Saturday, December 29, 2007

Death - A sufi perspective

We are born to die. Just like managers are hired to be fired, we have been programmed for death. Death is in our nature, and birth is the first step toward fulfilling that nature.

Someone once said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. This is no longer true. With the advent of shelters, legal specialists, clever accountants, and just your ordinary, garden variety, old-fashioned brand of cheating, taxes are no longer a certainty for some of us.

Death, on the other hand, cannot be cheated. There are no havens and shelters which permit death to be written off as life is depreciated over time.

There are no clever accountants who can set up the ledgers so we can avoid paying death what is due. There are no legal loopholes which permit us to slip past death's auditing process.

Death is very egalitarian. Death offers a flat rate system in which everyone owes and pays the same fixed fee.

The intransigent nature of death has not stopped some people from desperately seeking to discover ways to circumvent the inevitable. Cryogenics, traveling at the speed of light, intense gravitational fields, genes which affect the number of times cells can undergo division, magic, and the occult are just a few of the possibilities being explored in the hope of having the last laugh at death's expense.

Some people praise the quality of longevity which is believed to come from certain kinds of diet. Others talk about the life-prolonging properties of different roots and herbs. Medicine and various health fields trumpet their capacity to push back death's appointment with us.

Even if there may be some modicum of truth in the above claims, none of these remedies has the quality of sufficiency. Sufficiency belongs to God alone.

God may choose, on certain occasions, to work through diet or roots or medicine in order to sustain life. However, diets or roots or medicine, on their own, are not sufficient to effect any benefits whatsoever unless God wishes this to be so.

The origins of causality do not begin with the properties of diets, roots and medicine. Rather, diets, roots and medicine have the properties they do so that, on occasion, they may be a venue for God's grace.

In other words, the inherent nature of various diets, roots, herbs and medicines is in having a capacity to transmit certain kinds of benefit upon God's command. In the absence of God's authorization, no benefit is conferred.

We try different things because we have learned in the past such things have been associated with, say, health or long life. We begin to believe the "magic" is in the thing and fail to understand the thing is merely the locus of manifestation for God's grace. The thing is merely that which God calls upon, from time to time, to serve as a certain kind of medium of transmission.

Many people follow diets, or they consume herbs and roots on a regular basis, or they receive medical treatment, or they take all manner of vitamins and minerals, and, yet, the benefits are limited or non-existent for various groups of these people. Efficacy is a statistical phenomenon in which not everyone benefits equally, if at all.

Scientists and medical researchers look for various kind of co-factors and factor clusters in order to explain the statistical properties of the effectiveness profile associated with a given treatment, medicine, drug, herb or diet. However, underlying all of these sophisticated methods of statistical analysis, is the presence of Divinity which is alone responsible for arranging the shape of the statistical distributions which are observed.

Should one infer from the foregoing that one is a fool to seek assistance in the form of a diet, herbs, or medical treatment? The answer to this question is: no!

By all means, try to find those remedies and health aides which have a strong track record, so to speak, for being a venue for the transmission of certain kinds of benefit. Nonetheless, one also should keep in mind and heart the following understanding: whether or not the remedy works, and to what extent, is up to God.

People who are attempting to discover the secret passageway to immortality make the mistake of believing death is fixed by the properties of things rather by the decrees of God. Such people believe creation is somehow independent of the Creator. As a result, they tend to believe the invention or discovery of an elixir of life is but a matter of the appropriate technology of exploitation.

We fear death, yet there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty interspersed with our fears. Do we fear death in and of itself, or do we fear death for what may come, before and after, the moment of our demise?

For example, some people are quite prepared to accept death per se, but do not look forward to the pain and suffering which may precede it. Since death marks a cessation of such physical difficulty, death actually would bring its own strange form of comfort and relief.

Some people are obsessed with the moment of death. Is it painful? Do we gasp for breath? Do we experience life draining from our consciousness? Will panic seize us as we become aware of our imminent termination?

Since physical death is a once in a lifetime occurrence, we don't know quite how to brace ourselves for it. On the other hand, death may be like a lot of things in life - different that we thought it would be.

Speculating about the experiential character of the moment of death, is just that: speculation. Everyone dies in her or his own way, and we won't know what that way is until we do it.

Should we take the advice of the poet who said we ought not go gentle into that good night? How should we play the death scene.

Like some method actor, we look for our motivation in order to know how we should respond to our exit cue. Our motivation will be shaped and colored by the significance we give to the purpose of both life and death.

Some of us fear what comes after death. Maybe, for example, there is nothing after death except a state of affairs that is oblivious to the universe and to itself.

The upside of the foregoing possibility is that such oblivion is not conducive to regrets or nostalgia. We won't know what we are missing, and, better yet, we won't care. Nothing to be feared in this.

Of course, another consideration is that death merely marks a transition from one mode of conscious existence to another mode of conscious existence. This is kind of a good news/bad news situation.

The good news is: there may be eternal life after death. The bad news is: we may not like what is eternally ours.

The latter case would seem to be a worthy candidate for some degree of trepidation. We may fear death as a harbinger of something much more unpleasant. Since we have difficulty fixating our fear on an amorphous cloud of post-death unknowing, we find the concreteness of death a suitable object in which to invest our fears.

