Quotes by Idries Shah

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MAN: Kick him-he'll forgive you. Flatter him-he may or may not see through you. But ignore him and he'll hate you more...

Enlightenment must come little by little - otherwise it would overwhelm. more...

If you give what can be taken, you are not really giving. Take what you are given, not what you want to be given. Give what cannot be taken. more...

One of the tragedies of modern times is that people have come to believe that something said by someone in the past, perhaps for illustrative or provocation purposes, actually represents that person's beliefs at the time. more...

We view Sufism not as an ideology that molds people to the right way of belief or action, but as an art or science that can exert a beneficial influence on individuals and societies, in accordance with the needs of those individuals and societies ... Sufi study and development gives one capacities one did not have before. more...

Study the assumptions behind your actions. Then study the assumptions behind your assumptions. more...

From imperial, economic and ideological causes, many cultures are the inheritors, and hence the prisoners, of attitudes of scorn and disdain for other faiths - outlooks which are not ennobling to anyone. more...

When prayer, rituals and ascetic life are just a means of self-indulgence, they are harmful rather than beneficial. This is quite obvious to people nowadays, when it is widely recognised that fixations are not the same as valuable and laudable observances. One should not pray if that prayer is vanity; rituals are wrong when they provide lower satisfactions, like emotional stimulus instead of enlightenment; he or she should not be an ascetic who is only enjoying it. more...

If a pot can multiply. One day Nasrudin lent his cooking pots to a neighbour, who was giving a feast. The neighbour returned them, together with one extra one - a very tiny pot. 'What is this?' asked Nasrudin. 'According to law, I have given you the offspring of your property which was born when the pots were in my care,' said the joker. Shortly afterwards Nasrudin borrowed his neighbour's pots, but did not return them. The man came round to get them back. 'Alas!' said Nasrudin, 'they are dead. We have established, have we not, that pots are mortal?'. more...

When a belief becomes more than an instrument, you are lost. You remain lost until you learn what 'belief' is really for. more...

When Fortune knocks, open the door,' they say. But why should one make fortune knock, by keeping the door shut? more...

When the ignorant have become numerous or powerful enough, they have been referred to by a special name. This names is 'the Wise'. more...

When the lion had eaten its fill, and the jackals had taken their share, the ants came along and finished up the meat from the bones of the haughty stag. more...

The Path is not to be found anywhere except in human service more...

When people have a hard task to do - one which stretches them - they become less concerned with trivial matters. more...

A certain person may have, as you say, a wonderful presence; I do not know. What I do know is that he has a perfectly delightful absence. more...

You must empty out the dirty water before you fill the pitcher with clean. more...

Materialism, attachment to things of the world, includes pride. Many religious people suffer from pride: taking pleasure or even delight in being good, or religious. more...

The Sufi way is through knowledge and practice, not through intellect and talk. more...

The human being, whether he realises it or not, is trusting someone or something every moment of the day. more...

One cannot learn from someone whom one distrusts. more...

If you want to make an ordinary man happy, or think that he is happy, give him money, power, flattery, gifts, honours. If you want to make a wise man happy - improve yourself! more...

It is not only a matter of not caring who knows - it is also a matter of knowing who cares. more...

To be obsessed by the idea of freedom, for instance, is itself a form of slavery. Such people are in the chains of the hope of freedom, and are therefore able to do little else than struggle with them. more...

A motto of the human race: Let me do as I like, and give me approval as well. more...

You need not wonder whether you should have an unreliable person as a friend. An unreliable person is nobody's friend. more...

The proverb says that 'The answer to a fool is silence'. Observation, however, indicates that almost any other answer will have the same effect in the long run. more...

Opinion is usually something which people have when they lack comprehensive information. more...

An egocentric pessimist is a person who thinks he hasn't changed, but that other people are behaving worse than before. more...

It is not important to have said a thing first, or best - or even most interestingly. What is important is to say it on the right occasion. more...

A generous person may not have wisdom: but, unlike others, he has the means to gain it. more...

