Conference Of The Birds: PART III

PART III

THROUGH THE SEVEN VALLEYS

THE VALLEY OF THE QUEST

As soon as you set your foot in the first valley, that of the search, thousands of difficulties will assail you unceasingly at every stage. Every moment you will have to go through a hundred tests. The parrot of the sky* is only a fly in that place. You will have to remain for several years in the valley, and advance with great patience and perseverance. You will have to perform arduous tasks to purify your nature. You will have to give up your riches and renounce all that you have. When you have attained the certitude that you no longer possess anything, you will still have to detach your heart from all that exists. When your heart is thus rescued from perdition, you will witness the serene light of His Divine Majesty, and when it dawns upon your spirit, your spiritual desires will be multiplied a thousandfold.

On the path of the spiritual traveller there ought to be such a fire of desires that countless new vales will then appear, each one more difficult to cross than the rest. Drawn by the ardour of Love, the enthusiastic pilgrim will plunge into these valleys like a mad man, precipitating himself like a moth into the midst of the flame. Impelled by his zeal, he will give himself up to the quest symbolized by this valley. He will ask the Eternal Cup-Bearer to give him a “draught of the wine.” After he has taken a few drops of this wine, he will forget both the worlds. Straight will he be submerged in the Ocean of Immensity; his lips will, nevertheless, be dry with the desire of the quest, and of no one else but his own heart can he demand the secret of eternal beauty. In his longing to know this mystery, he will not be afraid of the dragons that threaten to devour him. If, at any moment, Faith and Infidelity should be held out to him for a choice, he would seize with alacrity either the one or the other, provided it would show him the path leading to his longed-for goal.

Once the gate is opened, what is faith, and what is infidelity to him? On the other side of the gate there is neither the one nor the other.

MAJNUN’S SEARCH OF LAYLA

One day Majnun was sifting earth in the middle of a road. A pious man said to him: “Oh Majnun, what are you seeking here?”

“I seek Layla,” replied Majnun.

“How can you find Layla here?” said the other. “Could a pearl so pure be found in such rubbish?”

“Well” said Majnun, “I seek her everywhere, so that one day I may find her somewhere.”

MAHMUD AND THE RAG-PICKER

One evening Sultan Mahmud saw a poor man sifting dust in search of some trinkets. Mahmud thereupon threw his diamond wristlet in the heap of dust that the man had collected. Next evening he went to the same place and saw the same man engaged in the same occupation.

“What you obtained yesterday,” said the king, who was greatly astonished at the cupidity of the man, “was enough for your maintenance for ten lives, and yet you are grovelling in the dust to-day. Go and enjoy yourself.”

“The hidden treasure that I found yesterday,” replied the man, “was received from this dust. When fortune smiled on me for knocking at this door, it behoves me that I should devote myself to this work as long as I live.”

THE VALLEY OF LOVE

After the first valley, comes the valley of Love. Whoever sets foot in it, is plunged in fire. Ah, what am I saying? One must oneself be made of fire, otherwise one cannot exist there. The lover, true and sincere, ought, in fact, to be as glowing as fire. His countenance must be radiant with fire, and he must be as ardent and impetuous as a flame of fire.

He must not for a moment think of consequences. He must be ready and willing to fling a hundred worlds into the fire, knowing neither faith nor infi­delity, neither doubt nor belief. In this road there is no difference between good and evil. Here neither good nor evil exists. Love transcends both.* O thou who liveth unmoved by any cares, this discourse can produce no impression on thee! He, in whose heart sincerity abides, stakes all he has, aye, stakes his head itself, to clasp hands with his beloved. Some are content with the promise of to-morrow that is made to them, but this adept demands it in hard cash. If he who enters upon the spiritual Path is not wholly consumed by the fire of love, how can he withstand the sadness which will overwhelm him? So long as you do not consume yourself entirely, how can you hope to be free from sorrow? A fish, thrown ashore by the ocean, will struggle until he gets back into the water.

In this valley Love is represented by fire, Reason by smoke. When Love bursts into flame, Reason is forthwith dissipated like smoke. Reason cannot co­exist with Love’s mania, for Love has nothing whatever to do with human Reason. If ever you attain a clear vision of the unseen world, then only will you be able to realize the source of Love. By the odour of Love every atom in the world is intoxicated. It owes its existence to the existence of Love.

