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
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, 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
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.
- 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?
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.