A traditional Sufi story

By Paulo Coelho

Many years ago, in a poor Chinese village, there lived a farmer and his son. His only material possession, apart from the land and a small hut, was a horse he had inherited from his father.
One day, the horse ran away, leaving the man with no animal with which to work the land. His neighbours, who respected him for his honesty and diligence, went to his house to say how much they regretted his loss. He thanked them for their visit, but asked:
‘How do you know that what happened was a misfortune in my life?’
Someone muttered to a friend: ‘He obviously doesn’t want to face facts, but let him think what he likes, after all, it’s better than being sad about it.’
And the neighbours went away again, pretending to agree with what he had said.
A week later, the horse returned to its stable, but it was not alone; it brought with it a beautiful mare for company. The inhabitants of the village were thrilled when they heard the news, for only then did they understand the reply the man had given them, and they went back to the farmer’s house to congratulate him on his good fortune.
‘Instead of one horse, you’ve got two. Congratulations!’ they said.
‘Many thanks for your visit and for your solidarity,’ replied the farmer. ‘But how do you know that what happened was a blessing in my life?’
The neighbours were rather put out and decided that the man must be going mad, and, as they left, they said: ‘Doesn’t the man realise that the horse is a gift from God?’
A month later, the farmer’s son decided to break the mare in. However, the animal bucked wildly and threw the boy off; the boy fell awkwardly and broke his leg.
The neighbours returned to the farmer’s house, bringing presents for the injured boy. The mayor of the village solemnly presented his condolences to the father, saying how sad they all were about what had occurred.
The man thanked them for their visit and for their kindness, but he asked:
‘How do you know that what happened was a misfortune in my life?’
These words left everyone dumbstruck, because they were all quite sure that the son’s accident was a real tragedy. As they left the farmer’s house, they said to each other: ‘Now he really has gone mad; his only son could be left permanently crippled, and he’s not sure whether the accident was a misfortune or not!’
A few months went by, and Japan declared war on China. The emperor’s emissaries scoured the country for healthy young men to be sent to the front. When they reached the village, they recruited all the young men, except the farmer’s son, whose leg had not yet mended.
None of the young men came back alive. The son recovered, and the two horses produced foals that were all sold for a good price. The farmer went to visit his neighbours to console and to help them, since they had always shown him such solidarity. Whenever any of them complained, the farmer would say: ‘How do you know that what happened was a misfortune?’ If someone was overjoyed about something, he would ask: ‘How do you know that what happened was a blessing?’ And the people of the village came to understand that life has other meanings that go beyond mere appearance.

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  1. Ves says:

    How do we know that the white is realy white … how do we know that the left is not down or up.
    We perceive the world around only from our lives … and is it wisely?
    Too much thinking … not enough feeling with our souls.

  2. Carolena says:

    I'm a firm believer in 'Everything happens for a reason!'

  3. marie-christine says:

    that’s delightful
    thanks for that.

  4. Alexandra says:

    I love this story. Thank you for always posting such inspiring and honest things.

  5. Marie-Christine says:

    Indeed.’Thank you. :)

  6. Sufi??? says:

    Oops! Sorry!
    It’s from “Huainanzi”… :-|

  7. Sufi??? says:

    This is NOT a sufi story, its from the Ancient Chinese book “Hanfeizi” – mush before there were sufi – and even before there was Japan! ;-)

  8. MysticSaint says:

    excellent sufi tale!

  9. Marie-Christine says:

    Everything happens for a reason. It is an opportunity for us to learn and grow.

  10. Marie-Christine says:

    sometimes things are a blessing in disguise.

  11. Noura- Abouloyoun says:

    Its the way you accept god’s pop quiz that he makes you succeed in it..

  12. carmen says:


    -Vete al cine y luego hablamos-
    -Vale. Voy al cine-
    -Ya he ido al cine. Ire otra vez-
    -No, que no voy a ir. Hablamos-

    Entonces aparecen los fantasmas.

    -¿Dijiste hablamos después del cine?-


    -¿No dijiste eso? ¿Por qué me engañas?-


    -!Eres un mentiroso!-


    Piensa él que ha ido al cine:

    -¿Quién ha mentido primero? Yo. Dije voy al cine dos veces y sólo he ido una. ¿Pero acaso yo soy un ejemplo? ¿Si yo me tiro por el bacón también lo haces tú? Yo he sido quien no ha cumplido su palabra, por decir voy al cine dos veces y luego no hacerlo. ¿Pero esto justifica para que él no cumpla la suya? No. Oh, pero le dije mentroso.

    -Siento decirte eso-


    -Lo siento-


    Las historias se cuentan de muchas maneras. A veces no es lo que parece. En esta historia, no sé quien es más legal.



