Farid-ud-din Attar is one of the most ancient poets of Persia, and it is no exaggeration to say that the work of Attar has been the inspiration of Rumi and of many spiritual souls and many poets of Persia. He has pointed out the way to the ultimate aim of life by making a sort of picture in a poetic form, and almost all the great teachers of the world, if ever they have been able to show the right way to seeking souls, always have had to adopt a symbolical form of expression, in the form of the story or legend, that might give the key to one who is to know, and might interest the one who is not yet ready, and therefore both may rejoice, the sleeping one and the one awakened. And this example has been followed by the poets of Persia and India, and especially the Hindustani poets, and they have made their story in such form that it would be acceptable, not only to the seekers after truth, but also to those in all different stages of evolution.

          Attar's best-known work is called Mantiq-ut-Tayr, or "The Colloquy of the Birds, from which the idea of the Blue Bird has been taken today. Very few have understood the idea of the Blue Bird, or the "Bird of the Sky." It is a very ancient teaching, through the use of the Persian word 'sky'. This points out that every soul has a capacity which may be called the sky, and this capacity can accommodate the world or the Heaven, whatever it would partake of and hold in itself. When one walks in the crowd, what does one see? One sees numerous faces. I call them various attitudes. All that you see in individuals, all that stands before you, has expression, has atmosphere, has form.

          If you call it by one name, it is the attitude; the attitude they have towards life, right or wrong, good or bad, whatever attitude they have, they are themselves that attitude. Does it not show how appropriate is the sky, which means whatever you call it, whatever you may think it? Plainly speaking, whatever one makes of oneself, one becomes that. A source of happiness, or unhappiness, all is in man himself. When he is unaware of this, then he is not able to arrange his life, and as he becomes more acquainted with this secret, he gains mastery, and it is the process with which this mastery is attained, which is the only fulfilment of this life. It is that process which is explained by Attar in his work of the Seven Valleys through which this Bird of the Sky had passed.

          The first valley is that of the Quest. How true it is that every child is born with the tendency to search, to know. What we call inquisitiveness or curiosity, it is born in them, and it represents that inner feeling of quest. This shows us that man is born with this, and he cannot be satisfied unless he has arrived at that satisfaction which means searching for that knowledge which he wishes to have. No doubt, what prevents man from gaining that knowledge which his soul is really searching for, is himself. It is his small self always standing against him, keeping him from the search for the only thing which is the seeking of every soul. And therefore it may be safe to say that there is no one in this world who is a worse enemy of man than himself.

          In this search one thinks that one must perhaps find out from science, or from art, something which is behind it, and whether through material quest or spiritual, in the end one will arrive, and one must arrive at that goal, which is the goal of every one. The scientists and engineers, people who are absorbed in making a search of material things and never think of spiritual things, even they, after making a great deal of search, they arrive very near to the same knowledge which is the ultimate knowledge, and therefore whatever a man may seem to us, materialist, atheist or agnostic, we cannot call him so, because in the end his goal is the same, his attainment is the same. If he really reaches the depth of knowledge, if he goes far enough, whatever his search he will come to the same goal.

          And when one has searched enough and found something satisfactory, still he cannot enjoy that satisfaction unless there is one faculty open, and that is the faculty of love and devotion. Do we not see in our every day life, that people of great intellect and wide interests, very often seem to miss something? When it happens to be a couple where one is very intellectual, the other may feel there is something lacking to make their lives complete, may feel that intellect alone is not enough. What is it? It is the heart which balances life, and the absence of which keeps life dry. It is just like the positive and negative forces. Knowledge and heart. It is these two things which make life balanced.

If the heart quality is very strong and intellect lacking, then also life lacks balance. Knowledge and heart quality must be developed together. And therefore, according to Attar, the faculty of devotion or quality of heart, is the second valley, the Valley of Love; and the third valley is the Valley of  Knowledge, the knowledge which illuminates, which comes by the help of the love element and the intellect. It is that knowledge which is called spiritual knowledge. Without a developed love quality man is incapable of having that knowledge. There are fine lights and shades in one's life which cannot be perceived and fully understood without having touched the deeper side of life, which is the devotional side. The person who has not in his life been wholly grateful, he cannot know what it is. He who has not experienced in life humbleness, he does not know its beauty. The one who has not known gentleness, modesty, he cannot appreciate its beauty or recognize it.

No doubt a person of fine qualities is often ridiculed, if he happens to be in a place where it is not understood, where it is a foreign language. This shows there is a fineness in life for which intellect alone is not sufficient. The heart quality must become open. A very intellectual man went to Jami and asked him to take him as his pupil and give him initiation. Jami looked at him and said, "Have you loved anybody?" This man said, "No, I have not loved." Then Jami said, "Go and love first, then come to me and I will show you the way."

          Love has its time in every stage of life. As a child, as a youth, as a grownup person, and whatever stage of life one has reached, love is always asked for and love has always its part to perform; whatever situation you are placed in, among friends or foes, among those who understand you, and those who do not, in ease and in difficulty, in all places, at all times, it has its part to perform. And when one thinks, I must not let the principle of love have its way, I must close myself against it, he imprisons his soul. There is only one thing in the world, and that is pure, unselfish love, which shows the sign of Heaven, which shows the divine sign, which gives the proof of God.

          For all the noble qualities which are hidden in the soul will spring forth and come to bloom when love helps them and nurtures them. Man may have a great good in him and he may be very intelligent, but as long as his heart is closed, he cannot show that nobleness, that goodness, which is hidden in his heart, and the psychology of the heart is such that once one begins to know the heart, life is a continual phenomenon; every moment of life becomes a miracle; it throws a searchlight upon human nature and all things become so clear to him that he does not ask for any greater phenomenon or miracle; it is a miracle in itself. What they call telepathy, thought reading or clairvoyance, all these things come by themselves, where the heart is open.

