Sahu's Online Library
A parable to ponder on
“Why, when God's world is so big,
Did you fall asleep in a prison
Of all places?“ – Rumi
There was once a man who was confined to a dungeon.
He was put in the dungeon from a very young age for reasons even he didn’t really know, and had been there so long, that he no longer had any awareness of a world outside of his cell.
There was a thin, lumpy mattress sitting on a steel base that was fixed to the wall, as well as a rudimentary latrine in the corner, and little else in the small space within the walls and bars to which this man was confined.
He had taken to playing a game involving the uneven, sometimes jagged surface of the walls and the floor to amuse himself most days; it was a game which would not make any sense to anyone outside of the dungeon, but would captivate this man for most of his waking hours.
One day a woman appeared at the door of his cell.
“I have come to release you,” she said, as she opened the door.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“You’ve been trapped inside of this dungeon for so long. It’s time for you to step out and experience the world for all that it is,” she replied.
But the man was unaware of the existence of a world outside, and the idea of such was more frightening to him than it was liberating.
The woman offered him comfort and told him that if he followed her out of the dungeon, she would show him everything there was to see and every need of his would be met.
The man stared at the rough walls that awaited his next move in his made-up game.
“Will I be able to play my game out there?” He asked.
The woman looked at the pile of small pebbles and chalky marks that indicated an arbitrary progression through the game.
“Don’t worry about that.” She responded. “You won’t be interested in playing when you see what you’ve been missing.”
The prisoner stared at the floor for a long time.
“I’m hungry” he finally said. “Can I take my bowl with me? Who will fill it?”
The women glanced at a ceramic bowl near the door, chipped and dirty, with the remnants of a greyish paste at the bottom, evidently awaiting collection.
“Don’t worry about that.” She said again. “You won’t be interested in eating from that bowl when you see what you’ve been missing.”
The prisoner stared at the bowl for a long time.
The sound of another prisoner one the other side of the dungeon interrupted his thoughts.
Though the noise was muffled, and he didn’t really hear what was said, he shouted back, if only to acknowledgement his presence.
“What of my friends?” He cried, looking again to the woman. “I can’t leave them!”
“Your friends are also free to leave if they choose to.” The woman replied softly. “You can also visit them, and finally hear what they’ve really been saying.”
The prisoner then sat for a very long time while the woman waited patiently at the open door.
Finally he spoke again.
“How will I rest if I follow you?” He continued. “I cannot take my bed.”
“Don’t worry about that.” She responded. “You will discover so much when you follow me, you won’t want to rest for the longest time. But when you do, there are beds more comfortable than you can possibly imagine.”
“You won’t be interested in sleeping on that bed when you see what you have been missing.”
The man stared at his bed for a long time.
“I need to sleep now.” He finally said.
“That’s ok,” the woman replied gently, like a mother to a child.
She sat down on a bench outside the man’s cell, leaving ajar the door that had never actually been locked.
“I’ll be here when you wake up.”
What does the prison represent for you?
Where in your life are you refusing to walk through an open door because of your attachments to the only world you know?
How many doors in our life do we assume are locked, without having ever tested them?
“Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?” – Rumi
About the article
First printed in Inner Self magazine, East/West Edition 22, page 11
About the author