September 20, 2010


I heard a devotional song — a hymn, of sorts — when I went to jamatkhana on Friday. Before reciting the song, they read out a summary of its meaning (it was originally written decades ago in a language that many people in the current congregation did not understand), and there was a parable in one of the verses that really stood out.

I’ve had that verse on my mind all weekend. It’s an anecdote about true friendship, and while I can’t remember the exact translation, I want to share the gist of that tale with you today.

Milk and water are the best of friends. They are similar in many ways, but also very distinct, with different behaviors and demeanors. Despite their differences, they love each other dearly.

Milk and water are mixed together in a pot and put upon the stove. As the temperature in the pot begins to rise, water realizes that milk is susceptible to the heat. Water moves to the bottom of the pot in order to prevent milk from burning.

By moving to the bottom of the pot, water prevents milk from burning, but heats up so much that it changes form — it unwillingly transforms from liquid to vapor and begins to float out of the pot as the temperature gets hotter and hotter. Milk, seeing its friend being transformed and changed by the heat, tries to save water by bubbling and spilling out the sides of the pot to try and put out the flame below.

Milk and water love each other very much; their friendship is so strong that each one would sacrifice itself for the other.

The parable is a little simplistic and contrived, but I liked the idea behind it: it is possible to have a friendship so intense, to love someone so dearly, that you’d be willing to turn to vapor to make sure that person didn’t burn.