          If anyone is cold and stiff, he feels within himself as if he were in a grave; he is not living; he cannot enjoy this life, for he cannot express himself; he cannot see the light and life outside: he is in his grave. And what keeps man back from developing the heart quality? His exacting attitude. He wants to make a business of love. He says, "If you will love me, I will love you". As soon as man exacts and measures and weighs his favours, his services and all that he does for one whom he loves, he does not know love. Love sees the Beloved and nothing else.  As Rumi says, "Whether you love a human being or you love God, there will come a day when all lovers, either of man or of God, will be brought before the throne of Love and the presence of that only Beloved will reign there." What does this show? In loving our friend, in loving our neighbour, even in the love that one shows to one's enemy, one only loves God. And the one who says, "I love God, but I cannot love man," he does not love God; he cannot. It is like saying, " I love you very much but I do not like to look at you face."

           And after this Third Valley, where the knowledge of human nature and of the fine feelings which are called virtues, is attained, the next step is what is called in the English language "annihilation." But what we call destruction or annihilation is nothing but change. Neither substance, nor form, nor spirit, nothing is absolutely destroyed; it is only changed. But man does not like sometimes to change. He does not know that he cannot live without it. There is not one single moment of our life that change does not come; whether you accept it or not, the change is there.

          Destruction or annihilation or death might seem a very different change, and yet there are a thousand deaths we die. Every disappointment, the moment when our heart breaks, is worse than death. Often our experiences through life are worse than death, yet we go through them. At the moment they seem unbearable; we think we cannot stand it, and yet we live. If after dying a thousand deaths, we still live, there is nothing in the world to be afraid of. It is man's delusion, his own imagination, he makes it dreadful to himself. Can anyone kill life? If there is any death, it is for death; life will not die.
Someone went to a Sufi with a question; he said, "I have been puzzling for many, many years and reading in books and have not been able to find a definite answer, tell me, what happens after death?" The Sufi said, "Please ask that question of someone who is going to die. I am going to live." The principle is that there is one sky, which is your own being. It is like the sky. In other words, you call it accommodation. And who has taken possession of this accommodation? A deluded ego which says, I.  It is deluded by this body and mind and has called itself 'individual.' When a man has a ragged coat he says, "I am poor." In realty his coat is poor, not he. What this capacity contains, that becomes his knowledge, his realization, and that limits him, forms that limitation which is the tragedy of every soul.

          Now, this capacity may either be filled with self or it may be filled with God. There is only place for one. Either we live with our limitation, or let God reign there in His unlimited being. In other words, we take away the home which always belonged to someone else and fill it with delusion and call it our own, and not only call it our own, but call it ourself. That is man's delusion, and all religion and philosophical teachings are given to rid man of this delusion, which deprives him of his spiritual wealth.

          Spiritual wealth is the greatest wealth, spiritual happiness is the only happiness; there is no other happiness. Once a person is able to disillusion himself, he arrives at the stage described in the Fourth Valley. The Valley of Non-Attachment, and he is afraid. He thinks, "How can I give my home to someone else, even if it is God? This is my body, my mind, my home, my individuality. How can I give it away, even to God?" But in reality, it is not something he can rely upon. It is delusion from top to toe, and subject to destruction.

          Does anything stand above destruction? Nothing. Then why fear to think for the moment that it is nothing? That natural fear of man comes because he is unaccustomed to face reality. He is so used to dreams, that he is afraid of reality. There is a fear in the minds of people of losing themselves, but they do not know that it is not the losing of oneself. It is losing illusion. And really, they will find themselves when they lose this illusion. In this illusion, one has lost one's soul, and the process is to come out of it, to rise above it.

           When the Fifth Valley, The Valley of Unity, is reached, by that time one has disillusioned one's self, and it is that act which is called in the Bible 'rebirth,' when the soul has become disillusioned; it is the birth of the soul. There is the birth of the body and the birth of the soul. And how does this birth of soul express itself? What does one feel? It first expresses itself in a kind of bewilderment with great joy. His interest in life increases, all that he sees, he enjoys. He concerns himself little, but wonders at all things. The bewilderment is such that it is a wonderful amusement to look at life. The whole world becomes to him a kind of stage, full of players. He then begins to amuse himself with the people of this world, as one might play with children and yet not be concerned with what they do, for he expects no better. If children do something different from the parents, they are not much concerned; they know it is the stage of the child's life and one cannot expect any better of them. So with this man, likes and dislikes, favour and disfavour, they interest him, but do not concern him.

           And there is another stage. This bewilderment brings him to see the someone reflected who has taken possession of his heart. To see his Beloved in everyone, even in his enemy. The beloved is seen in all things. The bowl of poison given by the Beloved is not so bitter. Those who have sacrificed themselves and suffered for humanity, such as Christ, they have given to the world an example showing a soul that has reached the stage where even the enemy appears before the eyes of the God-conscious, as friend, as his Beloved. And it is not an unattainable stage, because the soul is made of love, it is going toward the perfection of love. All the virtues man has learned, love has taught him. Therefore this world of good and bad, thorns and flowers, becomes nothing but a placed of splendour.

           The Sixth Valley, The Valley of Amazement, is the valley where he recognizes and understands what is behind things, the reason of all reasons, the cause of all causes, for all intuition and power develop in man with the unfoldment. And the Seventh Valley, The Valley of Realization of God, is the peace which every Soul is looking for, whether the spiritual or material, seeking from morning until night for something which will give him peace. To some souls, that peace comes when asleep. But for the God-conscious, that peace becomes his home. No sooner has he closed his eyes, no sooner has he relaxed his body and stilled his mind, and lost from his consciousness the limited, he begins to float in the unlimited spheres.