The two Sufis were again seated beneath one of the great Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley, facing out towards a large assembly who had gathered to hear them and learn. The younger Sufi began by saying, “I feel very sad for those who do not have access to a teacher or a teaching. It seems that there is no hope for such people, for there are no practices available to aid them in their lives.” 
 
The elder Sufi turned towards the younger and replied, “You are mistaken, there is always hope, and there is a practice for everyone that is very powerful and leads to excellent results. It is a most wonderful practice, and akin to the effect of lighting a lamp in a darkened room, for, just the same, it causes a person’s inner attitude to become lighter.”
 
“Is this perhaps a practice of prayer or meditation?” asked the younger Sufi. 
 
The elder replied, “No, for this exercise neither prayer nor meditation are needed.” 
 
At that point the younger inquired of the elder, “Please tell me the nature of this universal practice, so everyone here may learn from your words.” 
 
The older Sufi then responded, “The practice is simply to recognize at any moment that there is something near you that is good, and to feel in one’s heart gratitude for that. It may be a cold glass of water on a hot summer day or a pair of shoes that do not hurt your feet. It may be the smile of a stranger when you are in a new place or a warm bowl of soup on a cold night. For every such thing, whether large or small, the practice is simply to feel grateful and to silently acknowledge to oneself this feeling of gratitude. If a person were to practice this ever day without fail they would certainly change. The result would be that they would become lighter inside and that inner lightness would cause them be seen by others in a different light.  And being seen this way by others would unconsciously reinforce this attitude within themselves, creating an even larger sense of gratitude for all of their life. Thus the practice would deepen on its own accord.”
 
“So, for example I should recognize that my robe is very nice, and especially compared to others whose robes are tattered and torn? Or, that I am in good health and grateful that I am not suffering like so many? Is this what you mean, honored sir?” asked the younger Sufi. 
 
The older Sufi looked through the younger one with a penetrating gaze and replied, “That would be an error, for to bring any idea of comparison into the practice causes it to descend from feeling to thought. If it remains a feeling the practice is a strong medicine, an antidote for error and selfishness. If it becomes a thought, it has only a little power, and will not help one very much at all.  Simply focus on one’s own situation, and what is here now. Concern for others is of course good, but leave such thoughts out of this practice.”
 
“And would this practice be sufficient unto itself, with no need for other efforts, were it to be followed with diligence?” asked the younger Sufi. 
 
The elder Sufi paused, then speaking slowly he said, “The Way is long and the development of an inner life that corresponds to what is possible for a person is the work of a lifetime. Nevertheless, this practice of gratitude could be a great help to anyone, regardless of who they are.” At that point he turned his attention away from his young companion, and, casting his gaze into the distance, indicated that he had said all he wished to say, and that it was time to stop.
 
The younger Sufi thanked the elder, and the listeners who were gathered in front of the great statue rose up from their places and went on about their activities. But a few took the words that they had heard to heart, and practiced what had been given by the elder Sufi from that day forward. And they found that what he had taught was indeed true, and they then often thought of the old Shaykh with gratitude.
 
Comments are welcome
 
Note: The first story about the two Sufis, published last May, is available here.