Beyond the Cage

In a recent post about the journey to the goal, Hazrat Inayat Khan tells a little known story about a man who has fallen in love with a princess.  The princess is closely guarded, but by the help of a mystic, the man’s spirit enters into a recently deceased parrot, which allows him to fly to the palace.  There he is put in a cage and given to the princess as a companion.  The princess cares for the parrot attentively, feeding him herself and talking to him. Apparently the man has attained his wish, and yet after a time he becomes unhappy.  He recognises that the princess and the parrot really live in different worlds, and he cannot be happy in the cage.  Therefore he escapes, and, flying back to the mystic, begs to be returned to his original form.  The mystic has thoughtfully retained the man’s lifeless body in safe keeping, but to return the man to it he must first cut the head off the parrot.  By this drastic medicine the man is then restored to life.

In many of the tales concealing inner wisdom, a princess represents the higher, finer aspect of the seeker, the heart perhaps, or even the soul.  In this case, maybe to show some gender equality in the world of fairy tales, it is reversed: the man represents the soul and the princess represents the beguiling beauty of the world.  To come close to that beauty, the soul has to adopt a form that does not really belong to it.  This illustrates our condition here on earth; we have a body through which we experience life, but it does not really belong to us–for if it were truly ‘ours’, we could never be separated from it, and surely every body will someday be discarded.

The solution to this problem is to ‘die before death’–not by physically murdering the body, but by extricating the spirit from the grip of the physical, and also from the obsession of the ‘I.’  This birth of the spirit is as natural as the birth of the body–painful, joyful, bewildering and unstoppable.  What can help us on our way, though, is to be more clear about the cage in which we perch. In the Vadan, Hazrat Inayat says:
How did I rise above narrowness?
The edges of my own walls began to hurt my elbows.

If we study ourselves carefully, we will see that the greatest discomfort we feel in life is not from our circumstances, nor from those around us, but from the walls we ourselves have built.  Therefore, whenever we feel some unhappiness, instead of blaming others or lamenting outside influences, we could pause to examine our own thoughts and attitudes.   We might very well discover that the pain comes from a wall of our own making, a wall that needs to be knocked down.

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