THE HAPPIEST MAN
Once a man living in comfortable circumstances went to see a sage reputed to possess great wisdom. He addressed the Wise One:
"Great Sage, I have no problems of livelihood or comfort, and yet I am always unsettled. For years I have sought to be happy, to find a resolution for my inner thoughts, to come to terms with the world. Please advise me as to how I can be cured of this restlessness."
The sage answered:
"My friend, that which is obscure to some is apparent to others, and that which is clear to some is hidden to others. I have the answer to your ailment, though it is an unusual medication. You must set out on a journey, seeking the happiest man in the world. As soon as you find him, you must ask him for his shirt and then put it on."
After travelling through numerous countries for many days, he found the wood in which everyone said lived the happiest man in the world.
He heard the sound of laughter echoing among the trees, and quickened his pace until he came upon a man sitting in a meadow.
"Are you the happiest man in the world, as people say?" he asked.
"Certainly I am", said the other man.
"My name is Hassan, my condition is one of restlessness, and my remedy, ordered by the greatest sage, is to wear your shirt. Please give it to me; I will give you anything I have in exchange for it."
The happiest man looked at him closely and laughed. He laughed and laughed. When he had restrained himself, the restless man, annoyed at this response, said:
"Are you unhinged that you laugh at a solemn request?"
"Perhaps," said the happiest man, "but if you had only taken the trouble to look, you would have seen that I do not possess a shirt."
"Heavens! What am I to do now?"
"You will now be cured. Striving for something unattainable provides the impetus to achieve what is needed. When a man gathers all his strength to jump across a stream as if it were far wider than it is, he leaps over the stream."
The happiest man in the world then took off the turban which had partly concealed his face. The restless man recognized at once the great sage who had originally advised him.
"But why did you not tell me all this long ago when I came to see you?"
"Because you were not ready then to understand. You needed certain experiences, and they had to be given to you in a manner which would ensure that you went through them."
A Sufi Tale