The 33 Questions, the Stone, Beauty and Three Sufi Poems

Our latest library additions include the famous Yaksha Prashna, a passage from the Mahabharata forest exile section, where king Yudhishthira must go through a climactic interrogation in the direst circumstances:

“Who is truly happy? What is most wonderful?” Yudhishthira answered, “A man who cooketh in his own house, on the fifth or the sixth part of the day, with scanty vegetables, but who is not in debt and who stirreth not from home, is truly happy. Day after day countless creatures are going to the abode of Yama, yet those that remain behind believe themselves to be immortal. What can be more wonderful than this?”

• From the legendary Hasidic leader Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the Lubavitcher Rebbe), a brief lecture, “Reasoning the Stone”, with insights into the Jewish hermeneutics of the sacred words and letters of the Torah:

Not only is every law and testimonial essentially a supra-rational decree, but also their written surface, also our intellectual-emotional quest to comprehend and appreciate them, is to be undertaken in supra-rational obedience to the divine will.

• A set of two lectures on “Theology and Beauty” by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, of interest to students of art and aesthetics, as also to anyone interested in the place of beauty in the spiritual life.

There is something equivocal, ambiguous, dangerous in beauty and in love because when we see the stained glass window, we may be enthralled, made prisoners, captives of its beauty and forget that the very condition for this beauty is the light beyond.

• Finally, we bring three mystical poems by Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, translated into English by Martin Lings, available both in PDF format and as MP3 files recorded for the Matheson Trust.

Full near I came unto where dwelleth
Layla, when I heard her call.
That voice, would I might ever hear it!
My star shines in her firmament.
Where is my life, and where my body,
Where my wilful soul? From her
The truth of these shone out to me,
Secrets that had been hidden from me.