Talking about straws and camels' backs is just one way of approaching things. If you have enough camels, no backs need be broken. more...

The learned person who only talks will never Penetrate to the inner heart of humans. more...

A king who feared wasps once decreed that they were abolished. As it happened, they did him no harm. But he was eventually stung to death by scorpions. more...

Advice is priceless: when it becomes interference it is preposterous. more...

The word 'choice' is a fraud while people choose only what they have been taught to choose. more...

Better to be safe than to be sorry' is a remark of value only when these are the actual alternatives. more...

The impatient man is his own enemy; he slams the door on his own progress. more...

If you want to strengthen an enemy and make him exult - hate him. more...

The Way of the Sufis cannot be understood by means of the intellect or by ordinary book learning. more...

The secret of Sufism is that it has no secret at all'. more...

Anybody or anything may stand between you and knowledge if you are unfit for it. more...

Learn to be as analytical about things of which you are credulous as you are of those which you criticise. more...

If you are uninterested in what I say, there's an end to it. If you like what I say, please try to understand which previous influences have made you like it. If you like some of the things I say, and dislike others, you could try to understand why. If you dislike all I say, why not try to find out what formed your attitude? more...

One can give or withhold in a manner far more effective, sophisticated, useful, which is quite invisible to people who think that giving or withholding is done by external assessment. If you seek some mark of favour or 'promotion', know that you are not ready for it. Progress comes through capacity to learn, and is irresistible. Nobody can stand between you and knowledge if you are fit for it. more...

You are still adrift while you still think that a means is an end. more...

If the path has been laid down, why the successive appearance of different teachers? Why would anyone reinvent the wheel, if everything were as cosy and sequential as primitive longing so easily convinces us? more...

When the Higher Man does something worthy of admiration, it is an evidence of his Mastership, not the object of it. more...

But one may say something and yet not be able to do it. Try, for instance, lifting yourself up by the bootstraps. more...

Trying to force something is the best way to stop it happening. more...

Mediation - Before you learn how to meditate, you must unlearn what you think meditation might be. more...

Many things which are called 'secrets' are only things withheld from people until they can understand or effectively experience them. more...

Like the bat, the Sufi is asleep to 'things of the day' - the familiar struggle for existence which the ordinary man finds all-important - and vigilant while others are asleep. In other words, he keeps awake the spiritual attention dormant in others. That 'mankind sleeps in a nightmare of unfulfillment' is a commonplace of Sufi literature more...

There is a Persian proverb: 'To test that which has been tested is ignorance.' To try to test something without the means of testing is even worse. more...

There is a succession of experiences which together constitute the educational and developmental ripening of the learner, according to the Sufis. People who think that each gain is the goal itself will freeze at any such stage, and cannot learn through successive and superseding lessons. more...

The main problem is that most commentators are accustomed to thinking of spiritual schools as 'systems', which are more or less alike, and which depend upon dogma and ritual: and especially upon repetition and the application of continual and standardised pressures upon their followers.The Sufi way, except in degenerate forms which are not to be classified as Sufic, is entirely different from this. more...

The colour of the water seems to be the colour of the glass into which it has been poured'. more...

The more wakeful a man is to the things which surround him, the more asleep is he, and his waking is worse than his sleep. more...

Premature independence is the daughter of conceit. more...

Man (and woman) has an infinite capacity for self-development. Equally, he has an infinite capacity for self-destruction. A human being may be clinically alive and yet, despite all appearances, spiritually dead. more...

He that is purified by love is pure; and he that is absorbed in the Beloved and hath abandoned all else is a Sufi.Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah. more...

No practice exists in isolation. more...

Worry is a cloud which rains destruction. more...

If your desire for 'good' is based on greed, it is not good, but greed. more...

Christian scholars often say that Sufi theories are close to those of Christianity. Many Moslems maintain that they are essentially derived from Islam. The resemblance of many Sufi ideas to those of several religious and esoteric systems are sometimes taken as evidence of derivation. The Islamic interpretation is that religion is of one origin, differences being due to local or historical causes. more...

