The Story of the Imprisoned Tinsmith

by Lorne Mitchell on 06/02/2013

The ability to seek and identify structures, patterns and designs below the apparent surface of experience is the secret to success in communication, relationships, accelerated learning, languages, and many other things besides.

Someone asked me the other day why I chose to call myself a designer, rather than a consultant and I told them the story of the Tinsmith.  The story originally came from an order of the Sufi’s called the Naqshbandi Order.  Naqushbandi quite literally means “designer”.

“Once upon a time in a city far far away in a time long gone, a tinsmith was falsely accused of a crime he had not committed.  Being poor and without any powerful friends to influence the judge, he was imprisoned.  

He was given a wish before being sent to the cells and he asked that he be allowed to receive a rug which should be woven by his wife.  In due course, the rug was made and delivered to the prison.  Upon receiving the rug, the tinsmith prostrated himself upon the rug, day after day, to say his prayers.

Prayer Mat

After some time, he said to his jailers: “I am poor and without hope and you are wretchedly paid.  But I am a tinsmith.  Bring me some tin and tools to work with and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market – and we will both benefit.”

The guards agreed to this and presently they and the tinsmith were both making a profit from which they bought food and comforts for themselves.

Then, one day, when the guards awoke to find that the cell door was open and the tinsmith was gone.  Some spoke of magic or perhaps a miracle because no prison in this kingdom had ever been escaped from.

Many years later, a convicted thief confessed to the crime that the tinsmith had been accused of.  As a result, the tinsmith was pardoned and two weeks later the tinsmith and his family reappeared in the city.  The governor of the province heard of the tinsmith’s return and summoned him to his palace.

The governor asked the tinsmith what magic he had used to make such an impossible escape.

The tinsmith replied “My wife is a weaver.  She designs rugs, mats and carpets.  She weaves patterns into the wefts and warps of her fabric.”

“By design, she found the man who had made the locks of the cell door and got it from him, by design.”

“She wove the design into the rug at the spot where my head touched in prayer five times a day.  I am a metal-worker and this design looked to me like the inside of a lock.  But I lacked the materials to make a key, so I made a business proposition to the guards, by design.  I then used the materials that the guards provided me to make many small artifacts, including a key that would unlock the cell door.”

So, by design, I escaped.”

“We are all born with a brain”, said the tinsmith.  “When we begin to understand the patterns and structures of our thinking, we can start to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of our limitations.”

Story adapted from the book: Sufis: The People of the Path: The Royal Way by Osho – Chapter 5 – Design within Design

Picture from Museum of London

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