The Sufi masters look upon death in a variety of ways. All of these perspectives carry important implications for the manner in which goes about living life.

To begin with, for practitioners of the Sufi path, death is a necessary constraint on the arrogance of human beings. Death is indisputable proof we are not in charge of things.

Death gives expression to determinate limits on our existence. This is so since no matter how powerful, famous, rich, beautiful, talented or handsome we may be, we will be humbled in death.

If we realize, with our heart and soul, our vulnerability, we will not be so likely to become arrogant. The realities of the tenuousness of our situation will help us to be humble and modest in our demeanor.

Secondly, Sufi masters indicate death introduces a valuable dimension of tension into our lives. We have only a limited amount of time to accomplish whatever we can in this life.

Indeed, some of us have less time than others. Few, if any, of us know how much time we have left.

We ought to strive to be as efficient as possible with the time we have. Consequently, we should be focused and purposeful in what we do.

The fleeting nature of time serves as a reminded that death has come one step closer with each breath we take. Death can be our ally in this regard, encouraging and urging us to take advantage of the time we have.

Death can say to us: "Look! I am powerless just like you. I go to whom I am ordered, and only when I am ordered to do so. For your own sake, do what must be done before I am sent to you."

From the perspective of the Sufi masters, one should look forward to the time of death. Death frees us from the problems of this world and brings us into closer proximity to the beauty and majesty of God. Since realizing the closeness of God is an essential component to the purpose of our existence, death is the lane way which leads to the fulfillment of our essential purpose.

Death stands as the gate which veils our Beloved from us. Eager anticipation should characterize our attitudes toward the moment when God opens the gate which will usher us into the Divine presence.

Finally, the teachers of the Sufi path maintain there is a way through which we can prepare for our moment of physical death. If we undergo this preparation, we will be able to embrace physical death with equanimity.

The method of preparation involves dying to our own desires, attachments, and passions. We must die to our egos. We must die to our addictions to the world.

If we can die this greater death, then, according to the Sufi masters, we will be as ready as we can be for physical death and whatever comes after it. Unfortunately, most of us are in far deeper denial concerning the necessity for this kind of spiritual death than we are in denial concerning the fact that physical death is bearing down on us like a freight train with a schedule to keep.


Dipti said...

Dear Brother Anab .. What a beautiful post and such a critical analysis on the subject of death that we normally try to avoid discussions on .. Its so true that what is important is - dying to our own desires, attachments, passions and egos. We must die this greater death to prepare for the physical death ...

Anonymous said...

Dear Anab,

Thank you for your well written analysis. I'd like to correct one item. Although my lawyer and I wrote each of the 9/11 Commissioners about information I had regarding Ptech et. al., and requested they review/I present relevant testimony, they did not acknowledge the request. So I did not testify at the official 9/11 Commission.

I DID testify at the independently organized 9/11 Open Commission on September 9, 2004, and presented some of the material that I forward ed to the FBI, the media, and the White House - before Ptech was raided.

I was also signatory to the November 2004 petition to then AG Elliot Spitzer to open an independent inquiry into 9/11, as the deaths of 3,000 civilians took place in his legal jurisdiction.

There is a lot more about Ptech-GoAgile that I have NOT made public. The reason is that in the prosecution of a crime, some information is withheld for litigation.

Before and after the Ptech raid on Dec 6, 2002, I was repeatedly threatened. A team of people assembled after the Ptech raid - to "de-brief" me - composed of Secret Service, DIA, and other agencies. The team focused intensively on the software capabilities of Ptech wrt. 9/11 as well as the other issues. They promised me they were going for arrest warrants. Three months after this debriefing, Tom Ridge shut down all the investigations.

If the group that debriefed me - and their investigations - had not been stymied and subverted - in 2002-2003, there would have come a logical and "safe" point during their investigations for me to have revealed it all. Luckily, I held some back. This means that those who shut down the 9/11 Ptech investigations (and who have the files containing all litigation quality evidence) still do not know the extent of what I am holding.

Able Danger was one "relevant" operation - but there were many other Operations with names that cover different aspect of the actual commission of the crime. One in particular can bring down the house. It is also important to note that no 9/11 investigation is complete without a discussion of what all happened wrt. Enron and the Taliban as that figures very conspicuously with Ptech as well.

I discovered later that there were rules of the road for the 9/11 Commission hearings. I know from reputable insiders, incl. one of those debriefing me, that Cheney ordered they were not to introduce financial terror trails prior to 1995. Another forbidden subject was Ptech. Even without my testimony, the FBI itself - plus other agencies contracted - were investigating Ptech long before and long after 9/11.

I have report that links them directly to the HolyLand Foundation, Richardson TX, and the other webs of dirty narco-terrorism trails that led back to e.g., Viktor Bout, and the UAE - and "All the Presidents' (note plural) dear friends."

I have two books embargoed for publication. I watch as everyone else writes what they know and they miss the mark.

I have three conditions for publication one of which is an independent organization needs to be convened, and empowered to re-open a no holds barred 9/11 investigation.

Thank you once again for your diligent study of this matter, and your continued questioning. If we are to survive as a civilized society, 9/11 needs it's day in the courts of our land.

Indira R. Singh