Lai Khur was a Sufi saint who lived with a mask on his face all his life. Rather than narrating his story, let me quote here Osho, who, if I understand correctly, too lived part of his life with a mask on his face. Osho speaks glowingly of Lai-Khur in his talks published as Unio Mystica, Volume 1. The following is an abbreviated version of what the master says of Lai-Khur:
The Sultan of Ghazna, Bahramshah, was moving with his great army towards India on a journey of conquest. Hakim Sanai, his famous court-poet, was also with him, accompanying him on the journey of this conquest. They came alongside a great garden, a walled garden. They were in a hurry; with a great army the Sultan was moving to conquer India. He had no time.
But something mysterious happened and he had to stop; there was no way to avoid it. The sound of singing coming from the garden caught the Sultan’s attention. He was a lover of music, but he had never heard something like this. He had great musicians in his court and great singers and dancers, but nothing to be compared with this. The sound of singing and the music and the dance – he had only heard it from outside, but he had to order the army to stop. It was so ecstatic.
The very sound of the dance and the music and the singing was psychedelic, as if wine was pouring into him: the Sultan became drunk. The phenomenon appeared not to be of this world. Something of the beyond was certainly in it: something of the sky trying to reach the earth, something from the unknown trying to commune with the known. He had to stop to listen to it. There was ecstasy in it – so sweet and yet so painful, it was heart-rending. He wanted to move, he was in a hurry; he had to reach India soon, this was the right time to conquer the enemy.
But there was no way. There was such strong, strange, irresistible magnetism in the sound that in spite of himself he had to go into the garden. It was Lai-Khur, a great Sufi mystic, but known to the masses only as a drunkard and a madman.
Lai- Khur is one of the greatest names in the whole history of the world. Not much is known about him; such people don’t leave many footprints behind them. Except for this story, nothing has survived. But Lai-Khur has lived in the memories of the Sufis, down the ages. He continued haunting the world of the Sufis, because never again was such a man seen. He was so drunk that people were not wrong in calling him a drunkard. He was drunk twenty-four hours, drunk with the divine. He walked like a drunkard, he lived like a drunkard, utterly oblivious of the world. And his utterances were just mad.
This is the highest peak of ecstasy, when expressions of the mystic can only be understood by other mystics. For the ordinary masses they look irrelevant, they look like gibberish. To the ignorant, his utterances were outrageous, sacrilegious, against tradition and against all formalities, mannerisms and etiquette – against all that is known and understood as religion. But to those who knew, they were nothing but pure gold.
[Let me add a small note here. The Indian tradition speaks of great realized masters as: balavad, unmattavad, pishachavat – they are like children, like madmen, like restless ghosts who haunt the world on dark nights.]
He was available only to the chosen few, because only very few people can rise to such a height where he lived. He lived on Everest – the Everest of consciousness, beyond the clouds. Only those who were fortunate enough and courageous enough to climb the mountain were able to understand what he was saying. To the common masses he was a madman. To the knowers he was just a vehicle of God, and all that was coming through him was pure truth: truth, and only truth. He had made himself deliberately notorious.
That was his way of becoming invisible to the masses. A master, if he really wants to work, if he means business, has to become invisible to those who are not authentic seekers.
Lai-Khur called for wine and proposed a toast: “To the blindness of the sultan Bahramshah.”
Now, first the great mystic called for wine. Religious people are not supposed to drink wine. It is one of the greatest sins for a Muslim to drink wine; it is against the Koran, it is against the religious idea of how a saint should be. Lai-Khur called for wine and proposed a toast: “to the blindness of the sultan Bahramshah.”
The sultan must have got mad. He must have been furious – calling him blind? But he was under the great ecstatic impact of Lai-Khur. So although he was boiling within, he didn’t say a thing. Those beautiful sounds and the music and the dance were still haunting him, they were still there in his heart. He was transported to another world. But others objected, his generals and his courtiers objected. When objections were raised, Lai-Khur laughed madly and insisted that the Sultan deserved blindness for embarking on such a foolish journey.