If you possessed the spiritual insight to penetrate the invisible world, the atoms of the visible world would also become unveiled to you, but if you regard these with the eye of intellect, you will never com­prehend love as you should. Only one who has gone through the test and has become free can feel this spiritual devotion. You have not acquired such experience. You have not even the inspiration of love.*

You are selfish, dead, so to say, and therefore unworthy of love. He who enters upon this path should have thousands of hearts, fired with devotion, so that every moment he may be able to sacrifice a hundred souls.

A LOVE-SICK NOBLEMAN

A nobleman had a passion for a young wine-seller. So strong was his attachment that it grew into madness. He left his home and wandered desolate from place to place and the infamy of his life became the subject of gossip far and wide. He sold all that he had and bought wine. When he had nothing left with him, his passion increased a hundredfold. Although he was given as much bread as he desired, he remained always hungry, because he carried off all the bread he received, and bought wine with it. Hungry he always remained, so that he might gulp down in one moment a hundred draughts of wine. One day a man said to him: “O unfortunate man, tell me what is love. Pray, divulge this secret to me.”

“Love is this,” replied the man, “that thou shouldst sell the merchandise of a hundred worlds to buy wine (the symbol of love). How can a man understand love and its anguish until he has done this?”*

MAJNUN’S STRATAGEM

The family of Layla never allowed Majnun to enter their territory even for a moment. In that desert there was a shepherd. Majnun bought of him a sheep-skin. Bending his head he clad himself in that skin and he looked like a sheep. He then told the shepherd: “For the sake of God, let me join the fold of your sheep. Drive the sheep to Layla’s dwelling and let me be in the midst so that I may have a glimpse of her face for a moment. Thus Majnun found his way to his beloved. The sight of Layla at first filled his heart with joy, but after a while he fell down unconscious. The shepherd took him to the plains, threw water on his face and brought him to his senses. After this Majnun was sitting one day in the desert with the shepherds when one of his countrymen saw him and said: “O man of respectable lineage, why art thou without clothing? If thou wilt permit me, I will forthwith bring for thee the garment that thou dost most desire.” “No garment,” replied Majnun, “is worthy of my beloved and no garment is better for me than a sheep-skin. I desire a skin from a sheep and thus burn wild rue to scare away the evil eye. Satin and brocade for Majnun is skin. He who holds Layla dear wears skin. I have seen the face of my beloved under the skin; how can I put on any garment other than skin?”

THE VALLEY OF KNOWLEDGE

Another steep Valley now appears. It is the Valley of Mystic Knowledge,* which has neither a beginning nor an end. To cross this valley you will have to undergo a very, very long and tedious journey. Truly, there is no road like unto that road. However, the temporal traveller is one, the spiritual another. The soul and the body are perpetually in a state of progress or deterioration according to their strength or weakness. The spiritual path is, of necessity, therefore revealed to different people in accordance with their respective faculties. How, for instance, on this path, which was trodden by Abraham, the friend of God, could the feeble spider be the companion of an elephant? The progress of each individual will depend on the degree of perfection that each will have attained, and the approximation of each to the goal will be in accordance with the state of his heart and the strength of his will. Were a gnat to fly with all its might, could it ever equal the impetu­osity of the wind? There being thus divers ways of crossing the gulf, no two birds can fly alike. On this path of spiritual knowledge each one finds a different turning. One is taken to an idol, another to the Mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque, marking the direction of Mecca). One adopts idolatry (Hinduism), whereas the other embraces the faith (Islam). When the sun of knowledge dawns on the horizon of this road, each one receives illumination according to his merit and finds the task assigned to him in the knowledge of the truth. Underneath the ocean of knowledge there are thousands of pearls of wisdom and mystery, but an expert diver is required who will plunge into the water and bring up those pearls.

When those pearls are secured, and the mystery of the essence of existence clearly revealed, the furnace of this earth will be transformed into a flower garden. The adept sees the almond through the envelope of its shell. He no longer beholds himself; he perceives only his Friend. In all that he sees, he beholds His face.* In every atom he perceives the whole. Under the veil his eyes contemplate mysteries which are a thousandfold as luminous as the sun. But alas! for every one who acquires the knowledge of these mysteries, thousands are lost in the search! One must be perfect indeed if his ambition is to accomplish this perilous journey and to dive deep into the stormy waters. When one feels a real longing to probe these mysteries, every moment will renew his thirst for knowledge. He will be verily consumed with the desire to penetrate these secrets, and will offer himself for sacrifice a thousand times over to attain the object.

