The parrot Seeker of eternal life:
What good is immortality Spent in a cage?”
The “Conference of the Birds” is a 12th-century Sufi poem by Attar of Nishapur, that is a timeless parabol of the mystical quest for the Truth. It features the hoopoe, a spiritual guide figure, leading the birds on a perilous search for their King, the mythical Simorgh. Each bird in turn makes an excuse for not setting out, until at last they are all ready to take part. The parrot symbolizes false immortality, and would rather stay safe in her cage than live forever. Read here the Conference of the Birds
From the “Conference of the Birds” by Attar of Nishapur
“Welcome, O Parrot ! In your beautiful robe and collar of fire, this collar is fitting for a dweller in the underworld but your robe is worthy of Heaven. Can Abraham save himself from the fire of Nimrod? Break the head of Nimrod and become the friend of Abraham, who was the friend of God. When you have been delivered from the hands of Nimrod put on your robe of glory and fear not the collar of fire.
The hawk is but a gnat beside her brilliance; earth’s green carpet is the reflection of her feathers, and her words are distilled sugar.
Listen to her: ‘Vile men whose hearts are iron have shut me in a cage, so charming am I. Held fast in this prison I long for the source of the water of immortality guarded by Khidr. Like him I am clothed in green, for I am a Khidr among birds.
He who is not willing to renounce his life is no man. Life has been given to you so that for an instant you may have a worthy friend. Set out upon the Way, for you are not an almond you are only the shell. Join the company of worthy men and enter freely in their Way.’
….The Hoopoe replied :
‘ We have seven valleys to cross and
only after we have crossed them shall we discover the
Simurgh. No one has ever come back into the world who
has made this journey, and it is impossible to say how many
parasangs there are in front of us. Be patient, O fearful one,
since all those who went by this road were in your state.
‘The first valley is the Valley of the Quest, the second
the Valley of Love, the third is the Valley of Understanding,
the fourth is the Valley of Independence and Detachment,
the fifth of Pure Unity, the sixth is the Valley of Astonishment,
and the seventh is the Valley of Poverty and Nothingness
beyond which one can go no farther.
‘ When you enter the first valley, the Valley of the Quest,
a hundred difficulties will assail you; you will undergo a
hundred trials. There, the parrot of heaven is no more than
a fly. You will have to spend several years there, you will
have to make great efforts, and to change your state. You
will have to give up all that has seemed precious to you and
regard as nothing all that you possess. When you are sure
that you possess nothing, you will still have to detach yourself
from all that exists. Your heart will then be saved from
perdition and you will see the pure light of Divine Majesty
and your real wishes will be multiplied to infinity. One who
enters here will be filled with such longing that he will give
himself up completely to the quest symbolized by this valley.
He will ask of his cup-bearer a draught of wine, and when he
has drunk it nothing else will matter except the pursuit of
his true aim. Then he will no longer fear the dragons, the
guardians of the door, which seek to devour him. When the
door is opened and he enters, then dogma, belief and
unbelief—all cease to exist.’
THE FOOL OF GOD AND KHIZR
There was a man, mad from love of God. Khidr said to
him: ‘O perfect man, will you be my friend?’ He replied:
‘You and I are not compatible, for you have drunk long
draughts of the water of immortality so that you will always
exist, and I wish to give up my life. I am without friends and
do not know even how to support myself. Whilst you are
busy preserving your life, I sacrifice mine every day. It is
better that I leave you, as birds escape the snare, so,