Nasrudin and Seeing

I've been skimming back through Idris Shah's Nasrudin books (The Pleasantries of, The Exploits of, and The Subtleties of... 1971-72-73, respectively, by Dutton). Many of the Nasrudin tales, and especially the brilliantly conceived drawings that accompany some of them (by Richard Williams), seem not just compatible with, but literally illustrative of Seeing. I include a few here, in paraphrase:

1. Nasrudin finds a mirror lying on the roadside and picks it up. When he sees the ugly image in it, he drops it, saying "No wonder it was thrown away! It's my fault for not having figured it must have been something unpleasant" The drawing that goes with this one shows a Nasrudin form from behind. His head is an empty circle, and out in front of him, so we can see it, he's holding a mirror with a nasty little face reflected in it... just like doing the card exercise in a Headless Workshop (minus the nastiness of the mirrored image, of course!)

2. A drawing of a half-smiling Nasrudin with concentric heads receding in infinite regression (so it looks like a spine of Nasrudin heads shooting up through ripples on a pond, for example) accompanies a little story where Nasrudin's son says he remembers the day his father was born, which Nasrudin takes as proof of the boy's genius.

3. Nasrudin gets a lot of mileage out of the dynamics of being capacity for the other. For instance, in the marketplace, he recites this poem:

O My Beloved
My whole inner being is so suffused with Thee
That whatever presents itself to my sight
Appears to be Thou.

A wag shouted: "What if a fool comes into your field of vision?" Without a pause, Nasrudin continued his refrain:

It appears to be Thou!

4. Nasrudin was walking along at night, when he heard approaching horsemen. He imagined that they must be brigands, out to do him mischief, so he jumped over a wall into an open tomb to hide. The horsemen, in actuality very decent people, saw this strange behavior and went to see if he needed help.

"Can we help you, sir? Why are you in that grave?"

"It all depends on your point of view," said Nasrudin, who now understood the situation, "But the fact is that I am here because of you, and you are here because of me!"

5. Nasrudin went into a bank to cash a check. The teller asked him if he could identify himself. Nasrudin took out a mirror and peered into it. "Yep. That's me alright," he said.

Wonderful stuff, and the drawings are really incredible. My absolute favorite is on the next-to-last page of the first book. It shows Nasrudin, apparently asleep, unconscious, or dead, lying in a dark pit in broad daylight, behind a huge door that has several dozen bars and padlocks on it, but is unattached to any wall - just a door, standing all by itself, and locked, with free space all around it, pretending to be a barrier. Of course, Nasrudin, from where he lies in its shadow, would just see the barrier were he to look up from his sleep. This reminds me of a house on Cedar Street in Berkeley, CA, which must have been built by a Nasrudin fan or maybe just someone who ran out of money, but in either case, it had a six-foot high door in a nice frame at the edge of the walk leading up to the house, but their was no fence connected to it on either side! I suppose this is the logical counterpart of Zen's Empty Gate: the full gate, with no fence! T.P. Denmark

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