THE SIMURGH, FARID UD DIN ATTAR’S THE BIRDS JOURNEY TO MOUNT QAF

Thirty birds, makes a Simurgh

O my heart, if you wish to arrive

at the begining of understanding,

walk carefully.

To each atom there is a different door,

and for each atom there is a

different way which leads to

the mysterious Being,

of whom I speak.

In this vast Ocean the World

is an Atom, and the Atom a World.

Who knows which, is of more value here,

the Cornelian precious stone,

or a mere pebble?

Attar.

The faraway king of all the birds, the Simurgh, lets fall a magnificent feather at night, in the center of China, by it’s mere presence, the Chinese great wise scholars, on seeing this single feather knew of this magnificent but mysterious bird, and it’s fame spread all over,  therefore the saying:

“Seek knowledge even as far as China.”

Simurgh

Tired of their age-old anarchy, the birds resolve to go in search of him. They know that their king’s name Simurgh, means thirty birds; they know his palace is located on the Qaf mountain, the circular mountain that surrounds the earth.

Mount Qaf in Arabic tradition is a mysterious mountain renowned as the “farthest point of the earth” owing to its location at the far side of the ocean encircling the earth. It is also the only place in this world where the Roc will land.

Zal and the Simurgh

They embark upon the nearly infinite adventure. They pass through seven valleys or seas; the name of the penultimate is Vertigo; the last, Annihilation. Many pilgrims give up; others perish. Thirty, purified by their efforts, set foot on the mountain of the Simurgh. At last they gaze upon it: they perceive that they are the Simurgh and that the Simurgh is each one of them and all of them. In the Simurgh are the thirty birds and in each bird is the Simurgh.

The poem was written around 1200 by the Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar.

Attar's Mausoleum

About thirty works by Attar survive, but his masterpiece is the mantiq at-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds).

In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their sovereign, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simurgh. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represents a human fault which prevents human kind from attaining enlightenment.

“He who would know the secret of both worlds will find that the secret of them both is Love.”

The hoopoe tells the birds that they have to cross seven valleys in order to reach the abode of Simurgh. These valleys are as follows:

1. Valley of the Quest, where the Wayfarer begins by casting aside all dogma, belief, and unbelief.
2. Valley of Love, where reason is abandoned for the sake of love.
3. Valley of Knowledge, where worldly knowledge becomes utterly useless.
4. Valley of Detachment, where all desires and attachments to the world are given up. Here, what is assumed to be “reality” vanishes.
5. Valley of Unity, where the Wayfarer realizes that everything is connected and that the Beloved is beyond everything, including harmony, multiplicity, and eternity.
6. Valley of Wonderment, where, entranced by the beauty of the Beloved, the Wayfarer becomes perplexed and, steeped in awe, finds that he or she has never known or understood anything.
7. Valley of Poverty and Annihilation, where the self disappears into the universe and the Wayfarer becomes timeless, existing in both the past and the future.
The song of birds

“When the birds hear the description of these valleys, they bow their heads in distress; some even die of fright right then and there. But despite their trepidations, they begin the great journey. On the way, many perish of thirst, heat or illness, while others fall prey to wild beasts, panic, and violence. Finally, only thirty birds make it to the abode of Simurgh. In the end, the birds learn that they themselves are the Simorgh; the name “Simorgh” in Persian means thirty (si) birds (morgh). They eventually come to understand that the majesty of that Beloved is like the sun that can be seen reflected in a mirror. Yet, whoever looks into that mirror will also behold his or her own image.”

63.210.11

If Simurgh unveils its face to you, you will find
that all the birds, be they thirty or forty or more,
are but the shadows cast by that unveiling.
What shadow is ever separated from its maker?
Do you see?
The shadow and its maker are one and the same,
so get over surfaces and delve into mysteries.

Now, this book was recommended to me by Adam, a friend of mine over 35 years ago, and had it in my hands many times at the bookstore, and read just snippets of it, I am fastidious, and particularly with books, and want the best translation, and the best format, and was not satisfied with the stuff available at the time, so, then just took it out of the library and read it.

I just bought it a few days ago, compromising as usual, I may buy another one, by a different translator.

The Simurgh taken the white haired Zal to its nest

It was one night while soaring in the Chinese sky,I heard people talk of a great bird that flew by,
Called Simurgh, the greatest bird alive,
Who dwells on Mount Qaf, where he is said to thrive,
Upon a giant mountain unlike any other seen, covered with trees.
Beyond Samarkand, across seven valleys and seven seas.

Jorge Luis Borges admired Attar’s Simorgh tremendously, comparing it to Dante’s Eagle in Canto XVIII of the Paradiso—another composite bird, made up of just kings flying around Jupiter in aquiline formation. Borges preferred the Simurgh as the more cohesive, integrated figure; however, in Attar’s poem, the Simorgh’s integration is also the birds’ disintegration:

The Birds and the Simurgh

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. 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.

