Social Gatheka Number 30
Fariduddin Attar is one of the most ancient poets of
Persia, and it is no exaggeration to say that the work of
Attar has been the inspiration of Rumi and of many spiritual
souls and many poets of Persia. He has pointed out the way
to the ultimate aim of life by making a sort of picture
in a poetic form, and almost all the great teachers of the
world, if ever they have been able to show the right way
to seeking souls, always have had to adopt a symbolical
form of expression, in the form of the story or legend,
that might give the key to one who is to know, and might
interest the one who is not yet ready, and therefore both
may rejoice, the sleeping one and the one awakened. And
this example has been followed by the poets of Persia and
India, and especially the Hindustani poets, and they have
made their story in such form that it would be acceptable,
not only to the seekers after truth, but also to those in
all different stages of evolution.
Attar's best known work is called 'The Bird of the Sky',
from which we have taken the idea of the Blue Bird, and
very few have understood the idea of the Blue Bird, or the
'Bird of the Sky'. It is a very ancient teaching, through
the use of the Persian word 'sky'. This points out that
every soul has a capacity which may be called the sky, and
this capacity can accommodate the world or the heaven, whatever
it would partake of and hold in itself. When one walks in
the crowd, what does one see? One sees numerous faces. I
call them various attitudes. All that you see in individuals,
all that stands before you, has expression, has atmosphere,
If you call it by one name, it is the attitude;
the attitude they have towards life, right or wrong, good
or bad, whatever attitude they have, they are themselves
that attitude. Does it not show how appropriate is the sky,
which means whatever you call it, whatever you may think
it? Plainly speaking, whatever one makes of oneself, one
becomes that. A source of happiness, or unhappiness, all
is in man himself. When he is unaware of this, then he is
not able to arrange his life, and as he becomes more acquainted
with this secret, he gains a mastery, and it is the process
with which this mastery is attained, which is the only fulfillment
of this life. It is that process which is explained by Attar
in his work of 'The Seven Valleys' through which this 'Bird
of the Sky' had passed.
The first valley is that of the Quest. How true it is
that every child is born with the tendency to search, to
know. What we call inquisitiveness or curiosity, it is born
in them, and it represents that inner feeling of quest.
This shows us that man is born with this, and he cannot
be satisfied unless he has arrived at that satisfaction
which means searching for that knowledge which he wishes
to have. No doubt, what prevents man from gaining that knowledge
which his soul is really searching for, is himself. It is
his small self always standing against him, keeping him
from the search of the only thing which is the seeking of
every soul. And therefore it may be safe to say that there
is no one in this world who is a worse enemy of man than
In this search one thinks that one must perhaps
find out from science, or from art, something which is behind
it, and whether through material quest or spiritual, in
the end one will arrive, and one must arrive at that goal,
which is the goal of everyone. The scientists and engineers,
people who are absorbed in making a search of material things
and never think of spiritual things, even they, after making
a great deal of search, they arrive very near to the same
knowledge which is the ultimate knowledge, and therefore
whatever a man may seem to us, materialist, atheist or agnostic,
we cannot call him so, because in the end his goal is the
same, his attainment is the same. If he really reaches the
depth of knowledge, if he goes far enough, whatever his
search he will come to the same goal.
And when one has searched enough and found something
satisfactory, still he cannot enjoy that satisfaction unless
there is one faculty open, and that is the faculty of love
and devotion. Do we not see in our every day life, that
people of great intellect and wide interests, very often
seem to miss something. When it happens to be a couple where
one is very intellectual, the other may feel there is something
lacking to make their lives complete, may feel that intellect
alone is not enough. What is it? It is the heart which balances
life, and the absence of which keeps life dry. It is just
like the positive and negative forces. Knowledge and heart.
It is these two things which make life balanced.
quality is very strong and intellect lacking, then also
life lacks balance,. Knowledge and heart quality must be
developed in balance. And therefore, according to Attar,
that faculty of devotion or quality of heart, is the second
valley, and the Third Valley is that knowledge which illuminates,
which comes by the help of the love element and the intellect.
