The Buddha said:

Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.

But how do we discover our work? And even if we did, where do we find the “basic trust”; that fundamental capacity to surrender? How do we become able to let go of what we have and what we know, in order to give ourselves to it wholeheartedly?

You can read my other posts on this topic here. Today, however; I would like to share with you one of my favourite stories from the book Tales of the Dervishes[1]. Enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section.

There was once a man named Mojud[2]. He lived in a town where he had obtained a post as a small official, and it seemed likely that he would end his days as Inspector of Weights and Measures.

One day when he was walking through the gardens of an ancient building near his home, Khidr[3], the mysterious Guide of the Sufis, appeared to him, dressed in shimmering green. Khidr said, “Man of bright prospects! Leave your work and meet me at the riverside in three days’ time.” Then he disappeared.

Mojud went to his superior in trepidation and said that he had to leave. Everyone in the town soon heard of this and they said, “Poor Mojud! He has gone mad.” But, as there were many candidates for his job, they soon forgot him.


[Painting Copyright Frank Boyle.]

On the appointed day, Mojud met Khidr, who said to him, “Tear your clothes and throw yourself into the stream. Perhaps someone will save you.”

Mojud did so, even though he wondered if he were mad. Since he could swim, he did not drown, but drifted a long way before a fisherman hauled him into his boat, saying, “Foolish man! The current is strong. What are you trying to do?”

Mojud said, “I don’t really know.”

“You are mad,” said the fisherman, “But I will take you into my reed-hut by the river yonder, and we shall see what can be done for you.”

When he discovered that Mojud was well-spoken, he learned from him how to read and write. In exchange, Mojud was given food and helped the fisherman with his work. After a few months, Khidr again appeared, this time at the foot of Mojud’s bed, and said, “Get up now and leave this fisherman. You will be provided for.”

Mojud immediately quit the hut, dressed as a fisherman, and wandered about until he came to a highway. As dawn was breaking he saw a farmer on a donkey on his way to market. “Do you seek work?” asked the farmer, “because I need a man to help me bring back some purchases.”

Mojud followed him. He worked for the farmer for nearly two years, by which time he had learned a great deal about agriculture but little else.

One afternoon when he was baling wool, Khidr appeared to him and said, “Leave that work, walk to the city of Mosul, and use your savings to become a skin-merchant.”

Mojud obeyed.

In Mosul he became known as a skin-merchant, never seeing Khidr while he plied his trade for three years. He had saved quite a large sum of money, and was thinking of buying a house, when Khidr appeared and said, “Give me your money, walk out of this town as far as the distant Samarkand, and work for a grocer there.”

Mojud did so.

Presently he began to show undoubted signs of illumination. He healed the sick, served his fellow men in the shop during his spare time, and his knowledge of the mysteries became deeper and deeper.

Clerics, philosophers and others visited him and asked, “under whom did you study?”

“It is difficult to say,” said Mojud.

His disciples asked, “How did you start your career?”

He said, “As a small official.”

“And you gave it up to devote yourself to self-mortification?”

“No, I just gave it up.”

They did not understand him.

People approached him to write the story of his life.

“What have you been in your life?” they asked.

“I jumped into a river, became a fisherman, then walked out of his reed-hut in the middle of one night. After that, I became a farmhand. While I was baling wool, I changed and went to Mosul, where I became a skin-merchant. I saved some money there, but gave it away. Then I walked to Samarkand where I worked for a grocer. And this is where I am now.”

“But this inexplicable behaviour throws no light upon your strange gifts and wonderful examples,” said the biographers.

“That is so,” said Mojud.

So the biographers constructed for Mojud a wonderful and exciting story: because all saints must have their story, and the story must be in accordance with the appetite of the listener, not with the realities of life.

And nobody is allowed to speak of Khidr directly. That is why this story is not true. It is a representation of a life. This is the real life of one of the greatest Sufis.


  1. Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. A little book of Sufi stories designed to bypass our mental defences to make us grasp higher wisdom principles. I highly recommend it.
  2. Mojud happens to mean “that which exists” or “creature”; so this story applies to all of us.
  3. Khidr literally means “the Green One” and is the symbol of Divine Guidance. “As a righteous servant of God possessing great wisdom or mystic knowledge. In various Islamic and non-Islamic traditions, Khidr is described as a messenger, a prophet who guards the sea, teaches secret knowledge and aids those in distress. He prominently figures as patron of the Islamic saint ibn Arabi. Khidr has been syncretized over time with various other figures including Dūraoša and Sorūsh in Iran, Sargis the General and Saint George in Asia Minor and the Levant, Samael (the divine prosecutor) in Judaism, Elijah among the Druze, John the Baptist in Armenia, and Jhulelal in Sindh and Punjab in South Asia.” (See Khidr).
  • [Painting Copyright Frank Boyle.]