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Sufi Teachings:

Moulana Rumi's
Masnavi: Book II
The Story of Moses
and the Shepherd


Turning to Light,
Not Chasing the Shadow


Moulana Rumi's
Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant
and the Parrot - Part Three


Moulana Rumi's
Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant
and the Parrot - Part Two


Moulana Rumi's
Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant
and the Parrot - Part One


The Spiritual Message of
Rumi for the Searchers
of our Time & His
Transformative Teachings
in the Masnavi


The Purpose of Life

Excerpts from
Henry Corbin on
Mundus Imaginalis


Second Part of Excerpts
from Man of Light in
Iranian Sufism


An Introduction to
Henry Corbin
    and
First Part of Excerpts
from Man of Light in
Iranian Sufism


A Brief Spiritual Reflection
On The Current Pandemic


The Interior Life In Islam

The Qur'an as the
Lover's Mirror


On The Cosmology of Dhikr

Ibn 'Arabi On
Proximity And Distance


Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
What is Knowledge
of Reality?


Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Seeing Versus
Not Seeing


Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Journeying In
The Spiritual Path


Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology:
The Isolation and
Transformation
of the Nafs


To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or
Mistaken Identity?


Moulana Rumi -
The Mirror of Divine Love


The Transformative Power
of the Fear of God


Test of the Hardship

The Theatre
of Life


Peace and the
Inner Jihad


Sufism and the
Paradox of Self


Surrender

Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf
(Sufism)?


Listening for God:
Prayer and the Heart

 



Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate


Moulana Rumi's Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant and the Parrot
Part Three

By Fleur Nassery Bonnin

In this third and final part of Rumi's story, we join the merchant just after he tells his own parrot of the apparent demise of the parrot of India.

          When the bird heard what that parrot had done,
               thereupon she trembled, fell, and became cold
Masnavi I: 1691    

          The merchant, seeing her thus fallen,
               sprang up and threw his cap on the ground.
Masnavi I: 1692    

          When he saw her in that colour and in that state,
               the merchant sprang up and tore the chest of his shirt (out of pain).
Masnavi I: 1693    

          He said, "O beautiful parrot with your sweet cry,
               what has happened to you? Why have you become like this?
Masnavi I: 1694    

          Oh, alas for my sweet-voiced bird!
               Oh, alas for my bosom-friend and confidant!
Masnavi I: 1695    

          Oh, alas for my bird of goodly flight,
               that has flown from my end to my beginning (my last state to my first state).
Masnavi I: 1708    


In the above verses, it is not clear whether Rumi is referring to Shams, his beloved teacher, or his soul represented by the parrot.

          These cries of alas are the wishes of seeing (the beloved)
               and separating from my present existence.
Masnavi I: 1711    

          It was the jealousy of God, and there is no device against God:
               where is a heart that is not shattered in a hundred pieces by God's love?
Masnavi I: 1712    


Whilst expressing the merchant's grief Rumi alludes to the way in which God reveals His love for us by removing those obstacles that we are attached to, helping us to turn back to Him since it is usually due to grief and pain that we turn to Him.

          The Beloved likes this agitation:
               it is better to struggle vainly than to lie still.
Masnavi I: 1819    

          The jealousy of God (ghayrat) is that He is other than all things,
               that He is beyond explanation and the noise of words.
Masnavi I: 1713    


The English translation of the word 'jealousy' (ghayrat) is not accurate yet unfortunately it has always been translated as such. A closer translation of the word ghayrat that is attributed to God is 'intolerance of otherness'. God neither likes nor tolerates that His special people love others, or that anything becomes the subject of their love and attention without that being considered as a reflection of Him. We shall see this below where He addresses Rumi when he is too involved with writing poetry and rhyming words.

However, this ghayrat does not apply to people who are unconscious of God and absorbed in worldly attachments.

          Oh, alas! wishing that my tears were an ocean,
               So they might be an offering to the beautiful charmer!
Masnavi I: 1714    

          My parrot, my clever-headed bird,
               the interpreter of my thought and inmost consciousness
Masnavi I: 1715    


In the Masnavi, Rumi continually gives voice to the different aspects of the story, as well as the higher realities they often signify, like the Real Beloved, the spirit and the soul. In his book of love poetry, "Divan-e Shams", the ambiguity of the shifting of the speaker's identity is even more heightened and occurs more often. Experts on Rumi's work say that these subtle changes in the speaker's identity is like a triangle between God, Shams (his teacher) and his soul, and it becomes difficult for people to know at times who is the speaker and who is spoken to unless one has become familiar with his patterns.

For instance, in the above verse, the parrot is alluding to that Real Beloved or the soul, who knows our inner thoughts and secrets.

          Whatever should come or not come to me as allotted portion
               He had told me from the beginning so that I could remember
Masnavi I: 1716    


The meaning and implication here is that whatever good and bad comes to one, it was known to God from the beginning and was revealed to the spirit of the person at that time when the spirit was still free and not captured in the cage of their body. The soul was told that connecting with the earthly body and being cut off from the unseen world was going to be painful.

