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November 17th, 2012

A Sufi View Of Death

To die and to be born is a Sufi paradox, the understanding that death and life happens each moment. The death of what we believe we are, in its different manifestations is necessary for recognizing our true nature, so that we can be totally alive.

Sufis are lovers of life, they don't choose which aspects to celebrate, whatever life presents is a reason to celebrate. A Sufi lives each moment as the last, in this way the moment is unique and absolute. Each experience of life becomes a great mystery and a great adventure.

Sufi - Life - Death - Inner Child
As a boy, Abin-Alsar overheard a conversation between his father and a dervish.
 
“Careful with your work”, said the dervish. “Think of what future generations will say about you.”
 
“So what?”, replied his father, “When I die, everything shall end, and it will not matter what they say.”
 
Abin-Alsar never forgot that conversation. His whole life, he made an effort to do good, to help people and go about his work with enthusiasm. He became well-known for his concern for others; when he died, he left behind a great number of things which improved the quality of life in his town.
 
On his tombstone, he had the following epitaph engraved:
 
“A life which ends with death, is a life not well spent.” 
(1) "A life which ends with death is a life not well spent"
"...Fear and horror of death is a powerful, if often avoided, feeling in many of us.  In Helen Liang’s ordeal with cancer, described in the last post, she was able to let go of her fear, even as she was facing what seemed to be imminent death.  By meditating on the Taoist idea that there is no separation between her and the universe, on the idea that she is Tao, there seemed nothing to be frightened of anymore.   From a Taoist perspective, each of us came from Tao, is a manifestation of Tao, and returns to Tao upon death.   In that sense, there is a continuity between the time before life, life itself, and the time after life.  Taoists sometimes say that the life that we are living now is only a dream.  Buddhists speak of “no self,” that is, the idea that our perception of ourselves as separate individuals is not really real.  What do these ideas mean?  From the modern, American perspective, they sound virtually delusional....

"...  When you adopt the long view and contemplate the immensity of space and time, our separateness as individuals begins to seem less prominent, and you can start to let go of your deep attachment to the importance, the centrality, of yourself as a separate from everything else in the world.  Imagine taking off from a rocket ship from earth, going from the perspective of a small place and time on earth and rising up to the a view of the big, big picture, and looking back at the earth in space.  When you have the long view, then maybe all of our daily worries and conflicts, even our identity as separate from all other beings on earth, doesn’t seem so crucially important anymore.  Yes, each of us is unique and precious, and each of our lives should be cherished.  But part of what makes us each so incredibly valuable is that we are manifestations of Tao, the source of all things, which is infinite in space and time, and does not end upon death, even though our consciousness as a separate individual may end.  At death, we return to the source, in some sense, become the source.

“Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.”

–Tao Te Ching, Chapter 16, Stephen Mitchell translation, 1988


liberation from the fear of death « Aspiring Taoist

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