Even when you reach the glorious throne, never cease for a moment to pronounce these words of the Quran: “Is there any more?” Plunge headlong into the Ocean of Knowledge, or at least sprinkle the dust of the road upon your head.

As for you, who are asleep (and I cannot congratu­late you on it), why do you not go in mourning? If you cannot have the bliss of being united with the object of your affection, rise and at least put on mourning for separation from Him.

Ye who have not yet beheld the beauty of your Beloved, do not remain seated any longer; rise and go in search of this mystery. You should be ashamed of yourself if you do not know how to set out. How long will you remain like a donkey without a bridle?

THE MAN OF STONE

On a mountain in China there stands a man of stone, from whose eyes streams of tears flow day and night without respite. If only a drop of those tears were to become vapour and mix with the clouds, till Doomsday you would have no rain on this earth except the rain of sorrow. This man of stone is, in reality, knowledge or divine wisdom. If you have to go as far as China to find it, go there and look for it.

In the hands of indifferent persons knowledge has become as hard to handle as stone. How long will it be misunderstood? This inn of toil (this earth) is altogether enveloped in darkness, but knowledge shines in it like a lantern to show the road. Indeed, the guide of your soul in this darkness is this soul-kindling gem of knowledge. In these dark regions which have neither a beginning nor an end you have remained, like Alexander, without a guide. Even if you have collected these precious stones in large numbers, you will regret that you did not collect more. If, on the other hand, you do not avail yourself of the opportunity to gather these precious gems, you shall be still more penitent. Whether you possess this gem or do not possess it, I shall find you always a prey to grief.

The visible and the invisible world are lost in the soul. The soul is hidden from and lost in the body and the body from the soul. When you come out of this maze, you will find the proper place for a man. If you will reach this particular place, you will acquire in a single moment the knowledge of hundreds of mysteries, but woe to you, if you lag behind in this road! You will lose yourself totally in the path of grief. Do not sleep in the night and do not eat anything during the day. Then, perhaps, the desire for this quest will be kindled in you. Seek until you lose yourself in the search and you lose even the idea of the search!

THE BELOVED WHO FOUND HER LOVER IN THE ARMS OF MORPHEUS

A lover oppressed by the anguish of love was sleeping on the earth. His beloved happened to pass by and saw him unconscious. She wrote a letter to him in such terms as he deserved and tied it to the sleeve of his garment. When the lover awoke and read the letter, his heart shed tears of blood. This was the message: “O man of sloth, arise. If you are a merchant, seek silver and gold. If you are a devotee, then be alive and awake and offer prayers throughout the night till the dawn and behave like a faithful servant. If perchance you are a lover, then be ashamed of yourself. What business has sleep with the eyes of a lover? A true lover measures the wind during the day and counts the stars and measures the moon during the night. Since you are neither this nor that, O undeserving man, do not boast of your love for me. If a lover sleeps anywhere except in his coffin, I regard him as a lover only of himself. When you have entered the path of love out of ignorance, sleep becomes you, O worthless man.”

A LOVE-SICK SENTINEL

A watchman was afflicted with love. Day and night he was restless and sleepless. A friend advised him to sleep awhile. “The function of love has been added to the office of the watchman,” he answered. “How can a man sleep who is charged with these two missions? How can sleep become a watchman, especially one who is a lover? How can I sleep even for a moment? Sleep is not a thing that can be borrowed from another. Every night love sits sentinel on the sentinel and tests his fidelity. For a watchman there is no sleep. For a lover’s face there is no water but the water of his eyes. Sleeplessness is the badge of a sentry. Dishonour is the mark of a lover. When from the place of sleep (the eyes) water flows ceaselessly, how can sleep find its way there?”

Slumber not, O man, if you are a seeker of truth and a man of deeds. Sleep is good for you, only if you are a man of words. Keep watch in the lane of thy heart, because there are countless thieves in this neighbourhood. Guard the evil of thy heart from these brigands. When you acquire the art of guarding this precious gem, you will soon be blest with divine love and wisdom. In this ocean of blood divine knowledge will undoubtedly be attained by man through watchful­ness. He who suffers the most from sleeplessness carries a wakeful heart when he reaches the Divine Presence.

SULTAN MAHMUD AND THE FANATIC

One day Sultan Mahmud found himself in a desert where he saw a religious fanatic who had lost his heart. His head was bowed with grief and his back bent under the weight of the awful burden of his sorrow.

