Do you feel like your life is a bit of a battle these days? Are you finding conflict in your home or at your place of work? This is an inspiring little story that might give you a helpful insight. It is from the heart and mind of a spiritual master who wrote it more than 700 years ago.

“Ali In Battle”, by Rumi from The Essential Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

Learn from Ali how to fight
Without your ego participating.

God’s Lion did nothing
That didn’t originate
From his deep center.

Once in battle he got the best of a certain knight
And quickly drew his sword. The man,
Helpless on the ground, spat
In Ali’s face.

Ali dropped his sword, relaxed and helped the man to his feet.
“Why have you spared me?
How has lightening contracted back into its cloud?
Speak my prince, so that my soul can begin to stir in
Me like an embryo.”

Ali was quiet and then finally answered,
“I am God’s Lion, not the lion of passion.
The sun is my Lord. I have no longing except for the One.
When a wind of personal reaction comes,
I do not go along with it.
There are many winds full of anger,
And lust, and greed. They move the rubbish
Around, but the solid mountain of our true nature
Stays where it’s always been.

There’s nothing now
Except the divine qualities.
Come through the opening into me.
Your impudence was better than any reverence,
Because in this moment I am you and you are me.

I give you this opened heart as God gives gifts:
The poison of your spit has become the honey of friendship.

Why didn’t Ali kill the other knight? He did not kill him because he saw himself in the other in the act of being spat upon and it would have been a spiritual suicide to kill him: “because in this moment I am you and you are me.” He was able to see that the one spitting was no better or worse than the one about to kill. Instead of angry retribution for that act he attained a moment of heightened awareness and spared his opponents’ life.

His understanding grew quickly, maybe like the Grinch’s heart, in that decisive moment and he helped the man to his feet. The man was terribly shocked and immediately wanted to know, “Why have you spared me?” Ali spared him because he saw the spiritual truth that on a certain level they were one and the same.

It took training and preparation for Ali to be that kind of knight, the kind that could consciously kill or not kill in the heat of battle. As he explains, “I am God’s Lion, not the lion of passion…When a wind of personal reaction comes, I do not go along with it.” He is dedicated to God, not to reacting to every wind that blows by him. “The solid mountain of our true nature stays where it’s always been.” He is not emotionally intelligent, he is emotionally brilliant!

It must also be noted that Ali did not wake up only because of his own efforts. It is often those with less power who wake up those with higher rank. Like a character out of Monty Python the other knight does something nearly idiotic, he spits at Ali and causes Ali to awaken. We must admire the other knight’s fighting spirit. He might have just quietly submitted to the sword and died in battle but he chose to use what power he had and do what he could: to spit. Fortunately for him he spat at a spiritual master, it might not have worked to spit at a regular knight. But the point is that it worked, it saved his life. What a miracle! What a moment when Ali helped him to his feet and spoke of the honey of friendship. They surely embraced and we might imagine they may have become close comrades.

This is rather amazing and something to aspire to. What personal reactions are we having these days that are keeping us from waking up to deeper truths? When are we able to resist the winds of our reactions-anger, lust and greed? What helps the solid mountain of our true nature stay where it has always been? And how are we using our rank when we are in a moment of attack, from someone with higher rank? Are we doing what we can to awaken ourselves and others?

When is attacking another, whether verbally or physically, not a form of spiritual suicide?

May poison turn to honey, one day, for you and those with whom you are engaged in battle.