The Need for Guarantees: On the whole the birds would have liked to meet the King. “Tell us what he is like.” The Hoopoe gives this remarkable answer, “The King has created a mirror and made it possible to see him if you can find this mirror and look into it.” Of course what is the mirror — it is the Heart, for in the Heart we can see the image of God reflected. The Heart — the secret treasure within. That secret treasure is the very essence of God itself. The Hoopoe says look to Nature, the Natural world and you will see what the Sufis call ‘Ayat/The Signs/The Traces’ — E v e r y w h e r e
But the Hoopoe explains, “So great is His magnitude, that His subjects could neither endure His Presence for at all. On the other hand they cannot exist without Him. However for those who can endure it, for those who are strong enough spiritually to withstand the divine immanence, the Presence will reveal itself. For those who can’t he has created the mirror of our heart to be able to see him indirectly.
The Sun: There is the Yogic Practice of looking at the sun, but there are many who are not trained and they will burn their eyes. So for those that have no practice the universe has created, ‘The Moon’. And in the moon we can all see the light of the sun reflected. “For those that have eyes like the sun we can look at the sun. While those that don’t, look indirectly . . . look into our own heart.“ . . . so none are left out. Of course, you can close your eyes all together and not look at the sun or the moon. Then it is difficult to see the Light.
The Challenge/Love or Life: What is greater love or life; love or law. Attar asks, “Do lovers regard their lives? Do lovers act out of personal safety? Security?”
The Crucifying Process: Where the lover is first stripped of everything. Even including the form of religion. For Love’s sake. When Jesus was on the cross did not speak of philosophy or religion — He spoke about Love. “Why has Thou forsaken me?” And really in that statement it is not Jesus speaking at all — It is God as the Lover speaking through the one who doesn’t exist because they are crucified. God is asking humanity, “Why has Thou forsaken me?”
Only Thee: And then Attar says these words, “When there remains neither unbelief nor belief, when there remains neither doubt nor religion. Your body and soul will disappear. Then and only then will you be worthy of the mysteries. In other words, the outer and even the inner will disappear. It is that moment we stop being a spiritual seeker or even a spiritual person. And we can say, “I am not. Thou Art. I don’t exist. Only you exist.”
Of course don’t have to remind the lover to think about the beloved. Just ask any 16 yr old what they think of their girl friend or boy friend, and they will tell you, “That is all I think of.” That’s the secret here.
Trust: Now the burden is on the birds. Do they accept the Hoopoe as their guide or don’t they. This is really the next moment of Truth. We call it ‘Initiation’, actually there have been many initiatic moment already, in each of the birds and they are still following the Hoopoe. And they acknowledge the Hoopoe has been sent from above — to guide them. But they haven’t yet crossed the line of ‘Trust’. We place ourselves in the hands of the guide.
And there is a wonderful teaching that is given — almost everywhere. “We place ourselves in the hands of the guide because we want to go beyond our limited judgmental faculty of mind — the ego. And then we use that very limited faculty to judge the guide. The very thing we are trying to get rid of, we use to judge the guide.
And there are endless stories of the guide knowing this. And testing the followers by seeing if they do something will the followers follow or will they just run away — in doubt and fear. Usual at that point the guide becomes the devil in their eyes. The other thing to remember here is that the birds make the decision freely to entrust themselves into the wings of the Hoopoe . . . and almost immediately pangs of doubt and fear arise. Did I do the right thing.
Attar: “So great was the number of birds who flocked at the setting out, that they hid the moon and the fish: but then they saw the entrance to the first valley, they flew up to the clouds in fright for the perspective of the strong wind of detachment from earthly things split the vault of heaven”. There are many who will fly away after beginning the path and it’s alright — it is not their time. But the ones that stay ask of the teacher, ‘Well, what do I do? And the teacher shows them the gift of detachment. And then others fall away, in fright. Because detachment is very frightening. Often for those that stay they begin to make excuses for being afraid. So they can gently walk away without guilt.
The 1st bird queried the Hoopo’s leadership: “O you, who have been made our leader, tell us, what makes you stand out from us, since you seem to be like one of us?”
Attar says the first one, but he should say the first thousand for this is generally the excuse we give to not follow the teacher. We want the teacher to conform to the concepts of our minds of what the teacher should be. I have never met that concept and I have met a lot of teachers that have helped me greatly.
So the Hoopoe very wisely, rather than claiming qualities for himself, the Hoopoe said, “Oh, I am nothing. It is just that Solomon asked me to do this. And in the asking some of it rubbed off on me. And he didn’t even ask me
The 2nd Bird: This bird said, “I am too humble and I am too weak. I’m too inept for such a great undertaking. I can’t do it.”The Hoopoe said to him: “Since you are of so little value in the world, why not just lose your life in the quest.” And then he said to this one, “Wouldn’t that be better than just languishing in your weakness.”
He is really saying is that all of this is an excuse. “Do you have the courage to take the next step on Faith. Because you excuses cannot guide you.”
The 3rd bird, “How can a sinner, who burns away from the true path approach the queen.” The Hoopoe replies, “You cannot reach the course of the Most High by paying a sum, but by asking for Grace and Favor.” And then weak spirited 4th bird states: “Sometimes my desires drag me to the tavern, sometimes my spirit drives me to prayers.” The Hoopoe replies, “This is not unusual.”