“Away with thee,” said the man, when he saw the king, “or I will give thee a hundred blows. Away, I tell thee! Thou art not a king, but a man of wicked feelings. Thou art faithless towards the Creator.”

“Call me not unfaithful,” begged Mahmud, “speak to me in becoming manner, not otherwise.”

“Did’st thou but know, thou ignorant creature,” replied the fanatic, “whence thou hast fallen into this bog of the senses through thy estrangement from God, the ashes and the earth would not suffice for thee and thou wouldst throw fire unceasingly and unsparingly on thy head.”

THE VALLEY OF DETACHMENT

Next comes the valley where there is neither the ambition to possess anything, nor the spiritual desire to fathom divine mysteries. Complete detachment from the world, which in this place is not worth a straw, is the essence of this stage of the journey. In this state of competency of the soul there arises a cold wind so violent and fierce that it devastates a continent in one moment. The seven oceans are reduced to a mere pool of water; the seven planets appear to be but a mere spark; the seven heavens but a corpse; the seven hills but frozen snow. Then behold the wonder which reason cannot comprehend! The ant gains the strength of a hundred elephants, while a hundred caravans perish in the twinkling of an eye. In order that Adam might receive the celestial light, millions of angels clad in green were consumed with sorrow. In order that the most holy Noah might become a carpenter (of God, for making the arc), thousands of creatures were deprived of their life. Thousands of gnats fell upon the army of Nimrod in order that Abraham might be triumphant. Thousands of children were destroyed in order that Moses might see the Lord. Thousands of people were put under the yoke of Christianity, so that Christ might become the confidential possessor of the secrets of God. Millions of souls and hearts were pillaged so that Muhammad might ascend one night to heaven. In this valley neither new nor old has any value. You are free to act or not to act.

Although you see here a whole world on fire, ablaze to its very core, I know that it is no more than a dream. Should myriads of souls be drowned ceaselessly in the boundless deep, it would be like a tiny dew-drop falling into the sea. Were millions of individuals to fall victims to eternal sleep, it would be like an atom disappearing with the shadow in the sun. Should heaven and earth be split up into minute atoms, take it that a leaf has fallen from a tree. If everything from the fish to the moon were plunged into annihilation, take it that the leg of an ant has been maimed in the bottom of a well. Even though all of a sudden the two worlds were to be obliterated, it would be like the loss of a single grain of sand. If there remained no trace of men or spirits, put up with it as though it were no more than the loss of a rain-drop. Were all forms to vanish from the earth, were not even a single hair of a living being to survive, what is there to fear? In short, if the part as well as the whole were totally obliterated, it would be equivalent to a mere straw disappearing from the face of the earth. Even though the nine Cupolas of the universe were to fall down and disappear in one and the same place, it would be like a drop of water falling in the seven seas.

AN ANALOGY FROM ASTROLOGY

You must have seen a learned astrologer placing before him a tablet covered with sand. He draws on it figures and pictures and shows on it the position of the stars and the planets, the heaven as well as the earth. Sometimes he presages from the position of the heavenly bodies and sometimes from the position of the earth. He traces also on this tablet the constellations and the signs of the Zodiac, the rising and the setting of the stars, deduces from them good and bad omens and draws the house of birth or of death. When in consonance with these signs he has prepared the horoscope showing good or ill luck, he sets aside the tablet and scatters the sand. No trace remains of all those drawings and pictures.

The surface of the earth is similar to this tablet. If you do not possess the strength to resist the temptations of this world, go, turn away from it and sit in a corner. If you have not got the necessary vigour to endure the hardships of this road, were you all stone, you would not weigh one straw.

THE FLY AND THE BEE-HIVE

A fly was in search of food. She saw a bee-hive in the corner. Intoxicated with the desire for the honey, she cried, “Is there a generous man who would take from me a grain of barley and place me in the midst of the bee-hive? When the tree of union will thus bear fruit, will there be anything sweeter than honey?” A passer-by took pity on her and placed her in the midst of the honey without taking the price for it. When the fly found itself in the midst of the bee-hive, her feet stuck tight in the honey. The more she fretted and struggled to set herself free, the firmer became her fetters. She cried in distress, “Alas! I am killed by violence. For me this honey has proved more bitter than poison. I offered one grain of barley to get it. I now offer ten grains for deliverance from this misery.”