It is that knowledge which is called spiritual knowledge.
Without the love quality developed, is man incapable of
having that knowledge? I will answer, yes. There are fine
lights and shades in one's life which cannot be perceived
and understood fully without having touched the deeper side
of life, which is the devotional side.
The person who has
not in his life been wholly grateful, he cannot know what
it is. He who has not experienced in life humbleness, he
does not know its beauty. The one who has not known gentleness,
modesty, he cannot appreciate its beauty or recognize it.
No doubt a person of fine qualities is often ridiculed,
if he happens to be in a place where it is not understood,
where it is a foreign language. This shows there is a fineness
in life for which intellect alone is not sufficient. The
heart quality must become open. A very intellectual man
went to Jami and asked him to take him as his pupil and
give him initiation. Jami looked at him and said 'Have you
loved anybody?' This man said, 'No, I have not loved.'
Then Jami said, 'Go, and love first, then come to me and
I will show you the way.'
Love has its time in every stage of life. As a child,
as a youth, as a grownup person, and whatever stage of life
one has reached, love is always asked for and love has always
its part to perform; whatever situation you are placed in,
among friends or foes, among those who understand you, and
those who do not, in ease and in difficulty, in all places,
at all times, it has its part to perform. And when one thinks,
'I must not let the principle of love have its way, I must
close myself against it', he imprisons his soul. There is
only one thing in the world, and that is pure, unselfish
love, which shows the sign of Heaven, which shows the divine
sign, which gives the proof of God.
For all the noble qualities
which are hidden in the soul will spring forth and come
to bloom when love helps them and nurtures them. Man may
have a great good in him and he may be very intelligent,
but as long as his heart is closed, he cannot show that
nobleness, that goodness, which is hidden in his heart,
and the psychology of the heart is such that once begins
to know the heart, life is a continual phenomenon; every
moment of life becomes a miracle; it throws a searchlight
upon human nature and all things become so clear to him
that he does not ask for any greater phenomenon or miracle;
it is a miracle in itself. What they call telepathy, thought-reading
or clairvoyance, all these things come by themselves, where
the heart is open.
If anyone is cold and stiff, he feels
within himself as if he were in a grave; he is not living;
he cannot enjoy this life, for he cannot express himself;
he cannot see the light and life outside: he is in his grave.
And what keeps man back for development of heart quality?
His exacting attitude. He wants to make a business of love.
He says, 'If you will love me I will love you'. As soon
as man exacts and measures and weighs his favors, his services
and all that he does for one whom he loves, he does not
know love. Love sees the Beloved and nothing else. As Rumi
says, 'Whether you love a human being or you love God, there
will come a day when all lovers, either of man or of God,
will be brought before the throne of Love and the presence
of that only Beloved will reign there.' What does this show?
In loving our friend, in loving our neighbor, even in the
love that one shows to one's enemy, one only loves God.
And the one who says, 'I love God, but I cannot love man,'
he does not love God; he cannot. It is like saying: 'I love
you very much but I do not like to look at your face.'
And after this Third Valley, where the knowledge of human
nature and of the fine feelings which are called virtues,
is attained, the next step is what is called in the English
language 'annihilation.' But what we call destruction or
annihilation is nothing but change. Neither substance nor
form nor spirit, nothing is absolutely destroyed; it is
only changed. But man does not like sometimes to change.
He does not know that he cannot live without change. He
does not like it, but he cannot live without it. There is
not one single moment of our life that change does not come;
whether you accept it or not, the change is there. Destruction
or annihilation or death might seem a very different change,
and yet there are a thousand deaths we die. Every disappointment;
the moment when our heart breaks, is worse than death. Often
our experiences through life are worse than death, yet we
go through them. At the moment they seem unbearable; we
think we cannot stand it, and yet we live.
If after dying
a thousand deaths, we still live, there is nothing in the
world to be afraid of. It is man's delusion; his own imagination;
he makes it dreadful to himself. Can anyone kill life? If
there is any death, it is for death; life will not die.
