Oct 13 2015

Story: The Tale of the Sands

Published by at 12:50 pm under Stories

Rather than a poem, why not a story today? This is a favorite tale from Idries Shah’s Tales of the Dervishes. Encountering the desert, a stream must remember its true nature in order to pass beyond it. Our greatest difficulties become our most profound teachers.

/ Photo by JoelDeluxe /

The Tale of the Sands

A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind and description of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.

It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this desert, and yet there was no way. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: ‘The Wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream.’

The stream objected that it was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed: that the wind could fly, and this was why it could cross a desert.

/ Photo by trec_lit /

‘By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination.’

But how could this happen? ‘By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind.’

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose it individuality. And, once having lost it, how was one to know that it could ever be regained?

‘The wind,’ said the sand, ‘performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.

‘How can I know that this is true?’

‘It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become more than a quagmire, and even that could take many, many years; and it certainly is not the same as a stream.’

/ Photo by visulogik /

‘But can I not remain the same stream that I am today?’

‘You cannot in either case remain so,’ the whisper said. ‘Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one.’

When he heard this, certain echoes began to arise in the thoughts of the stream. Dimly, he remembered a state in which he – or some part of him, was it? – had been held in the arms of the wind. He also remembered – or did he? – that this was the real thing, not necessarily the obvious thing, to do.

And the stream raised his vapor into the welcoming arms of the wind, which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, letting it fall softly as soon as they reached the roof of a mountain, many, many miles away.

/ Photo by Gilliamhome /

And because he had had his doubts, the stream was able to remember and record more strongly in his mind the details of the experience. He reflected, ‘Yes, now I have learned my true identity.’

The stream was learning. But the sands whispered: ‘We know, because we see it happen day after day: and because we, the sands, extend from the riverside all the way to the mountain.’

And that is why it is said that the way in which the Stream of Life is to continue on its journey is written in the Sands.

Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years
by Idries Shah

/ Photo by Wolfgang Staudt /

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Story: The Tale of the Sands”

  1. Mandakini Mathuron 13 Oct 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Hello Ivan, catching up with you after a long gap…what a lovely story which illustrates the power of the use of metaphor to describe the unexplainable over any scientific explanation! And the stream must have flown on wings of water…
    Also wanted to share with you the news that my book ‘Radha, Poems of Love’ has finally got published through Partridge.com which is part of the Penguin group. Your comment on the back page is there! Will send you a copy soon. Please send me your postal address.
    Much love

  2. Ivan M. Grangeron 14 Oct 2015 at 6:54 am

    Congratulations, Mandakini! I look forward to seeing the book. ~Ivan

  3. Janet Bradleyon 14 Oct 2015 at 1:43 am

    This was just what I needed today. I have been training a young horse with whom I have had a magical relationship with (I thought) until she dumped me in the sand – 3 times now. I am 59 years old and can see that my journey with this animal needs help, needs the wind to get us where we need to go.

  4. ebrahimon 14 Oct 2015 at 10:33 am

    Scientest are looking for the scientefic holy grail – the elusive theory of everything. How shall they find it when they conveniantly ignore the reality of everything. The stream from the ocean can only run back to it, even if it has to grow wings and be carried by the wind.

    Below is the root formulae of that which they seek:

    One to the power of 1 zero to the power of 3
    – with a double space as an interspace between the two aspects of the equation.

  5. Olga T.on 15 Oct 2015 at 11:29 am

    So, is the desert Eden?

  6. Peter Kroneson 16 Nov 2015 at 12:58 pm

    That is the most interesting part, Olya. It seems to say that the sands, seemingly substantial daily life, though it absorbs us, is a kind teacher, pointing the seeker to release herself into the ineffable.

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