“None should remain inactive in this valley for a moment”, continued the Hoopoe. “Let none enter it who has not come of age. It is a long time since you have been living a life of ease and ignorance, oh my friend! Your life has been brought to an end without serving any useful purpose; where is another life in which to acquire knowledge? Arise then, cut through this arduous valley and then cut yourself free from your soul and your heart. As long as you do not renounce the one or the other, you will be distracted more and more every moment. Sacrifice your soul and your heart in this road. If not, they will turn you away from the path of Independence.”

Too hard a mystery was this to comprehend. The Hoopoe, therefore, concluded his discourse with this anecdote:

A disciple requested his master to favour him with a word of wisdom. “Leave me in peace,” said the teacher. “I will tell you nothing, until you wash your face. Of what use the scent of the musk in the midst of filth? Of what avail words of wisdom to the drunken?”

THE VALLEY OF UNITY

After the Valley of Detachment comes the Valley of Unity, the region in which everything is renounced and everything unified,* where there is no distinction in number and quality. All who raise their heads in this wilderness draw it from the same collar. Whether you see many individuals in it or a small number, in reality they are but one; as all this group of individuals merely compose only one, this group is complete in its oneness. That which appears to be a unit is not different from that which appears to be a quantity. As the Being of whom I speak is beyond unity and reckoning, withdraw your eyes from death and eternity. There is no place here for death, none for eternity. These two extremities having vanished, cease to speak of them. In fact, as all that is visible is nothing and nothing everything, how can all that we behold be anything but worthless in its origin and unworthy of our attention?

A man asked a Sufi one day to give him some indication of what this world is. “This world full of honour and infamy,” said he, “resembles a honey­comb on which are imprinted a hundred colours. If anyone squeezes it in his hands it will become a mere mass of wax. As it is all wax and nothing else, go and rest satisfied that all these colours are also nothing.

When everything is “one”, cease talking of “two”. Here there is no “I,” nor “Thou.”*

ADVICE GIVEN TO A SHAYKH BY A WOMAN

An old woman went one day to Abu Ali and offered him a leaf of gold paper.

“Accept this, O Shaykh,” she said, “at my hands.”

“I have taken a vow not to accept anything from anyone save Allah,” replied the holy man.

“Where hast thou learnt to see double?” at once retorted the woman. “Thou art not a man on this path with power to unite or disunite. If you see many objects, are you not squint-eyed? The eye of man does not regard anything as alien in this path. There is neither Ka‘bah here nor Pagoda. One ought never to see any other than the Infinite Being and ought not to recognize any one except Him as permanent. One is in Him, by Him, and with Him, and, how strange, one is also away from these three points of contact! Whoever is not lost in the ocean of unity, were he Adam himself, is not a man. Whether one belongs to the good or the wicked, one always possesses the sun of grace within the pale of the invisible world. At last a day will dawn when that sun will take you with him and throw aside the veil which covers it. Know, then, for certain that whoever has found this sun sees neither good nor evil. So long as thou existeth individually, good and evil will exist for thee, but when thou hast merged thyself in the sunlight of the divine essence, all will be love. If thou laggest behind in thy individual existence, thou wilt see a good deal of good and a good deal of evil on the weary road of thy existence. Thou wilt be a slave to individuality so long as thy eyes rest on nothingness, so long as thou hast not been blest with the vision beatific. Would to God thou wert now what thou wast before, devoid of existence as an individual. Wash thyself clean of evil qualities; then go to the earth with the wind in thy hand. Little doth thou know what filth and impurity there is in your body. The serpent and the scorpion are within thee, behind the veil; they are asleep and apparently dead, but touch them ever so lightly and each one of them will exhibit the strength of a hundred dragons. For each of us there is a hell full of serpents. If thou art inactive, they are horribly active. If thou art armed against these unclean beasts and come out victorious in thy struggle with them, thou wilt sleep peacefully on the earth; otherwise these snakes and scorpions will bite thee violently, even under the dust of the grave, until the day of Judgment.”*

Let us turn once more to the mysterious Valley of Unity. When the spiritual pilgrim enters this valley, he will be lost, because the Real Being will become manifest. He will remain silent because the Real Being will speak. His self being obliterated, he will be unable to understand who he is and where he is. What was but a part becomes the whole, or rather it becomes neither part nor whole. It becomes a figure without body or soul. Out of every four things, four things will come forth; and out of every hundred thousand, a hundred thousand. In the school of this wonderful secret you will see thousands of intellects with lips parched for lack of speech. What is reason here? It stands still on the threshold of the gate like an infant born blind and deaf-mute. He who has learnt a little of this secret turns away from the two worlds, but although he does not exist as an individual being, he still exists. Existence or no existence, this man still survives.* Give up, then, the thought of separation. Lose the thought of being lost. Then wilt thou attain unity.

