When a Sufi mystic went to his master, renouncing the world, his family and friends, the whole village came to see him off. Perhaps they might never see him again — he was going on a long pilgrimage. Their eyes were full of tears.
THE VOICE WITHIN
He tried to console them and said, “You should go back. This is the boundary of our town, the river. Now let me be alone. Don’t delay me.”
He reached the mountains and when he entered the hut of his master, the sage looked at him and said, “You can come in, but alone.” He looked to both sides; there was nobody else. He said, “I am alone.”
The master said, “Don’t look sideways. Look inside. I can see a crowd, a crowd of your family, relatives, friends, neighbors — their eyes full of tears. Just leave them outside. Until you are alone, don’t enter, because I can deal only with individuals, not with crowds.”
The man closed his eyes and was surprised. All the people that he had left far behind, were still there in his mind — their memories, their images. He went out and had to remain outside for three months, just sitting by the side of the door where people would leave their shoes. Having nothing else to do, he would polish their shoes while they were meeting with the master.
But his objective was clear, his longing sincere. As he kept polishing the shoes of visitors, ever so slowly, the crowd dispersed. And one day, the master came out, took his hand in his hands, and invited him in. “Now there is no need to wait outside. You are alone and our work can begin,” the sage said.