My love you, my grandchildren, my sons and daughters, my brothers and sisters.
Come with me and we will visit what was once a great kingdom. A century ago it was ruled by a mighty king.
Look over there. That is where the king’s palace once stood. And here on this spot where we stand today, he built an ashram for wandering gnanis, swamis, gurus, yogis, and men of wisdom to rest and refresh themselves. See how crumbling and desolate the ashram is now. The foundation still stands, but the wall have fallen to ruin.
My grandchildren, I will tell you a story about this king and why he built a special resting place for wandering wise men. This is a story you should know.
Once upon time before he ruled this kingdom, the king was just a common man, living in the mountains to the east. How do you suppose he became king? In olden days, rogues would band together, choose a leader, and plunder the countryside in all directions. If the leader was clever, his power would grow. That is how this man came to be king. He was appointed the leader of a band which grew in size and power, capturing more and more land, until he had acquired a whole kingdom. And as he and his men conquered the adjoining kingdoms one by one, he became mighty in wealth and power.
One day the king thought, “This is how things happen in the world. If someone more clever than I comes along, he will capture my kingdom just as I captured the kingdoms of so many others. Even if I escaped with my life, where would I go? If someone seized my wealth, how do I earn a livelihood? What would I do?”
Then one day, the king read in the Puranas about the wise alchemists who knew how to make gold. “If I could learn how to make gold from metals such as copper and iron, I’d be safe,” he thought. “Even if someone seized my kingdom and all my wealth, it wouldn’t matter. I wouldn’t need a kingdom. I could make gold anywhere. I must find such an alchemist.”
And so the king built an ashram for wandering wise men. The roof and pillars were made of copper. There were two doors, one in front and one in back. Over the entrance was a sign which read:
“Welcome all gnanis, swamis, yogis, miracle workers, and gurus!
Come and eat three free meals a day for three days.”
And over the exit there was a sign which read:
“O great miracle workers, both holy and wise! You have eaten well. Now help us if you can. If you know how, change this copper house into gold.
Then we will be able to continue our charitable work for a long, long time.”
The king posted guards all around the ashram, instructing them, “If anyone turns this ashram to gold, stop him and bring him to me. Don’t let him leave!”
Millions of people stopped to eat and went on their way, but not one knew how to turn copper into gold. Then one day, at long last, a guru arrived with ten or eleven disciples. The guru read the first sign. He knew his disciple were hungry, so he led them inside. Although the guru took only a little, his disciple ate well.
As they were leaving, the guru saw the second sign. Telling his disciple to wait, he went outside and returned with a special herb. He stood in the middle of the room, between the entrance and the exit, crushed the herb between his hands, and blew on it. The bits of crushed herb scattered through the air, and the whole ashram turned to gold.
As the guru walked toward the exit, the guards immediately surrounded him. “Swami, please do not leave The king wants to see you. You have given us so much wealth. Please, you must come to the palace.”
And so the guru was carried on a palanquin to the palace. The king had no sooner paid hid respects, then he began to plead, “You are my god. I built the ashram and invited people of wisdom to come so that I could learn how to make gold. I have waited so long for someone as wise as you. You must teach me this secret art.”
“Is that so, O King?” th guru asked. “Very well, you can learn to make gold, but do you really want something that changes and diappears? Gold will not remain with you. Neither wealth nor poverty are permanent. Both will leave you, just as you too will have to leave this world one day. So what is the use of learning to make gold? O King, do you understand?”
“But Swami, learning to make gold is my life’s desire! Please teach me how. Please!” he begged.
“Well, if this is what you want, you must come and stay with me for twelve years. Then I will teach you. But first you must make yourself look like my other disciples. You must leave behind your jewels, your luxurious clothing, and even your sandals. You can bring only two sets of clothes, one to wear and one for a change.”
The king’s desire to learn how to make gold was so strong that he agreed to sacrifice all his comforts and go with the guru.
After handling over the entire kingdom to the care of his ministries, he walked out of the palace, leaving behind all of his wealth and finery. Barefooted, he presented himself to the guru and began his journey.
