In a certain city it was the tradition for men to have tattoos, and one day, a young man went to his barber to get his first tattoo. “Make it a lion, a great, brave heroic lion,” he ordered. “Put it on my shoulder blade so that I will have this lion at my back all the time.” The barber got out his needles and inks and began, but the man was soon howling in pain.

“What part is that you are drawing?” “The tail,” answered the barber.

“Never mind the tail,” said the man in a shaky voice. “I don’t need the tail.”

The barber resumed, but soon enough the man was howling again. “What part is that?”

“The belly,” said the tattoo artist.

“Leave that off, just do the important part,” the man wailed.

As you might guess, the man was soon screaming once more. “Now what part is that?”

“The ear, sir,” said the barber.

“I don’t need the ear!” sobbed the man.

The master lion-maker
stands for a long time with his fingers in his teeth.
Finally he throws the needle down.
“No one has ever
been asked to do such a thing! To create a lion
without a tail or a head or a stomach.
God himself could not do it!”

Brother, stand the pain.
Escape the poison of your impulses.
The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do.
Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun.
Turn away from the cave of your sleeping.
That way a thorn expands to a rose.
A particular glows with the universal.
What is it to praise?
Make yourself particles.

What is it to know something of God?
Burn inside that presence. Burn up.
Copper melts in the healing elixir.
So melt yourself in the mixture
that sustains existence.
You tighten your two hands together,
determined not to give up saying “I” and “we.”
This tightening blocks you.

2 thoughts on “Rumi Parables: The Lion Tattoo

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