"It is related about one of the great Sufis of Khorasan: That he worked for long hours as a brickmaker, and when people offered him money in return, he refused it. He also used to have long talks with people, teaching them, encouraging them, and then was not to be seen for a long period of time, sometimes months on end. This confused the people who tried to learn from him.
One day, a man who used to be his student and now has since left him, complained bitterly to him about it and asked for an explanation of his conduct, saying: "If i have failed to understand, tell me, so that i may again be your student." The Sufi said: "I am afraid that i can say nothing to you about all this". This man then talked to others about the Sufi (whom he abandoned as his teacher) and soon, more and more complaints were heard about the Sufi from the other students. Gradually, more students began to lose interest in the Sufi. They instead, now attach themselves to all manner of frivolous and more exciting things of the world.
Eventually, a small group of them found another teacher - a venerable dervish - to whom they later confided their dissapointment of the Sufi, their teacher whom they have abandoned. Their new teacher replied to them the following:
"O you luckless one!
(1) He was working as a brickmaker because to take your money, raw and vulnerable as you were, would have harmed you - and he took on the harm upon himself, preferring to labour, sacrificed his life and sweat in the burning sun for just a small salary;
(2) When he left you on your own, it was sometimes his attention, through your own weaknessess, would have inflated you and made you worse;
(3) At other times, he forsook you because he had to make supplications to ask from Allah that you, should not die before he could help you;
(4) At other times, he left you alone because other people in greater need than you were to be attended to.
You are the kind of people who see all his actions, which are all worthy ones - as faults, because you cannot perceive goodness and reality, and because you think only of your ownselves and that the whole world revolves around your ownselves!"
When the students heard this, they were ashamed, and they said: "O teacher! Give us permission to return to our ex-Master, to make amends to him!"
He answered, "The permission is easy, and you have it; but the performance is impossible. He is now dead, because his earthly life had to stop the moment you deserted him; the moment you stopped listening to him; the moment his hand could not hold your hand to guide you. When he had nobody to attend to him, he had to continue on this journey, on his own - in another world - where he is more useful, and loved."
They cried upon hearing this and regretted deeply, for their great Master was now gone! They asked their teacher : "How did you know all this?"
He said: "I am the solitary remaining disciple of that same Master of yours whom you have all abandoned! Only one in a thousand people really want to learn. We were, at the outset, that one thousand people. As for the rest of your friends who are not here today and like you, have also abandoned the Sufi: they are not dead, but they - like you - have long ago decided that our late Master was insufficient to their needs. The consequence of this added belief, born out of the madness of the world, is that they are all still alive, and now more than proud of themselves, and all of them are flourishing in this world, and all of them are doomed for their attachment of this world - without that guiding hand to guide them out of this labyrinth!"
... by Idries Shah