THE VALLEY OF BEWILDERMENT AND STUPEFACTION

Next comes the Valley of Stupefaction. Here one is a prey to perpetual sadness. Every sigh is like a sword here, and every breath a piteous plaint. Here, alas! one sees blood dropping from the end of every hair, even though it has not been cut. There is lamentation, sorrow and consuming desire. It is at the same time day and night, but it is neither day nor night. There is fire in this place, and one is overcome, burnt and consumed thereby. How, in this bewilderment, will a man be able to set foot in this path? He will be as it were dead with astonish­ment and will get lost on the road. But he who has the impression of unity engraved in his heart forgets all and forgets himself. Ask him, “Art thou, or art thou not? Hast thou or hast thou not the conscious­ness of existence? Art thou in the midst, or art thou not? Art thou on the border? Art thou visible or invisible, perishable or immortal? Art thou the one or the other, or neither the one nor the other? Lastly, art thou thou or art thou not thou?” To these questions the poor bewildered soul will reply: “I know absolutely nothing of these things. I know neither this nor that. Nay, I know not myself. I am in love, but I know not with whom. I am neither a Musalman nor an infidel. What am I then? I am not even conscious of my love. My heart is at once both full and void of love.”

A MOTHER’S GRIEF

A mother was weeping over her daughter’s grave. On seeing her a passer-by exclaimed: “This woman is more fortunate than men are, for she knows what we do not know. She knows from whom it is that she is cut off, and of whom she is deprived and rendered desolate. Happy is he who understands his condition and knows for whom his tears are shed! As for me, grief-stricken and afflicted, how painful is my condition! Day and night I sit and mourn. I know not for whom it is that my tears come forth like rain. So great is my grief that I do not even know whom I have lost, and for whom this terrible suffering. This woman has the advantage over thousands such as I am, because she has found the secret of the being she has lost. It is a pity that I have not found the secret, and my blood is shed with my grief and I perish in bewilderment. In such a place where there is no trace of the heart—nay the place itself has become invisible—reason has let go the reins and I can no longer find the gate to the dwelling-place of thought. Whoever arrives in this place will lose his head in it. He will find no gate to this four-walled enclosure. Should, however, anyone succeed in finding the path, he would immediately discover the whole of the secret he
seeks.”

THE LOST KEY

A Sufi once heard a man saying, “I have lost a key. Has any one found it anywhere? The door of my house is shut and I am without shelter in the street. If the door remains closed, what shall I do? I shall be for ever miserable. What shall I do?”

“Who wishes you to be miserable?” asked the Sufi. “Since you know where the door is, go and stay near it, even though it be closed. If you sit near it for a long time, there is no doubt that some one will open it for you. Your condition is not so bad as mine. My soul is consumed in stupefaction. Of the enigma that bewilders me there is no solution. There is neither a door nor a key for me.”

Would to God the Sufi could set out in all haste and find the door either open or closed! None can know, none can even imagine, the real state of things. To the man who asks, “What shall I do?”, reply “Do not do what you have done. Do not behave as you have behaved up to this moment.”

Whoever enters the Valley of Bewilderment finds himself at every moment in a state of grief. How long shall I endure this affliction? Others have lost the way in this wilderness, how shall I get a clue to the road? I do not know it, but would to God I knew it. Aye, if I knew it, I should be in a state of stupefaction. Here, the cause for a man’s complaint is the source of thanksgiving. Infidelity has become faith and faith infidelity.