It is the message, not the man, which is important to the Sufis. more...

The sufis believe that they can experience something more complete. more...

People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they have been taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be. If they could handle information, they would not have to drown at all. more...

To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides. more...

History is not usually what has happened. History is what some people have thought to be significant. more...

People who speak or act in an ordinary fashion are most likely to be those who have been the recipients of higher experiences. But because they do not rage around, wild-eyed, people think that they are very ordinary folk and therefore not aware of anything unknown to the general run of man. more...

Do not try to be humble: learn humility. more...

When tomorrow comes, think tomorrow's thoughts. more...

A man who believes the word of a donkey in preference to my word does not deserve to be lent anything. more...

If you can turn a murderer into a mere thief, you are making progress. more...

Prescribing hard work for the soft, or easy work for the hardy, is generally nonsense. What is always needed in any aim is right effort, right time, right people, right materials. more...

Right time, right place, right people equals success. Wrong time, wrong place, wrong people equals most of the real human history. more...

Banality is like boredom: bored people are boring people, people who think that things are banal are themselves banal. Interesting people can find something interesting in all things. more...

A real secret is something which only one person knows. more...

Enemies are often former or potential friends who have been denied - or think that they have been denied - something. more...

Knowledge is something which you can use. Belief is something which uses you. more...

Have you noticed how many people who walk in the shade curse the Sun? more...

Effort makes some great men famous. Even greater effort enables other great men to remain unknown. more...

Sometimes a pessimist is only an optimist with extra information. more...

From time to time ponder whether you are unconsciously saying: 'Truth is what I happen to be thinking at this moment. more...

The more you look at 'common knowledge', the more you realise that it is more likely to be common than it is to be knowledge. No real knowledge is common. more...

If, from time to time, you give up expectation, you will be able to perceive what it is you are getting. more...

People used to play with toys. Now the toys play with them. more...

You have not forgotten to remember; You have remembered to forget. But people can forget to forget. That is just as important as remembering to remember - and generally more practical. more...

The laziness of adolescence is a rehearsal for the incapacity of old age. more...

Please, not again what you studied, how long you spent at it, how many books you wrote, what people thought of you - but: what did you learn? more...

The union of the mind and intuition which brings about illumination, and the development which the Sufis seek, is based upon love. more...

Knowledge is not gained, it is there all the time. It is the "veils" which have to be dissolved in the mind. more...

The stupidest man I ever met had a favourite saying. It was: 'What do you think I am, stupid, or something? more...

Anyone can see that an ass laden with books remains a donkey. A human being laden with the undigested results of a tussle with thoughts and books, however, still passes for wise. more...

Exercise power by means of kindness, and you may be causing more damage than you could by cruelty. Neither approach is correct. more...

... when we are talking about 'Christians' and 'Moslems' we must first make sure that we are talking about people who have an idea, which should be more or less correct, as to what the other is supposed to believe and what he is expected to do as a consequence of that belief. more...

When you realize the difference between the container and the content, you will have knowledge. more...

It is not enough that there is a collection of people with the common aim of working in unison towards an objective... Aspiration and desire only are not enough. more...

The Sufi is One who does not care when something is taken from him, but who does not cease to seek for what he has not. more...

The chicken had his wish, and was magically transformed into a fox. Then he found that he could not digest grain. more...

Dramatic. A well developed sense of the dramatic has values beyond what people usually imagine. One of these is to realise the limitations of a sense of the dramatic. more...

Scholars of the East and West have heroically consecrated their whole working lives to making available, by means of their own disciplines, Sufi literary and philosophical material to the world at large. In many cases they have faithfully recorded the Sufis' own reiteration that the Way of the Sufis cannot be understood by means of the intellect or by ordinary book learning. more...

None should say: 'I can trust' or 'I cannot trust' until he is a master of the option, of trusting or not trusting. more...


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