There is admirable economy in the birds’ quest, Borges noted—“the searchers are what they seek.” Yet also in this climax is the sense of consumption, mortality, illusion.

If you haven’t read it, do it by all means.

“The ocean can be yours; why should you stop  Beguiled by dreams of evanescent dew?
The secrets of the sun are yours, but you
Content yourself with motes trapped in beams.”

THE BIRDS’ JOURNEY TO MOUNT QAF

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About theburningheart

Blog: KoneKrusosKronos.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Baqaa, Ego, Fana, Farid Ud Din Attar, Heart, Imagination, Inner Journey, Inspiration, Khidr, Knowing Self, Knowledge, Literary Criticism, Literature, Mount Qaf, Mysticism, On Reading, Poetry, Realization, Sacred Mountain, Spirituality, Symbology, The Conference of Birds, Transformation, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to THE SIMURGH, FARID UD DIN ATTAR’S THE BIRDS JOURNEY TO MOUNT QAF

  1. Sha'Tara says:

    Quote: ““The ocean can be yours; why should you stop Beguiled by dreams of evanescent dew?
    The secrets of the sun are yours, but you content yourself with motes trapped in beams.”
    The quest for wisdom must remain outside any self or system imposed limits.

  2. Don Ostertag says:

    ‘The seekers are what they seek’ Such a simple explanation of a beautiful complex fairy tale.

    • theburningheart says:

      Thank you Don, yes, we seek this, we seek that, there, further, and beyond, few care to seek within.

      We appreciate your comment. 🙂

  3. GP Cox says:

    The Angels of the Pacific War, 11th Airborne Division. Birds in their own way.

  4. pjlazos says:

    Ah, what a gorgeous post. Sounds a lot like the Quetzal bird of the Aztecs. So what was the best translation?

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, it depends what do you go for, if you care about poetry, lyric prose, or a good narrative?
      You see, when I lived in Los Angeles used to get together with Persian friends, one of them even took me along to read Rumi in Farsi, with a group of people who would meet weekly, and they sort drilled into me there’s nothing like to read a Persian poet in the original language, of course I do not speak, or read Farsi, anyway their complaints were endless, about translations.

      I ended buying the Farsi translation of Garcin de Tassy, translated from the French by C,S, Nott.

      But my advice depending on your taste, before buying it, read the bad reviews of every book, and then if you care, or have the time, read the good ones, but my experience is that in the bad ones you catch what really you may not like.

      As it is, after buying this book I wrote the post and searching online for the article, I liked some other translations, as well.

      So be your own judge, or buy several.

      Enjoy the Holiday Pam! 🙂

  5. To overcome all the difficulties of the various valleys is for me life itself! At the moment I have the impression to cross some of them and I very much hope that in the end I will reach Simurgh and it’s silence in the region of Samarkand, which I love.) Thank you very much for always trying to make me fly. In this sense I wish you a very good time and new year. Very best regards Martina

  6. AZ says:

    What a wonderful post … in my opinion the second best after the Arabian Night ( Your Best Post ever ) .
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom , knowledge & love with us … and wish you a Happy New Year

    • theburningheart says:

      Thank you, for your kindness, and undeserved praise, I believe the subject itself, makes for a wonderful post, God willing we will explore similar subjects in the future.

      We appreciate your comment, and wish you blessings, and also happy Holidays. 🙂

  7. Lwbut says:

    A most interesting post, as usual, my good friend!

    “They eventually come to understand that the majesty of that Beloved is like the sun that can be seen reflected in a mirror. Yet, whoever looks into that mirror will also behold his or her own image.”
    In this morning’s contemplation it came to me that all that is in me is also in The One while all that is in the one is not yet recognised by me. If i am ‘good’ or if i am being ‘evil’ all of me is known, and is of, The One. I was also reminded of how we live can be reflected to us so that we may see it better for ourselves.

    L I V E : 3 V I L

    Evil may be seen as a reflection, the reverse or the opposite of what we see that we ‘are’, when we are not yet ‘complete’.

    it seems that while i may have some anticipation of the requirements imposed in further ‘valleys’ i am well and truly only making my way through the first at this point in time. 😉

    Peace and blessings to you with warm wishes for a safe and joyful holiday season, however you choose to celebrate it, and thanks to you for a most illuminating year. Looking forward to better understandings in 2019 and beyond. 🙂

    God is within you. ❤

    • theburningheart says:

      It’s complex this matter of evil, and too long to expose it here. it only belongs to the manifested, where duality its the nature of things, but being the manifested, always changing , and ultimately ephemeral, well…it’s does not posses lasting existence.

      Once you see yourself reflected in that mirror. the darkness is vanished by the Light.

