The death of the Phoenix

1001 Tales Discourses

Osho states that this story told by the great Sufi Master, Farid Al-Din’ Attar, is “a symbolical, mythological tale of the ultimate utter death of the disciple.”


As you grow, trust will also grow. When you take the first step with the Master you will see something has happened. Then more trust naturally happens and something more becomes possible. Then something more happens, then more trust… By and by trust becomes absolute and the disciple disappears. And the moment that the disciple has disappeared the disciple is born. Now there is not going to be any trouble. Now things will become very smooth. And now the journey will be a joy, it will not be an anxiety. Alone, it will create anguish.

And then at the ultimate point the Master is needed finally to give you a push – because at the ultimate point everybody hesitates. It is death. The Sufis call it the great death. It is no ordinary death – in ordinary death only the body dies. It is the great death. In this death even the self dies, you are utterly annihilated. That’s why Buddha called this state nirvana – the blowing out of the candle. You are utterly annihilated. But only out of that annihilation does something arise.

A great Sufi Master, Master Farid Al-Din’ Attar, relates the tale of the Phoenix. It is a symbolical, mythological tale of the ultimate utter death of the disciple.

The Phoenix is a wonderful bird. It has no mate and dwells in solitude. Its beak is long and hard, like a flute, and contains nearly one hundred holes. Each hole sounds a different tone, and each tone reveals a mystery. A mystic friend of the bird taught it the art of music.

When the Phoenix utters these sounds, all the birds of the sky and fish of the sea are affected. All the wild beasts are made silent by the entrancing music and experience of ecstasy.

The Phoenix lives about a thousand years. It knows the time of its death, and when this knowledge is tearing at its heart it gathers a hundred trees, heaps them in one spot, and begins a fire. It then places itself in the middle of the fire. Through each of the holes in its beak it sounds a plaintive cry, out of the depth of its soul it utters its dying lament, and then begins to tremble.

At the sound of the music all the birds gather. The wild beasts assemble to be present at the death of the Phoenix. At this time they all become aware of their own death. When the moment arrives for it to draw its last breath, the Phoenix spreads its tail and feathers and with these it kindles a fire which spreads swiftly to the wood-pile and begins to blaze. Soon the fire and bird become one red-hot mass. When the glowing charcoal is reduced to ashes and only one spark remains, a new Phoenix arises into life.

But how can you trust that the new Phoenix is going to arise? You will be gone, you will be utterly gone. The Buddhists say: gate, gate, parasamgate. You will be gone, gone, gone forever. But in that very going something is new. You release the energy, the old pattern disappears, but that eternal energy takes a new form, a birth. It is a resurrection. That is the last thing the Master has to do – to help you die, to help you disappear.

Sufis say that without a Master there is no way, because without the Master it is almost an impossibility for a seeker to reach.

Osho, Sufis, the People of the Path – Talks on Sufism, Vol 1, Ch 4, Q 2 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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