Sunday, May 23, 2010

Live Together, Die Alone

The Birds Discover the Simorgh

The thirty birds read though the fateful page
And there discovered, stage by detailed stage,
Their lives, their actions, set out one by one -
All that their souls had ever been or done:
And this was bad enough, but as they read
They understood that it was they who’d led
The lovely Joseph into slavery -
Who had deprived him of his liberty
Deep in a well, then ignorantly sold
Their captive to a passing chief for gold.
(Can you not see that at each breath you sell
The Joseph you imprisoned in that well,
That he will be the king to whom you must
Naked and hungry bow down in the dust?)
The chastened spirits of these birds became
Like crumbled powder, ant they shrank with shame.
Then, as by shame their spirits were refined
Of all the world’s weight, they began to find
A new life flow towards them from that bright
Celestial and ever-living Light -
Their souls rose free of all they’d been before;
The past and all its actions were no more.
Their life came from that close, insistent sun
And in its vivid rays they shone as one.
There in the Simorgh’s radiant face they saw
Themselves, the Simorgh of the world - with awe
They gazed, and dared at last to comprehend
They were the Simorgh and the journey’s end.
They see the Simorgh - at themselves they stare,
And see a second Simorgh standing there;
They look at both and see the two are one.
That this is that, that this, the goal is won.
They ask (but inwardly; they make no sound)
The meaning of these mysteries that confound
Their puzzled ignorance - how is it tru
That ‘we’ is not distinguished here from ‘you’?
And silently their shining Lord replies:
‘I am a mirror set before your eyes,
And all who come before my splendor see
Themselves, their own unique reality;
You came as thirty birds and therefore saw
These selfsame thirty birds, not less nor more;
If you had come as forty, fifty - here
An answering forty, fifty, would appear;
Though you have struggled, wandered, traveled far,
It is yourselves you see and what you are.’
(Who sees the Lord? It is himself each sees;
What ant’s sight could discern the Pleiades?
What anvil could be lifted by an ant?
Or could a fly subdue an elephant?)
‘How much you thought you knew and saw; but you
Now know that all you trusted was untrue.
Though you traversed the Valley‘s depths and fought
With all the dangers that the journey brought,
The journey was in Me, the deeds were Mine -
You slept secure in Being’s inmost shrine.
And since you came as thirty birds, you see
These thirty birds when you discover Me,
The Simorgh, Truth’s last flawless jewel, the light
In which you will be lost to mortal sight,
Dispersed to nothingness until once more
You find in Me the selves you were before.’
Then, as they listened to the Simorgh’s words,
A trembling dissolution filled the birds -
The substance of their being was undone,
And they were lost like shade before the sun;
Neither the pilgrims nor their guide remained.
The Simorgh ceased to speak, and silence reigned.

From The Conference of the Birds by Farid Ud-Din Attar