Fariduddin Attar’s Conference of the Birds
The legendary Sufi poet, Farid al-Din ‘Attar was born in Nishapur, in northeastern Iran, in 1142. He was beheaded by the invading Mongol army in 1221. His tomb at Shadyakh is visited by many. Rumi was also inspired by Attar. The best known work of Fariduddin Attar’s works is Manteq al-Tayr (Conference of the Birds)- Here is a synopsis of this work.
Led by the hoopoe, the birds of the world set forth in search of their king, Simurgh. Their quest takes them through seven valleys in the first of which a hundred difficulties assail them. They undergo many trials as they try to free themselves of what is precious to them and change their state. Once successful and filled with longing, they ask for wine to dull the effects of dogma, belief, and unbelief on their lives.
In the second valley, the birds give up reason for love and, with a thousand hearts to sacrifice, continue their quest for discovering the Simurgh.
The third valley confounds the birds, especially when they discover that their worldly knowledge has become completely useless and their understanding has become ambivalent. They cannot understand why both the mihrab and the idol lead to understanding. Devoid of their earthly measures, they lose their ability to distinguish right from wrong.
The fourth valley is introduced as the valley of detachment, i.e., detachment from desire to possess and the wish to discover. The birds begin to feel that they have become part of a universe that is detached from their physical recognizable reality. In their new world, the planets are as minute as sparks of dust and elephants are not distinguishable from ants.
It is not until they enter the fifth valley that they realize that unity and multiplicity are the same. And as they have become entities in a vacuum with no sense of eternity. More importantly, they realize that God is beyond unity, multiplicity, and eternity.
Stepping into the sixth valley, the birds become astonished at the beauty of the Beloved. Experiencing extreme sadness and dejection, they feel that they know nothing, understand nothing. They are not even aware of themselves.
Only thirty birds reach the abode of the Simurgh. But there is no Simurgh anywhere t o see. Simurgh’s chamberlain keeps them waiting for Simurgh long enough for the birds to figure out that they themselves are the si (thirty) murgh (bird). The seventh valley is the valley of depravation, forgetfulness, dumbness, deafness, and death. The present and future lives of the thirty successful birds become shadows chased by the celestial Sun. And themselves, lost in the Sea of His existence, are the Simurgh.
courtesy Zen Sufi who referred me to this site