          The parrot whose voice comes from (Divine) inspiration
               whose beginning was before the beginning of existence.
Masnavi I: 1717    

          That parrot is hidden within you:
               You have seen its reflection on this and that (the things of the phenomenal world)
Masnavi I: 1718    

          She takes away your joy, and yet you are rejoicing:
               you receive injury from her as though it were justice.
Masnavi I: 1719    


The parrot here symbolises the human soul, as mentioned previously, who is aware of the eternal secrets; it had understood the reality and the truths in the spiritual world before being trapped in the cage of the body. In other words, the parrot is a symbol of human being's inner reality. Everyone in this world is looking for that inner reality of themselves, but they unknowingly project aspects of it onto 'this and that' of worldly life. This is why self-knowledge and self-scrutiny are the responsibility of anyone with a desire for spiritual realisation. Because unless we disentangle ourselves from the material world, while we are living in the world, and realise connections with aspects of our self or personality, it is not possible to uncover and know our soul. Rumi has presented this poetically to us through the reality of who the parrot is and how it made wrong choices followed by right choices.

          O you who have been burning the soul for the body's sake,
               you have burned the soul and illumined the body.
Masnavi I: 1720    


We must strive to discover and know ourselves, which means to know our soul, but we are unaware of this fact and instead of cultivating our recognition of the soul, we cultivate the fattening of our body.

          O alas, O alas, O alas
               such a moon became hidden under the clouds!
Masnavi I: 1723    


Again a reference to how the light of the moon (the soul) became hidden under the clouds of the body and ego personality.


As the story unfolds Rumi's attention has subtly shifted, instead of remaining a vessel for God's words, he became interested in the rhymes of his poetry until he suddenly hears God addressing him saying:

          I am thinking of rhymes, and my Beloved says to me,
               "Do not think of anything except vision of Me".
Masnavi I: 1727    

          Sit at your ease, my rhyme-meditating friend:
               you are the rhyme of felicity in My presence.
Masnavi I: 1728    

          I will stir up word and sound and speech,
               so that without all these three I may converse with thee.
Masnavi I: 1730    


Beyond the poetry of such a verse, we might wonder how does God speak with Rumi without word and sound and speech? All the real masters of the path have had visionary experiences to various degrees in the realm of alam al mithal (mundus imaginalis), the realm where corporeal bodies become spiritualised and spiritual realities are given substance. In this intermediary realm the visionary's heart is enlightened and knowledge and secrets are communicated to them by the higher levels of spirit or by God. In such a communion there is no need for word, sound or speech. Words and speaking are only a part of the human configuration while living in the body on earth. In these verses Rumi openly reveals this reality for us.

          That which I kept hidden from Adam
               I will say to you, O (you who are the) consciousness of the world.
Masnavi I: 1731    


Rumi alludes to the secrets that God makes available to His saints (wali) for their spiritual advancement as well as for those under their guidance. These secrets are different from the instructions given to His prophets, which are for the religious training and education of society.

          That which I did not communicate to Abraham,
               and that pain (love) which Gabriel does not know of.
Masnavi I: 1732    


Gabriel doesn't know love as he is an angel and angels, lacking love and desire, are unable to experience what humans can. This has also been stated in the Qur'an "He taught Adam all the names" (2:31), but the angels did not know the names. Beyond this it also alludes to God having a different relationship with every human being who is God conscious.

          That which the Messiah (Jesus) breathed not a word;
               God also from protection did not utter without we
Masnavi I: 1733    


Rumi in the above few verses says that he is being told by his Beloved that He wants him to stop concentrating on the poetry and rhyme and be silent, thinking only about His vision, so that He reveals His secrets to him and speaks in his place. Rumi is in such a state of closeness to the Beloved that he has reached the state of spiritual annihilation in God (fana). At this point it seems he has reached such a height that he says:

          I am drowned in a love
               therein are drowned the first and the last lovers
Masnavi I: 1757    


Rumi refers to the love that he is in as a love that encompasses all those lovers of far and near, as if they are all in one community of lovers irrespective of time and place. We are all fishes of the one ocean. He goes on for many more verses, not conscious of self and drowning in the sea of love as he calls it, which we will not follow as it is beyond our scope. Then he says:

          I have only said things in allusion, not having explained,
               otherwise its fire would consume my lips and my tongue
Masnavi I: 1758    


Rumi says: I can only refer to this love and this reality by allusion since if I reveal it more it would set fire to the lips and tongue of the speaker.

There is a need for explanation before the next verse. The word lip or lips in English is called 'lab' in Persian, but it also means the edge of something, like the edge or the shore of the sea. So he says:

          When I speak of 'lab' (lip in English), I am pointing to the shore of the Sea;
               when I say 'no' ('la' in Arabic) I am pointing to 'except' which is connecting to God
               (in order to become 'no God except God')
Masnavi I: 1759    


Again there is a need for translation and explanation here due to the difference between the two languages. English translations of the words do not reach the intended meaning as well as the Persian does.

