The Sufi stories of remembrance are among the most profound I have encountered. (1)
We search and we search and then maybe one day we will not need to search further.
Driven by our own inner knowledge that somewhere we will find God, we walk in the dust and heat of the road, we are the source of humor by many.
Our search leads us to the place of desperation, the abyss, and finally our heart breaks open to the emptiness where God has always been present.
The Sufi’s say this is the timeless moment in which we are bonded together with God. We find Unity. We search to find what was always inside us because then we discover our own true nature.
This is my favorite story of fishes who made the great journey in order to find out what water is. The story says much about our great search.
There was a lake and in this lake there lived many fish. It was a beautiful lake. There was enough to eat, there were many trees around the lake. The sun shone almost every day because it was in the south. The water was not too cold and the fish were very, very happy. But one day after a heavy rain in the hills, the river swelled and carried into the lake a trout.
“Ha,” said the trout, “this is a lake and bigger than the river. But this lake is really a boring place.”
So the trout swam around and looked at everything, and said, “Water is not flowing here. There is nothing that interests me to eat here. I want flies and there are no flies here. There are just a lot of silly little fish.” And the trout jumped into the air and said, “I bet they don’t even know what water is,” and he swam back into the river.
The fish looked at each other and said, “What did he say? We don’t know what water is? I wonder what he can mean!” And so they founded a university and had workshops and seminars and intellectual exercises, and invited wise fish. However, nobody was able to tell them what water is.
So little by little they became depressed, and had conflicts and needed psycho-logical healing. But none of it helped. Then one day someone remembered that far, far away, at the end of the seventh lake, there was a very wise fish. He was hundreds of years old. He was so mighty and wonderful that he was all silver. So they decided to swim there and ask him what water is.
They swam through the first lake, where some were caught by eagles and others by fishermen. In the second lake more were caught, and others became too tired to go on while still others found tasty morsels and were diverted from the journey.
So it went on until out of the hundreds who had started only thirty or forty arrived in the seventh lake. At the end of that lake there was a cave, and in that cave there was a very big, silver fish. It was enormous and almost blind, and it was in samadhi. The little fishes all made a circle around him and waited.
Eventually the wise old fish opened his eyes, which twinkled, looked around him and said, “Brothers, why have you come here? What do you want?”
“Sir,” one of them timidly said, “we came to ask you a question.” “What is the question?” asked the wise old fish. “Sir, we want to know what is water.”
The wise old fish did not answer, but he closed his eyes and went back into samadhi.
The little fish stayed there, patiently but with pumping hearts. After a long while he opened his eyes, and said, “My friends, I do not know what water is. But I can tell you what water is not. Water is not the sky, water is not the clouds, it is not the grass, it is not the stones, it is not the trees.” And he talked for a very long time telling them what water is not. Then he closed his eyes and went back into samadhi.
So the fish looked at each other and said, “He told us what water is not. Ah! Maybe water is where we are!”
And they became very happy, and swam away back to their little lake and lived happily ever after.
(1) Llewllyn Vaughan-Lee. “In The Company of Friends”. The Golden Sufi Center, 1994