a photo of Maitreya Buddha from Kyoto. On top of the radio, I placed a quote of Plotinus from his Enneads, IV.4.44: Contemplation alone stands untouched by magic; no man self-gathered falls to a spell; for he is one, and that unity is all he perceives, so that his reason is not beguiled but holds the due course, fashioning its own career and accomplishing its task." A tiny statue of Ganesha held the paper of Plotinus in place. When the Rumi tale of the clawing bear came up at random, I feared that George Noory would be hurt by his ouiji board experiment. Luckily, George backed out at the very last second. It took courage to do that. He undertook this stunt to satisfy his curiosity about the other side. Some felt he did it to boost ratings of his radio listeners now that Art Bell has retired. The audience who tuned in to be tiltillated were sorely disappointed as evidenced by the call-ins afterwards. When the stock market plunged this week with the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) dropping 678 points, I felt the Rumi story may be a precursor to the Bear Market ahead. This was reinforced by KDFC 102.1 FM playing Haydn's Symphony #82 in C "The Bear" on Saturday morning, July 28. Is this the sell signal I've been waiting for? So I plan to sell my stock portfolio on Monday July 30 before the stock market tumbles some more.

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© Peter Y. Chou, Wisdom Portal
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