Rabia and the riddle of the lost needle
We are born to be blissful, it is our birthright. But people are so foolish, they don’t even claim their birthright. They become more interested in what others possess and they start running after those things. They never look within, they never search in their own house.
The intelligent person will begin his search from his inner being–that will be his first exploration–because unless I know what is within me how can I go on searching all over the world?–it is such a vast world. And those who have looked within have found it instantly, immediately. It is not a question of gradual progress, it is a sudden phenomenon, a sudden enlightenment.
I have heard about a very great Sufi mystic woman, Rabia al-Adawia. One evening, people found her sitting on the road searching for something. She was an old woman, her eyes were weak, and it was difficult for her to see. So the neighbors came to help her. They asked, “What are you searching for?”
Rabia said, “That question is irrelevant, I am searching. If you can help me, help.”
They laughed and said, “Rabia, have you gone mad? You say our question is irrelevant, but if we don’t know what you are searching for, how can we help?”
Rabia said, “Okay. Just to satisfy you, I am searching for my needle, I have lost my needle.” They started helping her–but immediately they became aware of the fact that the road was very big and a needle was a very tiny thing. So they asked Rabia, “Please tell us where you lost it–the exact, precise place. Otherwise it is difficult. The road is big and we can go on searching and searching forever. Where did you lose it?”
Rabia said, “Again you ask an irrelevant question. How is it concerned with my search?”
They stopped. They said, “You have certainly gone crazy!”
Rabia said, “Okay. Just to satisfy you, I have lost it in my house.”
They asked, “Then why are you searching here?” And Rabia is reported to have said, “Because here there is light and there is no light inside.” The sun was setting and there was a little light still left on the road.
This parable is very significant. Have you ever asked yourself what you are searching for? Have you ever made it a point of deep meditation to know what you are searching for? No. Even if in some vague moments, dreaming moments, you have some inkling of what you are searching for, it is never precise, it is never exact. You have not yet defined it.
If you try to define it, the more it becomes defined the more you will feel that there is no need to search for it. The search can continue only in a state of vagueness, in a state of dreaming; when things are not clear you simply go on searching. Pulled by some inner urge, pushed by some inner urgency, one thing you do know: you need to search. This is an inner need. But you don’t know what you are seeking. And unless you know what you are seeking, how can you find it?
It is vague–you think it is in money, power, prestige, respectability. But then you see people who are respectable, people who are powerful–they are also seeking. Then you see people who are tremendously rich–they are also seeking. To the very end of their life they are seeking. So richness is not going to help, power is not going to help. The search continues in spite of what you have.
The search must be for something else. These names, these labels–money, power, prestige–these are just to satisfy your mind. They are just to help you feel that you are searching for something. That something is still undefined, a very vague feeling. The first thing for the real seeker, for the seeker who has become a little alert, aware, is to define the search; to formulate a clear-cut concept of it, what it is; to bring it out of the dreaming consciousness; to look into it directly; to face it.
Immediately a transformation starts happening. If you start defining your search, you will start losing your interest in the search. The more defined it becomes, the less it is there. Once it is clearly known what it is, suddenly it disappears. It exists only when you are not attentive.
Let it be repeated: the search exists only when you are sleepy; the search exists only when you are not aware. The unawareness creates the search.
Yes, Rabia is right. Inside there is no light. And because there is no light and no consciousness inside, of course you go on searching outside–because outside it seems more clear. Our senses are all extroverted. The eyes open outwards, the hands move, spread outwards, the legs move into the outside, the ears listen to the outside noises, sounds. Whatsoever is available to you is all opening towards the outside; all the five senses move in an extrovert way.
You start searching there where you see, feel, touch–the light of the senses falls outside. And the seeker is inside. This dichotomy has to be understood. The seeker is inside but because the light is outside, the seeker starts moving in an ambitious way, trying to find something outside which will be fulfilling. It is never going to happen. It has never happened. It cannot happen in the nature of things–because, unless you have sought the seeker, all your search is meaningless. Unless you come to know who you are, all that you seek is futile, because you don’t know the seeker. Without knowing the seeker how can you move in the right dimension, in the right direction? It is impossible.
The first things should be considered first. If all seeking has stopped and you have suddenly become aware that now there is only one thing to know–”Who is this seeker in me? What is this energy that wants to seek? Who am I?”–then there is a transformation. All values change suddenly. You start moving inwards. Then Rabia is no longer sitting on the road searching for a needle that is lost somewhere in the darkness of one’s own inner soul. Once you have started moving inwards….
In the beginning it is very dark–Rabia is right. It is very, very dark because for lives together you have never been inside–your eyes have been focussed on the outside world. Have you watched it? Sometimes when you come in from the road where it is very sunny and there is bright light–when you suddenly come into the house it is very dark because the eyes are focussed for the outside light. When there is much light, the pupils of the eyes shrink. In darkness the eyes have to relax. But if you sit a little while, by and by the darkness disappears. There is more light; your eyes are settling.
For many lives you have been outside in the hot sun, in the world, so when you go in you have completely forgotten how to re-adjust your eyes. Meditation is nothing but a re-adjustment of your vision, of your eyes. And if you go on looking inside–it takes time–gradually, slowly, you start feeling a beautiful light inside. But it is not aggressive light; it is not like the sun, it is more like the moon. It is not glaring, it is not dazzling, it is very cool; it is not hot, it is very compassionate, it is very soothing, it is a balm.
By and by, when you have adjusted to the inside light, you will see that you are the very source. The seeker is the sought. Then you will see that the treasure is within you and the whole problem was that you were seeking for it outside. You were seeking for it somewhere outside and it has always been here within you. You were seeking in a wrong direction, that’s all.