The pilgrim sees no form but His and knows

by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis
Original Language Persian/Farsi

The pilgrim sees no form but His and knows
That He subsists beneath all passing shows --
The pilgrim comes from Him whom he can see,
Lives in Him, with Him, and beyond all three.
Be lost in Unity's inclusive span,
Or you are human but not yet a man.
Whoever lives, the wicked and the blessed,
Contains a hidden sun within his breast --
Its light must dawn though dogged by long delay;
The clouds that veil it must be torn away --
Whoever reaches to his hidden sun
Surpasses good and bad and knows the One.
The good and bad are here while you are here;
Surpass yourself and they will disappear.

-- from The Conference of the Birds, Translated by Afkham Darbandi / Translated by Dick Davis

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I recently watched a lovely, meditative film called "The Way" about a grieving father's journey along the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

There is something universal about pilgrimage. Properly approached, pilgrimage is more than a journey to a sacred place. It is a journey to the sacred -- at every step along the way. Each leg of the journey is an opportunity to become more clear, more open, more present.

Attar's masterpiece, The Conference of the Birds, is about a group of birds (souls) who journey to meet their king, the Simurgh (God). It is the pilgrimage we are all on.

Here, Attar is giving us pointers on how to approach the journey:

The pilgrim sees no form but His and knows
That He subsists beneath all passing shows


...

Be lost in Unity's inclusive span,
Or you are human but not yet a man.


...

Whoever lives, the wicked and the blessed,
Contains a hidden sun within his breast


This last, I think, is a particularly important reminder. And it's not just a nice idea. Every person, wherever they may be on the spiritual path, has the same light shining within them. Some hide it more than others. This doesn't mean we need to make ourselves vulnerable to harmful individuals, but we must remember what they have forgotten, that they too are bearers of the divine spark.

We can't overlook the secret message hidden within the name of the Simurgh: While clearly a representation of God, the word Simurgh in Persian can also be translated as "thirty birds" -- that is the collective group of birds who completed the journey. The Eternal is not some separate being, but found in the unity of beings. When we exclude anyone from our communities and our hearts, we have created a gap in our vision of God. The Simurgh is ALL thirty birds. We can't see it until we've made room in our hearts for everyone.

And then, when we do see the Whole, we no longer see the pieces:

The good and bad are here while you are here;
Surpass yourself and they will disappear.



Buen camino!



Recommended Books: Farid ud-Din Attar

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Conference of the Birds
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The pilgrim sees no