Rumi is saying: I only say the first word and no more, the rest is up to the level of the hearer and his spiritual state to get the whole meaning out of it. So in the verse above he says: When I say lab, pointing to the 'shore' of the sea, I allude to the shore of the sea of divine secrets (اسرار الهی). I have not yet spoken about the actual Divine sea itself and the drowning in its waves.

He continues: when I say 'no' meaning 'la' (in Arabic), I mean 'No God', and the one with inner hearing who is conscious of Reality, can travel from 'la' (no) on his own to 'except' which is connected to God and find his way to the unity of God, as no God except God (لا اله الاالله). Of course these are all in the form of subtle intimations.

Rumi again becomes stirred up and moves to his way of seeing the unity of God for the next 50 verses, addressing God saying; O subtlety of the spirit inside the man and woman, when man and woman become one, that one is You, or, until all the 'I's and 'you's become one spirit, finally they get drowned in the Giver of the spirit.

After some more verses he comes back to himself almost like becoming conscious and then addresses himself saying: this is getting too long, go back to the story of the merchant ... what happened to that good man? As we go back to the story, we find the merchant acting out his shock and grief.

          After that, he cast the dead parrot out of the cage.
               The little parrot flew to a high branch.
Masnavi I: 1825    

          The dead parrot made such a (swift) flight
               as when the orient sun rushed onward.
Masnavi I: 1826    

          The merchant was amazed at the action of the bird:
               knowing not, then he suddenly beheld the mysteries of the bird.
Masnavi I: 1827    

          He lifted up his face and said, "O nightingale,
               give us some benefit by explaining your case.
Masnavi I: 1828    

          What did she do there (in India), that you learned,
               devised a trick, and burn us with grief ?
Masnavi I: 1829    

          The parrot said, "She counselled me by her act;
               To abandon your charm of voice and your affection
Masnavi I: 1830    

          Because your voice has brought you into bondage:
               she feigned herself dead for giving me this counsel,
Masnavi I: 1831    

          She implied 'O you who have become a singer to high and low,
               become dead like me, that you may gain release.'"
Masnavi I: 1832    


The parrot said to the merchant: That parrot through his behaviour told me to give up these humble affections of the owner. The love that people give you for your voice enraptures you, so let it go, because the only way to save yourself is to turn a blind eye to the things you think you have. This cage is a symbol of such shackles. That parrot taught me that my attachment to the love that my singing brought imprisoned me within the cage.

Finally free of attachments and the cage, the parrot and the merchant have their last exchange.

          The parrot gave him one or two counsels devoid of hypocrisy
               after that bade him the farewell of parting.
Masnavi I: 1845    

          The merchant said to her, "Go, God protects you!
               you have shown to me a new path"
Masnavi I: 1846    

          Said the merchant to himself, "This is the counsel for me;
               I will follow her Way, for this Way is clear with light.
Masnavi I: 1847    

          How should my soul be less than the parrot's?
               The soul ought to follow a good track like this."
Masnavi 1: 1848    


In a commentary on the above couple of verses it says: once someone gets their self free from the servanthood of the body and from the attraction of worldly attachments, then whichever track he takes, his steps are blessed and he would be on the way to God.

As we draw our commentary of Rumi's story of the merchant and the parrot to a close, it has become abundantly clear that we have been well fed. Rumi, the master (moulana) has laid out a banquet of divine teachings fit for hungry searchers. We pray that God illuminates our hearts showing us the way to the light of our soul which appears in this story as this little parrot. Moulana Rumi has given us so much to feast on in this story, through the intermingling of personality, soul, love and consciousness of God versus consciousness and awareness of self, satisfying the soul versus satisfying people, since they all are with us every moment depending on where our attention and awareness is, and therefore they all are paving the way of our return journey to Him.

To Top

_________________________________


Sufi Teachings:

Moulana Rumi's Masnavi: Book II
The Story of Moses and the Shepherd


Turning to Light, Not Chasing the Shadow

Moulana Rumi's Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant and the Parrot - Part Three


Moulana Rumi's Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant and the Parrot - Part Two


Moulana Rumi's Masnavi: Book I
The Story of the Merchant and the Parrot - Part One


The Spiritual Message of Rumi for the Searchers of our Time &
His Transformative Teachings in the Masnavi


The Purpose of Life

Excerpts from Henry Corbin on Mundus Imaginalis

Second Part of Excerpts from Man of Light in Iranian Sufism

An Introduction to Henry Corbin         and
First Part of Excerpts from Man of Light in Iranian Sufism

A Brief Spiritual Reflection On The Current Pandemic

The Interior Life In Islam

The Qur'an as the Lover's Mirror

On The Cosmology of Dhikr

Ibn 'Arabi On Proximity And Distance

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - What is Knowledge of Reality?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Seeing Versus Not Seeing

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Journeying In The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology: The Isolation and Transformation of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi - The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre of Life

Peace and the Inner Jihad

Sufism and the Paradox of Self

Surrender

Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf (Sufism)?

Listening for God: Prayer and the Heart


To Top

________________________________________________

For further information contact the
Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies (ACS)
Phone: (02) 9955 SUFI (7834)
or email: acs@australiansuficentre.org


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