The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality
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The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality

Chapter 10

Plato


By Khurram Ali Shafique

The Poet says, “Negation of the self is a doctrine invented by nations who have been defeated, in order that by this means they may sap and weaken the character of the conquerors.”

The Doctrine of Sheep

In a certain habitat where sheep prosper because there are no predators, a clan of lions appears and starts preying upon them. To get rid of this menace, an elderly sheep proclaims itself to be a prophet sent by God to the lions, and teaches them the virtues of self-negation.

“O you insolent liars, unmindful of day of ill luck that shall continue for ever!” The sheep addresses the lions. “I am possessed of spiritual power and am an apostle sent by God for the tigers. I come as a light for the eye that is dark. I come to establish laws and give commandments. The solidarity of life depends on the denial of the self. The sharpness of your teeth brings disgrace upon you and makes the eye of your perception blind. It is wicked to seek greatness and glory, and if you are sensible, you will be a mote of sand rather than be a vast desert. Then you shall enjoy sunbeams. You, who delight in the slaughter of sheep, slay your self and you will have honor. Though trodden underfoot, the grass grows up time after time and washes the sleep of death from its eye again and again. Forget your self, if you are wise. Close your eyes, close your ears, close your lips that your thought may reach the lofty sky!”

The lions lose their vigor. Bodily strength diminishes, spiritual fear increases, low mindedness and other diseases appear and they call this the Moral Culture.

Plato

“Plato, whose thought has deeply influenced the mysticism and literature of Islam, followed the doctrine of the sheep,” says Iqbal. “We must be on our guard against his theories.”

The famous Greek philosopher appears before you. His horse goes astray in the darkness of Ideas and becomes lame before the rocks of actuality. Presently there appear gazelles that do not move, partridges devoid of the pleasure of walking daintily, dewdrops unable to quiver, birds with no breath in their breasts, seeds without desire to grow and moths that do not know how to flutter. “To die is the secret of Life,” says the philosopher. “The candle is glorified by being put out.”

You can see some famous thinkers and writers from different lands and times sitting at his feet.

“This is a reference to the famous theory of Ideas, or Forms, on which Aristotle has offered a splendid criticism,” Iqbal explains. “Regrettably, a complete explanation of this issue is not possible here.” Perhaps it is not needed either. The purpose of the Garden is to give you experience, not information.

DISCUSS

  • How does the parable of the sheep contrast with the story of Bu Ali Qalandar from the previous chapter?
  • How does the depiction of Plato in this chapter illustrate the Doctrine of the Sheep?

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A parable describing some other forms of "spiritual teachings" that could be confused with the present message is followed by the Poet's warning against the Greek philosopher Plato.
Persian text