The dreamworld of Sheikh Chilli

Shabbir Thingna

Once there was a man named Sheikh Chilli who lived in a village somewhere in Asia, who was lazy and a daydreamer. One hot summer afternoon, while he was lying under a tree taking a nap, a rich businessman happened to pass by with his goods. Since the businessman was rich and a stranger in the village, he offered Sheikh Chilli one gold coin if he would carry his goods for him to his destination. The businessman did not mind parting with a gold coin if that would save him time and labor.

Sheikh Chilli who had never seen gold before, immediately got up and agreed to do whatever the businessman asked him to do. The businessman while promising him the gold coin also warned him that since the goods in the basket were heavy, precious and fragile, Sheikh Chilli would have to be very careful with them and he would not give him any money if there was any damage.

Sheikh Chilli put the goods on his head but he was too dazzled by the promise of the gold coin to think about the nitty-gritty details regarding the nature of the goods or the method he should employ in carrying them. He had already begun to make plans and to daydream about the gold coin that he would get.

Our hero thought to himself: when I get the gold coin, I will show it off to my friends in the village who thought I was a good-for-nothing and would never amount to anything in life. Then I will go to the village hen owner and buy a few hens from him. The hens will lay eggs that I will sell them in the market for a few rupees with which I will buy more birds. I will sell these birds when they stop laying eggs and that will get me more money.

Soon I will have collected enough money to buy myself a goat which will give me milk which I can sell to get even more money with which I will buy a cow. Soon I will have a dairy farm and then I will build a house for myself, get married and settle down in life.

When I have children, they will run up to me when I reach home and ask me for toys which I will happily bring for them. Soon I will become a big businessman and may not even have time to come home for food. My children will come to my shop and tug at me, begging me to come home to which I will refuse and say no, no, no ... and with this Sheikh Chilli began to shake his head so violently that the fragile goods which were made of glass, fell down and were reduced to pieces. Poor Sheikh Chilli began to cry and the businessman, who was very angry with him for damaging his goods, beat him with a stick until he was black and blue.

This is the end of the story but what can we learn from it? First of all, we have to realize that what takes us ahead in life and what enables us to earn money is the work that we do. It is in exchange for the service that we provide to our customers that we are able to earn money. Therefore, we must concentrate on providing service and be ever present in that state.

Many of us want to reach our goals so fast that we already begin to dream about our goals and imagine that we have already achieved them, i.e., we begin to identify with those goals. We get angry about anything that destroys our dreams or threatens to destroy them or to prevent us from achieving them.

Suppose we are traveling by a car to reach a fun-fair where there are lots of interesting rides. If we only think about the rides and the enjoyment that we will have, then we will be distracted while driving the car, which may result in an accident preventing us from reaching our destination. If we are sufficiently present, physically as well as mentally, while driving the car, then we will reach our destination and be able to enjoy the rides.

Eckhart Tolle the author of “The Power of Now” says that we should be sufficiently present in the “Now” because that is the only truth in our lives. The past and the future are only in our minds and they too are far removed from reality. The past appears glorious or horrible for some reason and the future is only a projection of what things are likely to be. Even if they are factually accurate, our emotional perception of them varies from time to time depending upon the state of our mind.

My father always told me that whenever you pursue something in life, do not expect the results too soon or be prepared to expect the worst. In this way you may achieve the things you want to. It was difficult for me to understand this logic at first but slowly as time passed and as I began to gain experience in life, it dawned on me that when we set out to do something, we do so with the motivation of achieving our dream.

If we are obsessed and impatient with what we want, then we begin to identify with it and in our passion to get it, we soon begin to imagine that we already have it, that is to say that we begin to mentally identify with it.

This act of identifying with our objective makes us reduce our effort, which is the vehicle for reaching our success, and reducing it nullifies our pursuit of our goals. If you consider the above example of going to a fun-fair in a car, then during the journey, if we imagine that we are already sitting in a roller coaster, we may not pay attention to driving the car which may result in an accident, preventing us from reaching the fun-fair.

Another example is that of a student, who is constantly dreaming of a holiday after his exams, hence not being able to concentrate on his studies and fails as a result of not studying. This kind of distraction during studying robs him of the holiday about which he had been dreaming so intensely.

So the moral of the story is that whatever we do in life, we have to be fully present in it; mentally, physically and emotionally, because it is the present moment that is all that we have and this is the true reality. We should neither torment ourselves with the past nor wallow in its gloriousness because the past always appears to be either more glorious or heinous due to our imagination, than what it actually may have been.

We should also not worry too much about our future because the future belongs to Allah and the only way we can affect our future is by being fully and sufficiently present in the “Now”.

Anticipation, expectation or reaching the future in our imagination is also dangerous because it takes away from our “present” and prevents us from effectively steering ourselves toward our future dreams.

Shabbir Thingna,