They walked and walked. How the king suffered! He hobbled along painfully, his tender feet burning from the hot sand and stones. Finally, the group stopped to rest in a small cave deep in the jungle. Everyday, the guru sent the king and another disciple deep into the jungle to pick fruit, dig for wild yams, and fetch water. Thorns stabbed the king’s feet and tore at his face and body. Because he was accustomed to great comfort and cleanliness, the king found it extremely difficult to live in the jungle. Within a few weeks his whole body was covered with sores, and he became feverish.
“O God!” he thought to himself. “Why do I have to suffer? I don’t need gold. How comfortable I would be if I had stayed in my palace! Even without knowing how to make gold, I could have enjoyed my daily food. As it is, I haven’t learned any wisdom, and I haven’t learned the art of alchemy. I am just suffering.”
Day by day, year after year, his suffering increased. From head to toe he was covered with oozing, bloody sores that would not heal, and he itched all over. He could barely walk, yet he and another disciple were sent out to do every chore that needed to be done. The other disciples took turns, but the king had to go out everyday for eleven years. Often he cried, and there were many nights when he could not sleep. Many times he wanted to give up and run away. But then he would think, “No, I have come here to learn, and I must see it through.”
Finally, one day the guru said, “Bring the king here.”
When the king came before him, the guru asked, “Are you a king or a disciple?”
“I am a disciple,” he replied. “I am no longer a king. Soon I will die.”
“You have not yet learned what you came here to learn.”
“More than eleven years have passed, Swami.”
“Come with me,” the guru said, and he led the king to the foot of a mountain rocks. “Pick that herb,” commanded the guru. “Crush it between your hands, blow on it, then rub it on those rocks. You will see them change. Then make a pile of all the ones that changed.”
The king did as the guru instructed, and the rocks changed into chunks of iron. That was on the first day. On the next day, told him to take a different herb, crush it, and blow on it. This time the rocks he rubbed tirned to lead, and the king piled them up on one side. On the following day, the guru instructed him to use another herb, and this time the rocks changed into copper. The king made another pile. The next day the guru said, “Take these two herbs, crush them together, blow on them, and spread them over the rocks.” These rocks turned to silver, and the king made yet another pile. On the next day, the guru told the king to pluck and crush still another combination of herbs. This time the rocks changed into a gold alloy.
On the following day, the king was told to gather yet another combination. He crushed the herbs, blew on them, and the rocks were transformed into ingots of pure gold. The king piled them up. He now had six huge piles.
Then on the final day, the guru instructed the king to pick nine different kind of herbs. The guru said, “After crushing these, blow them onto nine different sections of the remaining rock,” When the king had finished, the rest of the mountain had been transformed into nine huge mounds of sparkling gems. There were emeralds, diamonds, rubies, lapis lazuli, cinnamon stones, pearls, sapphires, coral, and topaz.
“King, you may leave now, if you wish. But first look carefully at the wealth before you, and then tell me what your final decision is.”
The king stared at the mounds upon mounds of gems and gold. He picked up handfuls of gems, tossed them into the air, and let them shower down upon himself. Then he rolled around in the glittering riches. But after a while he thought, “What am I doing? This is not what I need.” And he returned to his guru.
“You have finished the work that you came for,” the guru told the king. “All this is yours. You can take it with you.”
“O Swami,” the king answered, “I have been with you for twelve years, and I have finally come to realize that what you told me is true. I see now that I do not need this wealth. Wealth is something that comes and goes. You have the ability to make a mountain rock into a mountain of gold, yet you have chosen to give up this worldly wealth and live in a simple cave. The wealth you have is different. You have chosen the wealth of God’s kingdom, the wealth of God’s grace, which will never change or diminish. Nothing can be compared to the wealth of wisdom, love, justice, equality, peace and compassion. It has no equal.
“I have seen everything my mind wanted to see, eveything my desire searched for. Gold is not true wealth, it is only earth. Once I desired and enjoyed the things of the earth, but not anymore. Although I was a king, I did not have the peace that you have.” Looking at the gold and precious gems heaped up around him, he said, “I will not benefit from all this. Someone might try to kill me for it. It is a disease that could destroy me and also destroy the wealth of grace.
“Swami, please accept me as your disciple. I need the wealth that is undiminishing and indestructible. Please give me that. I want to learn how to gain the wealth of God’s grace from you.”