      Thank you for your comment, we appreciate it, Blessings! 🙂

      • Lwbut says:

        For those who have eyes to see clearly! 😉

        I am not overly concerning myself with the nature of evil at present, rather doing what i am able to not co-operate with it as much as possible. 🙂

        Best wishes for 2019. 🙂

      • theburningheart says:

        Glad you are not overly concerned, about the nature of evil, means you are not suffering it’s effects.

        Best wishes too Bob! 🙂

      • Lwbut says:

        It may be the calm before the ‘storm’ but at this moment… i am not! (Thankfully). 😉

        Hope you are similarly fortunate!

  8. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Such beautiful imagery, both literally and in the imagination. The journey to the seven valleys reminds me of the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom sutra, which involves five aggregates that must be emptied to achieve enlightenment.

    So…..”no form, no sensation, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no sight, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of sight, no realm of mind consciousness.”

    It seems, along with the seven valleys, we have a lot of stuff to slough off, a lot of work to do, before we can get *anywhere*, huh?

    Thank you for the post and happy holidays!

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, indeed, a lifetime task!

      Different Traditions put it into different ways, but there’s analogy, and similitude.

      Thank you for your fine comment, we appreciate it, and also happy Holidays. 🙂

  9. stolzyblog says:

    I looked at this book too, some decades ago, attracted by the cover. For some reason I never got completely through it — one of the birds who turned elsewhere.

  10. Aliosa says:

    Happy New Year, 2019 ! 🙂

    Alioșa ! 🙂

  11. Amazing, just amazing. I liked not only the article, but really enjoyed illustrations. I never knew these stories and never read this book. Great insight and great text. Translation certainly matters. To translate complex texts means to recreate them to some extent.

  12. theburningheart says:

    It’s a classic, of Persian poetry. Yes when you read a translation, like the Italians like to say: Traduttore, traditore.

    Thank you Inese, for your fine comment, we appreciate it. 🙂

  13. robert87004 says:

    I’ll be looking for this book. Thank you for bringing it to my notice.

  14. Thanks for sharing this beautiful work by the Sufi poet Attar. The seven valleys we humans must cross to attain enlightenment remain impassable for our species. Few have made it to the Simurgh. Blessings along the journey, fellow traveler ❤

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, as the birds of the story, Humans always have an excuse…

      Rosaliene, thank you for your fine comment, we appreciate it. 🙂

  15. I have to admit that I have never heard about the Simurgh. But I enjoyed seeking knowledge even as far as China. 🙂

    • theburningheart says:

      Great, and truthful line Otto, you travel to the confines of Earth to seek Knowledge, and bring us your wonderful experiences, and images.

      Thank you! 🙂

  16. Jina Bazzar says:

    as an arab, i admit i never heard about mountain qaf or Farid, but i enjoyed the story and all its layers.

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, it’s said that comes from Sūrat Qaf (Arabic: سورة ق‎, “The Letter Qāf”) is the 50th sura of the Qur’an with 45 ayat. The sura that opens with the single discrete Arabic letter QĀF.

      The name of the sura is taken from the letter Qaf at the beginning of the first verse. This sura is associated with Mount Qaf (Kafdag or Cafcuh) in mystical tafsir. According to the traditions of Mount Qaf, it is the name of a mountain from the green emerald surrounding the Earth, and Allah is swearing in the name of this mountain and the Qur’an at the beginning of the sura.

      Mount Qaf in Arabic tradition is a mysterious mountain renowned as the “farthest point of the earth” owing to its location at the far side of the ocean encircling the earth. Because of its remoteness, the North Pole is sometimes identified with this mountain. It is also the only place in this world where the roc will land.

      Zakariya al-Qazwini published ʿAjā’ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā’ib al-mawjūdāt (“The Wonders of Creation”, literally “Marvels of things created and miraculous aspects of things existing”) in the 16th century, a book that was influential in early modern Islamic society. According to Qazwini’s cosmology, the sky is held by Allah so that it does not fall on Earth. The Earth is considered flat and surrounded by a series of mountains —including Mount Qaf— that hold it in its place like pegs; the Earth is supported by an ox that stands on Bahamut, a giant fish (Arabic: بهموت‎ Bahamūt) dwelling in a cosmic ocean; the ocean is inside a bowl that sits on top of an angel or jinn.

      According to certain authors, the Jabal Qaf of Muslim cosmology is a version of Rupes Nigra, a mountain whose ascent —such as Dante’s climbing of the Mountain of Purgatory, represents the pilgrim’s progress through spiritual states. In some traditions —such as in a hadith quoted by Al-Tabari— Mount Qaf is a mountain range that surrounds the farthest edges of the Earth, instead of a single mountain.

      Thank you for your comment, Jina, we appreciate it. 🙂

  17. Leyla says:

    Beautiful post!!

  18. An especially beautiful post!

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