Many years ago two Sufis lived in the Bamiyan Valley at the center of what is now Afghanistan. One was in the ripeness of old age, and carried himself with a gravitas that revealed his deep knowledge. The younger, with a beard still jet black, was, notwithstanding his relative youthfulness, also very wise. Because of this, seekers of all persuasions would come from as far away as Persia to listen to the two Sufis teach, for the words they spoke provided much clarity to any who would listen and ponder what was said.

They taught by question and answer, with the younger playing the part of the questioning pupil while the older responded as he saw fit. They held forth in the valley underneath the towering Buddha statues carved into the rock wall above them, sitting on a carpet in the open air, with their students seated before them.

One day the younger Sufi began by asking, ”What is the right method for a seeker of truth, honored sir?”

The older Sufi responded, saying that, “the means to walk the path towards an inner life consists of but two aspects, the two being preparation and stillness. Just as walking a physical path requires the use of both legs, so the seeker needs to rely on both preparation and stillness in order to travel the path.”

“And what then should the preparation consist of, honored sir?” inquired the younger.

The older Sufi replied that, “the preparation is the repetition of the practice given by the pupil’s teacher, and is specific to that teacher and that pupil.”

“And what is meant by stillness, honored sir?”

“Stillness is the cessation of tension within the mind, the heart and the body, all three. This leads to a quieting of the thoughts and of the emotions, and a deepening relaxation of the body,” said the older Sufi.

“But do these two things just continue, is there nothing else?” asked the younger Sufi.

And the elder replied, “There is one thing more: after years of repetition the activity of preparation and the state of stillness are no longer separate, for then stillness is present all of the time, constantly underlying the work of preparation. Within one’s preparation there is then always stillness and within the stillness there is always the ongoing work of preparation.”

“And I assume this state in which preparation and stillness become unified will finally lead the pupil to a great result, and he will find what it is he seeks,” said the younger Sufi.

“No, you are incorrect; that is a misunderstanding,” replied the elder.

The younger, taken aback, inquired, “What do you mean, honored sir?”

And the elder Sufi then said, “You see, in life, yes, it is true, one works for a result, but for us, we simply continue preparation and stillness as long as we might be permitted to take another breath. Result comes from elsewhere, and should some result come, it is not for us, rather the result is for something else. Result comes from that place which is hidden, and coming from there, it is for what is there, as well.”

The younger Sufi sat for a long time, then, finally, turned towards the older and bowed. The older Sufi said no word, but simply nodded his head in reply. Then the crowd slowly began to disperse, with most of them muttering that this all had made no sense and was a waste of their precious time. But a few did understand, and they left the valley with a renewed purpose, feeling that they had received something of value from the two Sufis, seated under the shadow of the great Buddhas.




  1. The reading of this story is just the beginning of understanding it. It also requires some serious contemplation.

  2. A good point, Greg, a few years, perhaps.
    Good to hear from you, As always. be well, Dennis

  3. I love this story so much! It reminds me of something one of my teachers said in retreat….that delusions are beginning less and endless, so any time that we are not practicing, we are simply creating more delusions and problems. It was also an invitation to enter more deeply into practice moment by moment.
    Marinating in a “goal oriented” culture, it’s so challenging to disconnect with the need to achieve. It’s automatic to create a goal of where I want to be which I somehow perceive to be other than where I am. The pandemic has gotten me to slow down and what a gift. I’ve made friends with all the old cedar trees in the area, and I can now see how they are grandmothers and aunties to each other; how one has begotten the other. How they still talk to each other. How protective I feet toward them and the story they tell. Without the time to settle into all that, my life would be much poorer indeed. Much love to you Dennis!

  4. It is so great to hear from, you, Patti. What a thought you share that if we are not practicing we are creating more delusions. That is so true. The isolation due to the pandemic was a blessing in disguise, wasn’t it? So much time for repetition and reflection, in some way like a year long retreat. Your comments about the cedar trees reminds me of a wonderful book I am reading, Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard.
    If you haven’t read it you might try and may find that it speaks to you. And I return your sentiment of love, be well dear friend.

  5. Readiness is all.
    Stillness is all.
    The sound of raindrops surprised me.

  6. Deb, you give a smile for this morning. Thank you, dear friend.

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