  13. wanbliska says:

    Vrai leí§on. En effet, qu’en savons-nous? Souvent nous nous réjouissons d’une bonne nouvelle, qui ne porte aucun fruit, tandis qu’il peut en pousser un d’une tragédie!

    Merci Paulo.
    Bien í  vous.

  14. Marmara says:

    Conheí§o perfeitamente este conto, faz parte das minhas cartas de tarot do OSHO e fala sobre julgamentos…muitas vezes desnecessários sobre a nossa e a vida dos outros.

  15. Liara Covert says:

    Hi Paulo.
    This is a wonderful story. Thanks you for bringing it to my attention at this time. I will send it to a friend who recently cancelled his upcoming wedding This happened abruptly after the minister helped reveal the bride-to-be wasn’t divorced. Its a rather difficult time for this friend yet, as this plot thickens, its useful to value blessings in disguise.

  16. Kathleen says:

    God works in mysterious ways.
    Kathleen xx

  17. Clara Belén says:

    Pienso que precisamente la vida lo que nos enseña es esta lección si observamos todo lo que nos ha ocurrido a lo largo de ella.
    Se que no debo aferrarme a nada, ni a los momentos de euforia ni a los tristes y sé que los tristes son más peligrosos que los momentos eufóricos porque puede ocurrirme que me acostumbre a vivir con problemas y tristezas y luego no sepa vivir sin ellos. Y esto lo digo porque sé que ocurre y lo he vivido.
    Ahora tengo presente que la vida es efí­mera e incluso he sentido miedo a que se termine sin aviso. Ahora, después de la angustia, me siento que participo más en mi propia vida, que soy más protagonista de ella.
    Y quiero decir que de la vida, además de la familia lo más importante para mí­ son los amigos. A principios de Noviembre falleció una buena amiga y conservo una carta sincera que en un momento de sensibilidad y amor me escribió. También conservo mi respuesta. Su carta no la he vuelto a leer, porque no quiero aferrarme a esa tristeza pero el sentimiento que despertó en mí­ cuando leí­ sus palabras me acompañarán siempre con alegria. Ese amor que nos dio nuestra amistad es lo que me reconforta ahora.

    Pienso que la vida es un camino de Fé siempre hacia adelante sabiendo que el único legado es haberla vivido con Amor.
    Un beso

  18. raj says:

    Life is full of blessing and sometimes blessing comes in disquise.


  19. raj says:

    Life is full of blessing.and sometimes blessing comes in disquise.


  20. Tania says:

    Beautiful story ,Sometimes when tragedy occurs people think its the end of their world ,but out of it can come blessings ,when I lost my brother and sister this was a tragedy and out of the natural order indeed,but I have been blessed with ,my heart opening and learning to stand on my own 2 feet without them and survive >I would probably have never done my cards or books or coped emotional as well as I thought I could ,wholeness takes place that is a blessings..I have been blessed to have a wonderful life with my Grandmar and poppy 87/85 still going ,my nanna is 83 and will be joining my dear poppy soon ,my life has been filled with love because of them looking after and raising me ..So it will be tragic to see them go ,but also a gift when I know that they will be togeather soon ,I truly have been blessed .I wish though that my father could see that he is still blessed by having a daughter left ,I would have thought he would treasure what God has left him with .I am able to see with my knowledge why this occurs and its ok ,and maybe one day soon he will wake up ..but how do I know that what happened to him was a misfortune and he will one day understand the meaning of life and that it goes way beyond what he see…Blessings Tania needed that story today..:-)

  21. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo,
    thank You,

    Many times in life we think something happened to us, unfortunately….
    It hurts, I know.
    but is it really that?
    When someone doesn’t do or say what we would want, or we expect him to, we feel disappointed, unhappy, sometimes miserable.
    I know that feeling.
    Well, we are just people, with feelings, with doubts, with hearts.
    But also,
    and foremost we should be people with trust.
    Because only trust can keep us going.
    Trust in this Love, in God.
    He has a plan for me, for every one of us.
    If we believe, if we trust we will realize sooner or later that everything that happened in our lives was for a reason.
    That it was for our own good, and only good.
    I try so hard, every day of my life and ……..
    it always, always helps.


  22. rosa de los vientos says:

    Es una buena enseñanza.
    Cuando me tocó un viaje pense mientras no vuelva no sabré si ha sido buena suerte.
    Cuando fuí­ invitada a una gran fiesta le pregunté a Dios ¿Señor me voy a morir? y es por eso que me haces este gran regalo.
    Uno no sabe hasta el final si algo que es positivo lo es o algo que es negativo lo es tambien, a veces se reconvierten.

  23. Leaf says:

    This is most absolutely awesomely extra superlatively beautiful
    thank you