“Now, you are indeed my disciple,” replied the guru. “You are God’s child, and you are a child of my love. Come.”
And so the man who had been king was cured of all his sores, and his body was transformed into a beautiful form. The guru taught him about God’s wisdom and grace, and he became a light to the kingdom of God. Having received undiminishing wealth of grace, he lived as a child in the kingdom of God, able to serve all lives and see them as his own. He served the soul, he served God and his guru, and he served the world and all of mankind. He never returned to reclaim his kingdom, for he no longer wanted it.
My grandchildren, little did the king know that shortly after he had followed his guru into the jungle, enemies invaded his kingdom and killed all his ministries. Kings from far and near came to fight over the gold roof and pillars of the ashram. They grabbed whatever they could and carried it back to their kingdoms.
This broken-down building you see in front of you, my grandchildren, is the ashram the king built for the wandering wisemen. Now it has crumbled and mingled with the earth, along with those who died fighting for the gold and gems of the world. And look over there at the king’s palace. It is also in ruins, nothing but dust and ashes, a haven for birds and bats.
Think about this, my grandchildren, my brothers and sisters, my daughters and sons. Like the king who wanted to make gold, people think they need to search for worldly wealth. It would be better if they would search for the wealth of grace and divine knowledge, for the wealth of God’s qualities and love.
Those who understand God’s love and show it to others, considering every person’s life as their own, will know real freedom. Those who serve others with God’s love will become peaceful and serene. They will receive God’s everlasting wealth in the world of the soul, in this world, and in the hereafter. But the lives of those who do not search for the permanent wealth of God will crumble into ruin, just as this palace crumbled.
Think about this and make te effort to search for God’s wealth. The effort you put into gathering worldly wealth is wasted. The things of the world wil not turn into gold. They are billboards for hell. Surrender to God and prepare your heart to accept whatever He gives with patience and praise, both in this world and in the next. Have the contentment to believe that whatever Allah gives you is enough. To attain this contentment, you need wisdom, the divine knowledge of ‘ilm, and the faith, certitude, and determination known as iman.
You do not have to suffer, my grandchildren. Your Creator will give you the necessary food at the correct time, but you must do your part. Look at the animals. See how chickens find their food in the earth, and the birds find their food in the trees and grass. Allah has provided for them all. But they must make the effort to find what He has given them. And through your own efforts, you too must find the permissible food that God has created for you.
My children, as you search for Allah, try to become peaceful and attain a state where you can share your peace with others. Always be as thoughtful of others as you are of yourself and share what you receive with your neighbors and those who are hungry. Prepare your heart to do this work. Make your love for Allah clear, and when wisdom and His qualities come within you, you can transform yourself as the king did. If you strengthen your iman, you can receive Allah’s wealth of grace and rule in the three worlds. That is certain.
Good qualities, actions, conduct, and love rule Allah’s kingdom. God has one hundred powerful qualities which are His duties. Of these He has kept for Himself the one duty of creating, protecting, and sustaining His creations. But the other ninety-nine are there for you to share.
Therefore, perform your duties and try to find wisdom.
You can never find lasting peace by collecting gold and gems. They are not permanent. Instead, fill your heart with God’s qualities and with peace and tranquility. They are the greatest wealth, the wealth of grace, wisdom and justice.
My love you, my grandchildren. May you think about this. God is all we need for our lives. Strengthen your faith, your iman. Be patient and be content. Surrender to Allah and praise Him. Pray to God, bow to Him, and pay your respects to Him. Make this firm and definite in your lives. That will be very good. When you reach this state, it is certain that you will receive the beauty of youth and the light of His rahmat, which is the wealth of His benevolent grace.
My love you, my grandchildren. May you have the faith to make your lives complete and to receive wealth of peace that never changes and never ends. May Allah bring the perfect fulfillment of His qualities, His beauty, and His light to shine in your hearts and in your faces. Amin. May He give you the divine knowledge called ‘ilm. Amin. Amin. Ya Rabbal ‘aalamiin. Assalaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakatuhu. So be it. So be it. O Ruler of the universes. May the peace of God and His beneficience be upon all of you.
(Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. Come to the Secret Garden. Fellowship Press. 1985)