THE VALLEY OF POVERTY AND ANNIHILATION

Last comes the Valley of Poverty and Annihilation. How can one describe this steepest of steep Valleys? The essential features of this valley are forgetfulness, dumbness, deafness and distraction. Here, under a single ray of the spiritual sun, you see countless shadows that surrounded you vanish. When the ocean of immensity begins to ruffle its waves, how can the shapes traced upon its surface endure? Both the worlds are no more than the forms which you see on the surface of the ocean. Whoever dis­putes this statement is labouring under a hallucination. He whose heart is lost in this ocean is lost for ever, and reposes there in peace. In these quiet waters he finds nothing but oblivion. If it be ever permitted to him to return from this oblivion, he will understand what is creation, and many a secret will then be divulged to him. As soon as experienced travellers in the spiritual path and tried men of action entered the realm of love, they went astray at the very first step. Of what use then was talking of this road since none of them was able to take the second step? They were all annihilated at the first step, whether they belonged to the mineral kingdom or were worthy descendants of Adam. Aloes and firewood are both equally reduced to cinders when put on the fire. In appearance they look like one and the same substance, and yet their qualities are quite different. Were an unclean object to fall into an ocean of rosewater, it would still remain impure by reason of its innate qualities. On the other hand, if something pure were to fall into this ocean, it would lose its individual existence and be identified with the motion of the ocean’s waves. Ceasing to exist separately, it would thenceforward remain beautiful. It exists not and yet exists. What is this mystery? It is beyond reason to comprehend.

In this stage of the pilgrim’s journey, the movement of the traveller and the motion of the ocean are the same. He is and he is not. How can that be? Who can explain this mystery? The mind cannot con­ceive it. In order that you may understand it, it is essential that not one hair of self shall remain with you, otherwise the seven hells will be filled with this one hair (one thought of self-consciousness).

NASIR-UD-DIN TUSI’S ADVICE TO HIS DISCIPLE

One night the famous saint of Tus, that ocean of spiritual secrets, said to his disciple: “Melt per­petually. If in the path of love you waste away continually, your body will through weakness become as thin as a hair and then you can easily find a place in the ringlets of your beloved. Whoever becomes a hair in search of his beloved, doubtless becomes one of the hairs of the beloved. If you are gifted with spiritual insight, penetrate this mystery of hair in hair. If of your self even a tip of a hair remains, seven hells will be filled with that sin of yours.”

He who renounces the world to tread this path finds death. When he loses all consciousness of death, he attains immortality.* O my heart, if you feel bewildered, cross the narrow bridge over the burning fire. Do not give yourself up to grief, because the oil in the lamp, while burning, produces a smoke as black as an old raven. When the oil has been consumed by fire, it transcends the grossness of its existence. If you seek to arrive at this place and to attain this lofty position, strip yourself of your self first and take a passport to the world of nothingness. Throw the sheet of nothingness over your head and cover your body with the robe of non-existence. Put your feet in the stirrup of renunciation and give reins to the horse of aimless­ness towards the place where there is nothing. If you possess even the end of a hair of this world, you cannot hope to have any news of the other world. Clothe yourself in the garment of nothingness and drink the cup of annihilation. In this topsyturvy world, put round your waist the girdle of nothingness.

He who tears himself away from himself attains fidelity. He who is annihilated in annihilation forgets that he is annihilated, is not conscious even of annihilation, enters Eternity and lives ever­lastingly.* “When I saw the rays of that sun, I was swept out of existence. Water flew back to water.*”

THE ASSEMBLAGE OF BUTTERFLIES IN SEARCH OF THE CANDLE

One evening the butterflies of the world gathered together, each one impelled by the desire to set out in quest of the candle. They knew nothing of the object of their desire, so they all thought it would be a good thing if any one of them could try and bring them news of the candle. One of them, therefore, proceeded to a distant castle and beheld within it the light of a candle. It then returned and opened out before the others the album of its impressions and attempted to give a description of the candle according to the measure of its intelligence. Their sage leader, however, said that the explorer had come back without an adequate idea of the nature of the candle. Another butterfly thereupon started on the mission. Approaching the candle, it touched the flame with its wings for a moment. The candle was victorious, and the butterfly was completely vanquished and singed. Returning to its friends, it tried to explain the mystery to them. The wise butterfly again interposed and said: “Your explanation is not more accurate than that given by the previous explorer.” Another butterfly thereupon sprang forward, intoxicated with love, and flung itself with violence into the flame of the candle. Putting its hands (front feet) round the neck of the flame, it lost itself completely in the flame. When the fire spread over its whole body, all its limbs turned red like the flame. When the wise butterfly witnessed this sight from a distance, it said: “What can any one know of this mystery? He alone knows it and that is all.” This one, who lost all trace of itself, knows more than others of this mystery of annihilation. So long as thou dost not forget thy body and soul, how wilt thou know anything of the object of thy love? He who is able to give thee the slightest indication of that object inscribes the letters of his description with the blood of his soul.

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