To a Sufi someone went with a question, he said, 'I have
been puzzling for many, many years and reading in books
and have not been able to find a definite answer, tell me,
what happens after death?' The Sufi said, 'Please ask that
question of someone who is going to die. I am going to live.'
The principle is that there is one sky, which is your own
being. It is like the sky. In other words, you call it accommodation.
And who has taken possession of this accommodation? A deluded
ego which says, 'I.' It is deluded by this body and mind
and has called itself 'individual.' When a man has a ragged
coat he says, 'I am poor.' In reality his coat is poor,
not he. What this capacity contains, that becomes his knowledge,
his realization; and that limits him; forms that limitation
which is the tragedy of every soul.
Now, this capacity may either be filled with self or
it may be filled with God. There is only place for one.
Either we live with our limitation, or let God reign there
in His unlimited being. In other words, we take away the
home which always belonged to someone else and fill it with
delusion and call it our own, and not only call it our own,
but call it ourself. That is man's delusion, and all religion
and philosophical teachings are given to rid man of this
delusion, which deprives him of his spiritual wealth.
wealth is the greatest wealth, spiritual happiness is the
only happiness; there is no other happiness. Once a person
is able to disillusion himself, he arrives at the stage
described in the Fourth Valley. The Valley of Non-Attachment,
and he is afraid. He thinks, 'How can I give my home to
someone else, even if it is God? This is my body, my mind,
my home, my individuality. How can I give it away, even
to God?' But in reality, it is not something he can rely
upon. It is delusion from top to toe, and subject to destruction.
Does anything stand above destruction? Nothing. Then why
fear to think for the moment that it is nothing? That natural
fear of man comes because he is unaccustomed to face reality.
He is so used to dreams, that he is afraid of reality. There
is a fear in the minds of people of losing themselves, but
they do not know that it is not the losing of oneself. It
is losing illusion. And really, they will find themselves
when they lose this illusion. In this illusion, one has
lost one's soul, and the process is to come out of it, to
rise above it.
When the Fifth Valley, The Valley of Unity, is reached,
by that time one has disillusioned one's self, and it is
that act which is called the Bible 'rebirth,' when the soul
has become disillusioned, it is the birth of the soul. There
is the birth of the body and the birth of the soul. And
how does this birth of soul express itself? What does one
feel? It first expresses itself in a kind of bewilderment
with great joy. His interest in life's increased, all that
he sees, he enjoys. He concerns himself little, but wonders
at all things.
The bewilderment is such that it is a wonderful
amusement to look at life. The whole world becomes to him
a kind of stage, full of players. He then begins to amuse
himself with the people of this world, as one might play
with children and yet not be concerned with what they do,
for he expects no better. If children do something different
from the parents, they are not much concerned; they know
it is the stage of the child's life and one cannot expect
any better of them. So with this man, likes and dislikes,
favor and disfavor, they interest him, but do not concern
And there is another stage. This bewilderment brings
him to see the someone reflected who has taken possession
of his heart. To see his Beloved in everyone, even in his
enemy. The beloved is seen in all things. The bowl of poison
given by the Beloved is not so bitter. Those who have sacrificed
themselves and suffered for humanity, such as Christ, they
have given to the world an example showing a soul that has
reached the stage where even the enemy appears before the
eyes of the God-conscious, as friend, as his Beloved. And
it is not an unattainable stage, because the soul is made
of love, it is going toward the perfection of love. All
the virtues man has learned love has taught him. Therefore
this world of good and bad, thorns and flowers, become nothing
but a placed of splendor.
The Sixth Valley, The Valley of Amazement, is the valley
where he recognizes and understands what is behind things,
the reason of all reasons, the cause of all causes, for
all intuition and power develop in man with the unfoldment.
And the Seventh Valley, The Valley of Realization of
God, is the peace which every Soul is looking for. Whether
the spiritual or material, seeking from morning until night
for something which will give him peace. To some souls,
that peace comes when asleep. But for the God-conscious,
that peace becomes his home. No sooner has he closed his
eyes, no sooner has he relaxed his body and stilled his
mind, and lost from his consciousness the limited, he begins
to float in the unlimited spheres.