Mulla Nasrudin’s father was the highly-respected keeper of a shrine, the burial-place of a great master which was a place of pligrimage attracting the Seekers After Truth.
In the usual course of events, Nasrudin could be expected to inherit this position. But soon after his fifteenth year, when he was considered to be a man, he decided to follow the ancient maxim: ‘Seek knowledge, even if it be in China.’
‘I will not try to prevent you, my son,’ said his father. So Nasrudin saddled a donkey and set off on his travels.
He visited the lands of Egypt and Babylon, roamed in the Arabian Desert, struck northward to Iconium, to Bokhara, Samarkand and the Hindu-Kush mountains, consorting with dervishes and always heading towards the farthest East.
Nasrudin was struggling across the mountain ranges in Kashmir after a detour through Little Tibet when, overcome by the rarefied atmosphere and privations, his donkey laid down and died.
Nasrudin was overcome with grief; for this was the only constant companion of his journeyings, which had covered a period of a dozen years or more. Heartbroken, he buried his friend and raised a simple mound over the grave. There he remained in silent meditation; the towering mountains above him, and the rushing torrents below.
Before very long people who were taking the mountain road between India and Central Asia, China and the shrines of Turkestan, observed this lonely figure: alternately weeping at his loss and gazing across the valleys of Kashmir.
‘This must indeed be the grave of a holy man,’ they said to one another; ‘and a man of no mean accomplishments, if his disciple mourns him thus. Why he has been here for many months, and his grief shows no sign of abating.’
Presently a rich man passed, and gave orders for a dome and shrine to be erected on the spot, as a pious act. Other pilgrims terraced the mountainside and planted crops whose produce went to he upkeep of the shrine. The fame of the Silent Mourning Dervish spread until Nasrudin’s father came to hear of it. He at once set off on a pilgrimage to the sanctified spot. When he saw Nasrudin he asked him what had happened. Nasrudin told him. The old dervish raised his hands in amazement:
‘Know, O my son,’ he exclaimed, ‘that the shrine where you were brought up and which you abandoned was raised in exactly the same manner, by a similar chain of events, when my own donkey died, over thirty years ago’.