With a sense of urgency, Ben Adhem saddled his horse and rode out of the palace, his guards scrambling behind him. He soon outrode the guards and was, for the first time in his life, on the highways and the byways of his kingdom all by himself.
He rode all day through the town and nearby villages. As the day drew to a close, he came upon a shepherd whom he recognized to be a slave he had freed a few months earlier. By this time Ben Adhem, in his pursuit of the ultimate Truth, had decided upon abandonment of luxury. He stopped his former slave and offered his silken robe for the shepherd’s robe of coarse felt, his bejeweled crown for the shepherd’s crook. Thus metamorphosed a sultan into a zahid, an ascetic.
While Ben Adhem renounced luxury, he embraced work. He did not expect food, shelter and clothing to appear miraculously or for others to provide for him. In labor he found fulfilment. He traveled to many towns and cities in Central Asia and the Middle East. Sometimes he was a hewer of wood, sometimes a carrier of water. Some places he worked as a carpenter, others as a mason. If he ever made money in excess of threadbare necessity, he gave it away. Days he spent in work, evenings in contemplation, and nights in dreams that brought answers.
Contentment was his lot and he imparted it to others. Once he came up a man lamenting his abject poverty.
“Be happy that you got your poverty for nothing?” said Ben Adhem to the man.
“So, even poverty is something that you buy?” said the man sarcastically.
“Indeed,” answered Ben Adhem, “I paid for it with the kingdom of Balkh.”
Haste to renounce thy kingdom, like Ibrahim bin Adham,
To obtain, like him, the kingdom of eternity…(Rumi)
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