”What can you conquer in the world? All will be left behind. The idea of conquering is stupid, utterly stupid. Where are you going? You are blind! Because the treasure is within you,” he said. ”And you are going to India; wasting time, wasting other people’s time. What more is needed for a man to be called blind?”
Lai-Khur insisted, “The sultan is blind. If he is not blind then he should go back to his home and forget all about this conquest. Don’t make houses of playing-cards, don’t make castles of sand. Don’t go after dreams, don’t be mad. Go back! Look within!”
The man who has eyes looks within, the blind man looks without. The man who has eyes searches for the treasure within. The man who is blind rushes all over the world, begging, robbing people, murdering, in the hope that he will find something that he is missing.
It is never found that way, because it is not outside that you have lost it. You have lost it in your own being: light has to be brought there. Lai-Khur insisted that the Sultan was blind. ”If he is not, then give me the proof: order the army to go back. Forget all about this conquest, and never again go on any other conquest. This is all nonsense!”
The sultan was impressed, but was not capable of going back.
Then a toast was called, “To the blindness of Hakim Sanai” – because he was the next most important person with Bahramshah. He was his adviser, his counsellor, his poet. He was the wisest man in his court, and his fame had penetrated into other lands too. He was already an accomplished poet; a great, well-known wise man. Then a toast was called, “to the blindness of Hakim Sanai,” which must have given the great poet a considerable jolt. There were even stronger objections to this on the grounds of Sanai’s excellent reputation, his wisdom, his character.
He was a man of character, a very virtuous man, very religious. Nobody could have found any flaw in his life. He had lived a very, very conscious life, at least in his own eyes. He was a man of conscience. More objections were raised. Because maybe the Sultan was blind, he was greedy, he had great lust, he had great desire to possess things, but that could not be said about Hakim Sanai.
But Lai-Khur countered that the toast was even more apt, since Sanai seemed unaware of the purpose for which he had been created; and when he was shortly brought before his maker and asked what he had to show for himself he would only be able to produce some stupid eulogies to foolish kings, mere mortals like himself. Lai-Khur said that it was even more apt because much more is to be expected from Hakim Sanai than from Sultan Bahramshah. He has a greater potential and he is wasting it, wasting it in making eulogies for foolish kings.
And listening to these words and looking into the eyes of that madman, Lai-Khur, something incredible happened to Hakim Sanai: a satori, a sudden enlightening experience. Something died in him immediately, instantly. And something was born, something utterly new.
In a single moment, the transformation had happened. He was no longer the same man. This madman had really penetrated his soul. This madman had succeeded in awakening him. In Sufi history, this is the only case of satori. In Zen there are many cases. But in the world of Sufism this is the only case of satori, sudden enlightenment – not methodological, not gradual; in a shock it happened.
Lai-Khur must have been a man of tremendous insight.
Hakim Sanai bowed down, touched the feet of this madman and wept tears of joy that he had arrived home. He died and was reborn. That’s what a satori is: dying and being reborn. It is a rebirth. He left the Sultan and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Sultan was not willing, he was not ready to allow him to go. He tried in every way to prevent him: he even offered his only sister in marriage, and half the kingdom, to Hakim Sanai. But now all was meaningless.
Hakim Sanai simply laughed and he said, “I am no longer a blind person. Thank you, but I am finished. This madman has finished me in a single stroke, in a single blow.”
So he went to Mecca on a pilgrimage, to meditate, to be silent, to be a pilgrim unknown to anybody, to be anonymous. The thing had happened, but it had to be absorbed. The light had happened, but one has to get accustomed to it. And when he became accustomed to the new gestalt, to the new vision, he came back to Lai-Khur and presented him his book, THE HADIQA [which he had written during his return journey from Mecca].
Continued ... Masters Who Wear Masks 3: Pakkanar, the Pariah