The tale dealt with two renowned Sufis of their time.
Shams Tabrez was an enlightened soul, and Maulana Rumi one of the most learned of men. One day the guru of Shams Tabrez said to him: Go and give enlightenment to Maulana Rumi!
And Shams Tabrez sat down by the roadside along which the grand procession of Maulana Rumi was to pass. As the Maulana came close to Shams Tabrez, the latter called out:
O Maulana! Stop and answer my question with thy learning–who was greater, Prophet Mohammad or Hazrat Baayazeed Bustaami?
It was a difficult question. The Sufis believed in both. Prophet Mohammad called himself a man of God–Khudaa kaa bandaa, whilst Hazrat Baayazeed Bustaami called himself God, saying: “Anal Haq-I am God!”
The Maulana answered it with correctness:
Prophet Mohammad was the greater. He was like an ocean that had depth but never left its shores, whilst Hazrat Baayazeed Bustaami was like a small pond that was soon filled with rain and overflowed!
And saying this, Maulana Rumi went his way. But Shams Tabrez followed him into his house. The place was filled with hundreds of books on religion and philosophy.
What is all this? Shams Tabrez asked, pointing to the books.
This is that, of which you know nothing! said Maulana Rumi to the illiterate Shams Tabrez.
Suddenly Shams Tabrez picked up as many books as he could, and threw them into a tank of water below the house.
What have you done, Shams! the startled Maulana asked, These are handwritten and may never be written again! They are not available anywhere else!
Maulana Rumi called out to his servants and asked them to save whatever they could, of the books.
So this is all that you call knowledge! said Shams Tabrez, if these books are gone you have nothing left! Wait! There is no need to call the servants! I will bring them out for you!
And saying this, Shams Tabrez turned towards the water tank, and said: Books! Come out!
And much to the astonishment of Maulana Rumi, the books came flying out of the tank and landed high and dry in his library, with not a single word obliterated.
What strange power is this! said the amazed Maulana Rumi.
This is that, of which you know nothing! said Shams Tabrez.
And saying this Shams Tabrez left Maulana Rumi’s house. A spiritual transformation came over the Maulana. A spiritual quest developed within him. He had to know of the divine secrets known to Shams Tabrez. He searched the city until he found Shams Tabrez sitting alone in a graveyard. He begged to be made his disciple and be given enlightenment.
But spiritual attainment had tests of its own. Shams Tabrez said to Maulana Rumi:
All right, then, if you wish to become my disciple and serve me, then bring two bottles of wine for me!
The Maulana was struck dumb. It was he who had passed the fatwaa, the edict, in the city, banning wine. Hundreds had been sent to prison by him for disobeying his law of prohibition. But it was a spiritual test for him. His Master, Murshid, was trying to test his spirit of sacrifice.
Undeterred by the fact that the man he had accepted as his Murshid wanted wine, he went out in search of it, and procured it from an illegal wine-making shop. He hid the bottles in his cloak and proceeded on his way.
He had hoped to please both, man and God. No one would know he was carrying wine, and his Murshid would be pleased to know he had carried out his orders.
But the fates decreed otherwise.
In a crowded thoroughfare, at the cross-roads, the bottles slipped from his cloak and shattered to pieces on the ground. The public gathered around him: Take the culprit to Maulana Rumi! they said.
Their astonishment knew no bounds when they discovered that the man they had caught was no other than Maulana Rumi himself!
Maulana Rumi was disgusted with himself. He had tried to deceive God. He returned to the wine-shop and purchased two more bottles and carried them in the streets in full public view. Word reached the King-the Baadshaah, that Maulana Rumi had turned to drink. The king was puzzled, but took no action.
And it was thus, that Maulana Rumi passed the spiritual test laid out for him by his Murshid. He had to sacrifice all notions of honour or dishonour, name and fame. He had to crush his ego to nothingness, and rise above himself to serve his Murshid with a Spirit of Sacrifice. And once he had done this, God realisation, or enlightenment was his. Pure intellectual knowledge had not been enough.
Baa yaar kase dast dar aagosh na kard
Taa tarke zaro seemo dilo hosh na kard
Thou canst not embrace the Beloved with thy hands,
Until thou hast sacrificed thy gold, thy silver, and thy heart.
And Maulana Rumi said:
Shumaa eemaan nigaah daared mohkam ai Mussalmaanaa
Ke maulaanaye Rumi khud Mussalmaan boodo kaafir shud
O thou orthodox believers! Remain thou in thy rites and rituals!
Maulana Rumi was a Muslim too, until he became an unbeliever!
Maulaanaa taa maulaaye Rum na shud
Taa ghulaame aastaane Shams Tabrezi na shud
Maulaana Rumi became not a Maulaanaa-a Great One-
Until he became the slave of Shams Tabrez.
When Maulana Rumi came before Shams Tabrez with the two bottles of wine in his hands, Shams Tabrez was pleased. His disciple-mureed-had passed the test.
He took the bottles from Maulana Rumi and dashed them to pieces on the ground, one on either side of Maulana Rumi, and he said:
The first one dashes to pieces your worldly pride, and the second one dashes to pieces your spiritual pride!
As Shri Nathji explained:
“Real desire for God-realisation brings one to a guide, but the goal of enlightenment can only be attained through sacrifice, and through the effacement of one’s ego, in a spirit of total self-surrender before the Will of God.
“Book knowledge remains a thing of the material world and is quite different from divine knowledge, which one acquires through perseverance.”