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Vanity of Worldly Desires
Jan 1, 2005

A gold ingot fell into the hands of a pious man and so turned his head that his enlightened mind became gloomy. He passed the whole night in anxious thought, reflecting, “This treasure will suffice me till the end of my life; no longer shall I have to bend my back before any one in begging. I will build a house, the foundation of which shall be of marble; the rafters of the ceiling shall be of aloe. I will have a special room for my friends and its door shall lead into a garden house. Servants shall cook my food, and I will nourish my soul in ease. This coarse woolen blanket has killed me with its roughness; now I will go and spread a carpet.”

His dreams drove him crazy; a crab had pierced its claws into his brain. He forsook his prayers and devotions, and neither ate nor slept.

Unable to rest tranquilly in one place, he wandered to a meadow, his head confused with the charms of his vain fancies. An old man was kneading mud upon a grave in order to make bricks. Absorbed in thought, the old man said:

“O foolish soul! Hearken to my counsel. Why have you attached your mind to that gold brick when one day they will make bricks from your dust? The mouth of a covetous man is so wide open that it can be closed again by one morsel. Take, O base man, your hand off that brick, for you cannot dam the river of your avarice with it.

“So negligent have you been in the thought of gain and riches that the stock of your life has become trampled underfoot. The dust of desire has blinded the eyes of your reason-the wind of desire has destroyed the harvest of your life.”

“Wipe negligence from your eyes, for will you not be buried under the dust tomorrow?

“Your life is a bird, and its name is Breath. When the bird has flown from its cage it does not return to captivity.

“Be watchful, for the world lasts but a moment, and a moment spent in wisdom is better than an age in folly.

“Why do we fix our minds upon this caravanserai? Our friends have departed and we are on the road. After us, the same flowers will bloom in the garden, and the same friends will still be sitting.

“When you arrive in Shiraz,2 do you not clean from yourself the dust of the road?

“Soon, O you are polluted with the dust of sin, you will journey to a strange city. Weep, and wash away the impurities with your tears.”


  1. Sadi of Shiraz (1209-1291) was one of the greatest poets of Persia. Sadi, the traveler, was born in Baghdad and saw a great part of the world before he finally settled in Shiraz, where he died. This story was taken from his work The Orchard.
  2. The city of Shiraz represents one’s native land.