This story is from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. I recalled this story when I wrote about Step 56 of Steps to Knowledge. As I considered the general spirit of Step 56, I recalled one of the characters in this story.
This story was first found in the ILahi Nama (Divine Book) of Persian poet Farad Al Din Attar (1145-1220).
Rumi put it in the Mathnawi (Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning) about 50 years later.
Three Pieces of Advice
A man once caught a bird. The bird said to him. “I am of no use to you as a captive. But let me free, and I will give you three valuable pieces of advice.”
The bird promised to give the first piece of advice while still in the man’s grasp, the second when he reached a branch, the third when he had gained the top of a mountain.
The man agreed, and asked for the first piece of advice.
The bird said:
“If you lose something, even if it be valued by you as much as life itself – do not regret it.”
Now the man let the bird go, and it hopped to a branch.
It continued with the second piece of advice:
“Never believe anything which is contrary to sense, without proof.”
Then the bird flew to the mountain-top. From here it said:
“O unfortunate one! Within me are two huge jewels, and if you had only killed me they would have been yours!”
The man was anguished at the thought of what he had lost, but he said, “At least now tell me the third piece of advice.”
The bird replied:
“What a fool you are, asking for more advice when you have not given thought to the first two pieces! I told you not to worry about what you had lost, and not to believe in something contrary to sense. Now you are doing both. You are believing something ridiculous and grieving because you have lost something! I am not big enough to have inside me huge jewels.”
“You are a fool. Therefore you must stay within the usual restrictions imposed on man.”
As I share this story, I recall the Bible proverb, “Like the useless legs of one who is lame, is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (Proverbs 26:7, New International Version)
Three pieces of advice? Maybe we only need one: wake up!
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