This is the story of the lake and the three big fish
that were in it, one of them intelligent,
another half-intelligent, and the third, stupid.
Some fishermen came to the edge of the lake
with their nets. The three fish saw them.
The intelligent fish decided at once to leave,
to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean.
“I won’t consult with these two on this.
They will only weaken my resolve, because they love
this place so. They call it home. Their ignorance
will keep them here.”
Read the rest: http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/H%20-%20World%20Religions%20and%20Poetry/Poetry/Rumi/The%20Three%20Fish/Rumi%20XVI.htm
–Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Rumi) (مولانا جلال الدین محمد رومی), "Masnavi-ye Manavi (مثنوی معنوی)", IV, 2203-86 (ca. 1265) (Coleman Barks transl.) from: "The Essential Rumi"
(in a passage that Coleman Barks decided not to include in his admirable translation),
This is a story, as Rumi tells us in the prelude
- taken from the Sanskritic "Five Principles" or "Panchatantra (पञ्चतन्त्र)"
- from the 3-rd century BCE,
- a work which sets forth principles for the governance of a small state through a series of tales,
- in which animals are introduced to present different aspects of the human nature
- The book has been called a "sort of Machiavelli of Indian antiquity" by one of its scholars,
- since its purpose was apparently to teach young princelings in waiting the essential arts of statecraft.
The "Panchatantra" was brought into Persia shortly before the age of Rumi
- was translated & accommodated to Islamic ideas & values in some respects, &
- established itself as an instant classic.
- In his recounting, Rumi has adapted the 15-th story from the 1-st book of "Kelileh va Demneh",
- the name by which the book goes in Farsi, but
- he remains faithful to the essential political message of the original.
The major theme of this story is love of home, or patriotism
- and its use and abuse by leaders
- The story unfolds through the fate of 3 fish: one wise, one half-wise and the 3-rd a fool
- (Barks uses the word “intelligent” instead of wise, which is arguable, but not perhaps the best translation.)
- Rumi does not challenge the notion that one should love his home, but
- he challenges us to ask, “Where is that home actually?”
The foolish fish understands that the lake, in which he was spawned & now lives is his home
- He comes to the realization that this vision was false,
- but only too late,
- as he sits uncomfortably in a frying pan,
- about to be the meal of the men, who have caught him.
- The foolish fish is bounded by the world of his immediate perceptions and needs.
- He lacks vision and foresight.
The half-wise fish is far more cunning in avoiding the traps & nets
- that the fishermen lay before him, so he escapes.
- But he is incapable of solving the riddle for himself.
- He needs a guide, which he recognizes is the wise fish.
- But the wise fish has set busily about saving himself & is gone.
- The half-wise fish is able enough, but he also is by his nature a follower,
- who requires the guidance or intermediation of a greater one.
The wise fish recognizes his true home nature timely:
- ii is not the lake, in which he has lived his whole life up to that point,
- but the boundless & infinite sea,
- of which he has heard, but which he has never seen.
- The wise fish commits himself therefore to the quest for that true home, &
- he uses his skills & cunning to achieve that quest
- He suffers & endures in the process, &
- achieves his goal.
Rumi warns us against those leaders, who turn humans against humans
- with appeals to false patriotism & love of false home
- Only a fool will allow this love,
- which is understandable, traditional & natural,
- to be transformed into hatred of others, he does not know.
- In this way, he becomes the slave of the schemes & machinations of a nature
- which is clever, but also base
- Hence, the first warning: Do not believe an absurdity, no matter, who says it.
- These absurdities may & often do roll from the lips of persons set in authority above their fellow men.
- But those, who preach hatred, distrust & hostility against other peoples do not merit our trust.
- They try to ensnare the feeble-minded with their bile.
- The foolish fish are their prey & they may capture some of the half-wise as well.
The fish, of course, represent human beings at different stages of awareness
- (“The men of God are like fishes in the ocean”, Rumi writes elsewhere,
- “they pop up into view on the surface here & there & everywhere, as they please”)
But what, then is home?
- 1. Rumi condemns - as a fool - the man,
- who would define his home in terms of a political creation,
- be it city, state or empire.
- 2. the true home is a boundless ocean, he writes.
- Man must think in terms of his species, linked across time and space.
- 3. equally, he must cherish the planet, on which he dwells &
- must avoid through love for any locality doing harm to the whole.
- 4. but finally that “home” is something, which the wise man seeks,
- accepting suffering & loss, as he does so.
- 5. the way home, as Novalis would tell us, is an inward path.
To all my readers ... may each of you follow the way of that wise fish</b>
- avoid the traps that are placed in your way,
- detect the nets & swim around them, &
- ultimately make your way to that boundless ocean.