by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Raficq Abdulla
Original Language Persian/Farsi

We are busy with the luxury of things.
Their number and multiple faces bring
To us confusion we call knowledge. Say:
God created the world, pinned night to day,
Made mountains to weigh it down, seas
To wash its face, living creatures with pleas
(The ancestors of prayers) seeking a place
In this mystery that floats in endless space.
God set the earth on the back of a bull,
The bull on a fish dancing on a spool
Of silver light so fine it is like air;
That in turn rests on nothing there
But nothing that nothing can share.
All things are but masks at God's beck and call,
They are symbols that instruct us that God is all.

-- from The Conference of the Birds: The Selected Sufi Poetry of Farid ud-Din Attar, Translated by Raficq Abdulla

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Farid ud-Din Attar | Next Poem >>

View All Poems by Farid ud-Din Attar

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Notice the way Attar, in this selection from the beginning of the Conference of the Birds, describes "this mystery that floats in endless space" and how it ultimately "rests on nothing there." This could just as easily be a Buddhist statement or from the Hindu nondualist tradition. Many deep mystics describe an awareness of the emptiness or ghost-like nature of the manifest world. This isn't a philosophical conceptualization, but a direct experience. There is only a seeming reality. In deep communion, the universe experienced by the senses is finally recognized as empty, void, "nothing there."

But this is not as bleak as it might at first sound. Within that nothingness (or no-thing-ness) is a radiant, formless, fullness. This is the true Reality that underlies the seeming reality of surface experience.

All things are but masks at God's beck and call,
They are symbols that instruct us that God is all.

The apparently tangible reality, though ultimately recognized as being empty, is a mask; it still reveals something to us of the Reality beneath. Surface experiences can still offer hints or "symbols" of the deeper Reality that underlies and is the true Self of all existence.

When you see the mask for what it is, the illusion is broken and the game is over. The mask falls and the Face reveals itself. And what a smile awaits you!

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 Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Conferences of the Birds
More Books >>