The parables presented by Shah are a special story. The books in which he collected parables used by Sufis as teaching material have the highest value. Thanks to them, everyone can come into touch with the wisdom accumulated and handed down through the ages. Shah selected them for anthologies, proceeding from some sort of his own notions and purposes, but work with the parables promises quite a bit of revelations to the person who devotes to this a certain amount of time.
Shah constantly indicated that in each parable, several levels of meaning can be found. That is indeed the case in the majority of parables. But the ability to discover them for yourself corresponds to the experience you possess, and nothing else in any way. Shah himself wrote that the educational meaning of some of the parables can be understood only by knowing the language of symbols used in them, by having a knowledge of their Sufi meaning. With some of the parables, most likely that is the case. There are quite a few parables, however, adapted by Shah for the Western reader, where the knowledge of symbolism is practically not needed. But you have to be able to work with a parable in order to come to an awareness of various levels of meaning represented in it.
If you want to understand what is contained in a given parable, it must be recited. It is not enough to read it one or two times. You must keep returning to it, and re-read it again and again, until it firmly settles in your mind. In re-reading it, you must look at the main meaning of the story and the secondary meanings scattered here and there and representing keys which can be used in practice to obtain new experience and understanding.
Here, for example, is a brief parable from the book Thinkers of the East: “In the Sufi monastery in Shishtau, in the tekke there is a hall lined with gorgeous, priceless inlaid tiles.
Throughout almost three centuries, sheikhs, emirs, sultans and scholars flocked here to meditate and be in the presence of the Master of the Age.
But he had his very own circle, and he held his classes in a rectangular room which looked like a kitchen.
That is why in many tekkes there is a place known as the Hearth.”
What can be said regarding the meanings that flow from it? The most obvious one is that the hidden part of the Sufi Work always exists, in which those who are really prepared for it take part. And here is another one: that everyone can receive only that which he is really prepared, and even the Master of the Age cannot offer you more than you are prepared to assimilate and perceive. And that neither book knowledge or high position and money can change this situation. Moreover, the true Work must not be brought out for show, and those who come to be in the presence of the Master do not necessarily know about it and this is even contraindicated. And one other meaning: while you are concerned about the external – your position, the surrounding in which the teaching takes place and with how and where you are received – the path inside will be closed to you. The Hearth is the heart of the Sufi Work, and at the same time the symbol of the human Heart. If you want to be in the company of nobility and feel yourself an important persona, then you are not prepared to turn to the Heart.
The Sufi parables published and processed by Shah are truly invaluable teaching material. Those who have come into contact with him – directly or through communication – have been suggested to develop their understanding through reading and interpreting them. Even parables well known to you should be re-read from time to time, and then you can understand how much you have grown and deepened your understanding, and that means how much you have advanced in work on yourself. In general it is useful to periodically return to teaching texts if, of course, you do not consider that you have already understood and learned everything that you need to learn.