The Lamp Post
One dark night two men met on a lonely road.
‘I am looking for a shop near here, which is called The Lamp Shop,’ said the first man.
‘I happen to live near here, and I can direct you to it, ‘ said the second man.
‘I should be able to find it by myself. I have been given the directions, and I have written them down,’ said the first man.
‘Then why are you talking to me about it?’
‘So, you want company, not directions?’
‘Yes, I suppose that that is what it is.’
‘But it would be easier for you to take further directions from a local resident, having got so far; especially because from here onwards it is difficult.’
‘I trust what I have already been told, which has brought me thus far. I cannot be sure that I can trust anything or anyone else.’
‘So, although you once trusted the original informant, you have not been taught a means of knowing whom you can trust?’
‘That is so.’
‘Have you any other aim?’
‘No, just to find the Lamp shop.’
‘May I ask why you seek a lamp shop?’
‘Because I have been told on the highest authority that that is where they supply certain devices which enable a person to read in the dark.’
‘You are correct, but there is a prerequisite, and also a piece of information. I wonder whether you have given them any thought.’
‘What are they?’
‘The prerequisite to reading by means of a lamp is that you can already read.’
‘You cannot prove that!’
‘Certainly not on a dark night like this.’
‘What is the “piece of information”?’
‘The piece of information is that the Lamp Shop is still where it always was, but that the lamps themselves have been moved somewhere else.’
‘I do not know what a “lamp” is, but it seems obvious to me that the Lamp Shop is the place to locate such a device. That is, after all, why it is called a Lamp Shop.’
‘But a “Lamp Shop” may mean “A place where lamps may be obtained”, or it could mean “A place where lamps were once obtained but which now has none”.’
‘You probably have an ulterior motive, sending me off to some other shop. Or perhaps you do not want me to have a lamp at all.’
‘I am worse than you think. I want to find out if you could read at all. I want to see whether a lamp shop exists where you are going. I want to see whether you can have your lamp in another way suited to you.’
The two men looked at each other, sadly, for a moment. Then each went his way.
Idries Shah, Tales of the Dervishes
Acharya Prashant: To make things simpler at the outset itself, let it be clear that the one coming to seek the lamp shop, is a seeker full of knowledge. A seeker from a distant land, who does not belong really to the land of meditativeness. Knowledge has brought him to the boundary of the land of meditativeness, but cannot take him any further ahead. On the boundary, he meets this second person who is a teacher, who is the resident of this second land, who belongs there.
So, one of the first things that this teacher asks this knowledgeable seeker is, that, ‘you have come so far, having read some book that told you that you must search for lamps in a lamp shop that is thus located. But has the book also told you, how to find the one who will take you to the lamps? And if your book does not tell you ‘that,’ then your book is useless. He says, ‘‘has your book taught you, whom to trust? Has your book given you the eyes to figure out the real teacher?’’