IOU — Trust & Deception

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” -Frank Crane

I shall try to bring out different perspectives on this important theme of trust and deception through three stories, each having a great moral that possibly enlightens us.

Story 1 (Perspective 1)

This is a story of the Sufi saint Junnaid as told to his disciple:

I was very thirsty and I was going towards the river carrying my begging bowl, the only possession I had. When I reached the river a dog rushed, jumped into the river, started drinking. 

“I watched for a moment and threw away my begging bowl–because it is useless. A dog can do without it. I also jumped into the river, drank as much water as I wanted. My whole body was cool because I had jumped into the river. I sat in the river for a few moments, thanked the dog, touched his feet with deep reverence because he had taught me a lesson.

“I had dropped everything, all possessions, but there was a certain clinging to my begging bowl. It was a beautiful bowl, very beautifully carved, and I was always aware that somebody might steal it. Even in the night I used to put it under my head as a pillow so nobody could snatch it away. That was my last clinging–the dog helped. It was so clear: if a dog can manage without a begging bowl… I am a man, why can’t I manage? That dog was one of my Masters.

Moral: Do we trust ourselves enough? Do we trust our own abilities? Do we trust that all knowledge, happiness are to be found within us? It is matter of trust to start the journey.

Story 2 (Perspective 2)

A disciple went to Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, “I shall not continue with my studies of sacred texts – he said. – I live in a small house with my brothers and parents, and never have the ideal conditions for concentrating on that which is important.”

Nachman pointed to the sun and asked his disciple to place his hand over his face, in order to hide it. The disciple obeyed.

“Your hand is small, yet it can completely cover the power, light and majesty of the great sun. In the same way, the small problems manage to give you the excuse you need in order to hinder your progress along your journey.”

“Just as your hand has the power to hide the sun, mediocrity has the power to hide your inner light. Do not blame others for your own incompetence.”

Moral: Again it is a question of trusting yourself. There is no point blaming others. We constantly deceive ourselves not others. Trusting others is not a substitute for hiding our own incompetence and mediocrity. Greed, Hatred and Delusion are the three small hands by which we hide the power and majesty of the sun. If we do so we would always get deceived. Others are not to be blamed.  

Story 3 (Perspective 3)

This is again a story on Junnaid the Sufi saint as told to his disciple.

Junnaid said, “I lost my way in a forest and by the time I reached the nearest village that I could find, it was midnight. Everybody was fast asleep. I wandered all over the town to see if I could find somebody awake to give me shelter for the night, until finally I found one man. I asked him, ‘It seems only two persons are awake in the town, you and I. Can you give me shelter for the night?’ 

“The man said, ‘I can see from your gown that you are a Sufi monk….'” 

The word Sufi comes from suf; suf means wool, a woolen garment. The Sufis have used the woolen garment for centuries; hence they are called Sufis because of their garment. The man said, “I can see you are a Sufi and I feel a little embarrassed to take you to my home. I am perfectly willing, but I must tell you who I am. I am a thief–would you like to be a guest of a thief?” 

For a moment Junnaid hesitated. The thief said, “Look, it is better I told you. You seem hesitant. The thief is willing but the mystic seems to be hesitant to enter into the house of a thief, as if the mystic is weaker than the thief. In fact, I should be afraid of you–you may change me, you may transform my whole life! Inviting you means danger, but I am not afraid. You are welcome. Come to my home. Eat, drink, go to sleep, and stay as long as you want, because I live alone and my earning is enough. I can manage for two persons. And it will be really beautiful to chit-chat with you of great things. But you seem to be hesitant.” 

And Junnaid became aware that it was true. He asked to be forgiven. He touched the feet of the thief and he said, “Yes, my rootedness in my own being is yet very weak. You are really a strong man and I would like to come to your home. And I would like to stay a little longer, not only for this night. I want to be stronger myself!” 

The thief said, “Come on!” He fed the Sufi, gave him something to drink, helped him to prepare for sleep and he said, “Now I will go. I have to do my own thing. I will come back early in the morning.” Early in the morning the thief came back. Junnaid asked, “Have you been successful?” 

The thief said, “No, not today, but I will see tomorrow.” 

And this happened continuously, for thirty days: every night the thief went out, and every morning he came back empty-handed. But he was never sad, never frustrated–no sign of failure on his face, always happy –and he would say, “It doesn’t matter. I tried my best. I could not find anything today again, but tomorrow I will try. And, God willing, it can happen tomorrow if it has not happened today.” 

After one month Junnaid left, and for years he tried to realize the ultimate, and it was always a failure. But each time he decided to drop the whole project he remembered the thief, his smiling face and his saying “God willing, what has not happened today may happen tomorrow.” 

Junnaid said, “I remembered the thief as one of my greatest Masters. Without him I would not be what I am.

Moral: This story has many hidden layers of meanings on trust and deception. How much do we trust? When do we trust? Why do we trust? Who is deceiving whom? What learning opportunities are thrown up in our moments of dilemma of whether to trust or not to trust? How long does it take to trust? What might break trust? How to avoid torment? I leave it to readers to form their own perception on this last story.

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