Alif

In the life of Bullah Shah, the great saint of Punjab, one reads a most instructive account of his early training, when he was sent to school with boys of his own age. The teacher taught him alif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. The other boys in his class finished the whole alphabet while he was mastering the same letter. When weeks had passed, and the teacher saw that the child did not advance any further than the first letter, alif, he thought that he must be deficient. He sent him home to his parents, saying, «Your boy is deficient; I cannot teach him.»
The parents did all in their power for him, placing him under the tuition of various teachers, but he made no progress. They were disappointed, and the boy in the end escaped from home so that he should no longer be a burden to his own people.
He then lived in the forest and saw the manifestation of alif, which had taken from in the forest as the grass, the leaf, the tree, branch, fruit, and flower. And the same alif was manifested as the mountain and hill, the stones and rocks; and he witnessed the same as germ, insect, bird, and beast, and the same alif in himself and others. He thought of one, saw one, felt one, realized one, and none else besides.
After mastering this lesson thoroughly, he returned to pay his respects to his old teacher who had expelled him from school. The teacher, absorbed in the vision of variety, had long ago forgotten him; but Bullah Shah could not forget his old teacher who had taught him his first and most inspiring lesson, which had occupied almost all his life. He bowed most humbly before the teacher and said, «I have prepared the lesson you so kindly taught me; will you teach me anything more there may be to learn?»
The teacher laughed at him and thought to himself, «After all this time this simpleton has remembered me.»
Bullah Shah asked permission to write the lesson, and the teacher replied in jest, «Write on this wall.» Bullah Shah made the sign of alif on the wall, and it divided into two parts.
The teacher was astounded at this wonderful miracle and said, «Thou art my teacher! That which thou hast learnt in the one letter alif, I have not been able to master with all my learning.» Bullah Shah sang this song:
Friend now quit thy learning.
One alif is all thou doest need.
By learning thou hast loaded my mind,
With books thou hast filled up thy room.
But the true knowledge was lost by pursuing the false,
So quit now, O friend, the pursuit of thy learning.



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