Camels on the Roof
In the following story, King Ebrahim-e Adham, in spite of following the prescribed traditional religious practices and avoiding the indulgences to which royalty is sometimes prone, fails to reach spiritual fulfilment. The reason for his failure is explained in the quotation which follows the story. The words of Maharaj Charan Singh clearly indicate the breadth and depth of the attachment that blunts our efforts towards God-realization.
Before leaving Balkh, Ebrahim-e Adham spent much of his wealth in spiritual pursuits. Whenever he saw a dervish, he sacrificed everything for him. He withstood much physical austerity. He wore a torn rag under his kingly raiment and secretly fasted and meditated during the day. All this he did in order to fulfil his desire for God-realization, but without success. He thought to himself, “What should I do? Why is no door opening?”
One night when he was half-asleep, the palace guards started blowing their whistles, striking their wooden nightsticks, shouting and drumming. The king said to himself, “O guards, which enemy are you dissuading? The enemy sleeps with me. When we are in need of God’s merciful glance, what protection can you provide? There is no safety, save under His protective grace”. While the king was caught in this train of thought, love stole his heart. He tossed and turned, lifting his head off his pillow and putting it back again. He could not sleep. So strange! How can a lover sleep?
Suddenly, he heard quick steps and a commotion on the palace roof. It sounded like a group of people coming and going and the king thought, “What happened to the guards? Can they not see these people running around on the roof?” He listened with astonishment at the footsteps, unable to call the armed guards. Suddenly someone’s head popped through the window and asked, “Who are you in this bed?” He said, “I am the king. Who are you on this rooftop?” The answer came, “We have lost two or three strings of camels and are searching for them on the roof of this palace”. “Are you crazy?” asked the king.
“You are crazy!” the man replied.
“You say you have lost your camels on the palace roof. Is someone searching here for camels?” the king demanded.
“Does one search for God on the throne of kingship? Do they search for Him here?” the man asked, and that was it. Upon hearing those words, the king left and was never seen again.
Shams-e Tabrizi, Rumi’s Perfect Teacher
To achieve God-realization one has to make many sacrifices, face many hardships, break away from worldly attachments of countless lives, turn away from many comforts and pleasures of the world. The attraction of wealth, worldly possessions, power and position, love for the family, society and country - all such desires and ambitions have to be curbed, and only the urge to go back to the Lord takes precedence over all else. What difference does it make even if you become the ruler of this whole world, so that everything is under your command, that whatever comes out of your mouth becomes law? Ultimately, you will lose the body and will go into the cycle of birth and death. What type of bargain are you making? You are losing your soul and winning the world - which is perishable, which is only for sixty, seventy or eighty years.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Saint Matthew