Meditation on Death

April 9, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Because I could not stop for Death he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just Ourselves and Immortality.Emily Dickinson

In December of 1986, I was operated on to remove my pituitary gland and the small benign tumor within it that had resulted in Cushing’s Disease, and had caused a lengthy hospital stay in the beginning of that year. It was during that earlier hospital stay that I had the out-of-body experience I have written about in a previous post (which you can read here).

I remember the anesthesia being administered and being told to count backwards from one hundred. At about 96, I blinked my eyes, and when I opened them again an instant later, I was being wheeled back to my room. I asked the nurse, “When does it start?”  She answered, “It’s all over.”

Eight hours had passed in the blink of an eye. It could have been eight years, or eight million. The anesthesia blanked me out of existence so completely, that I wondered if death was like that:

An instant that lasts for eternity!

In the years since those two events, and as I approach my sixty-fifth birthday, death itself holds no fear for me, because just as in the Angel of Death excerpt from Master of the Jinn, I really do consider it a mercy from God.  But I cannot but wonder if one of those experiences holds the answer to the great mystery of what comes afterward.  Both possessed the immediacy of experiential truth, but can both be real? Is the instant of nothingness a precursor to awaking on a different plane of existence? Can it be that our spirit, or soul, or ka, or whatever your faith calls it, leaves the physical body at death and after an instant of blankness, joins, or rejoins, the Eternal Godhead?

Socrates asked the same question, concluding: “Death is one of two things…Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it is really a change: a migration of the soul from one place to another.”

My late father-in-law believed the former. Once I asked him if he thought that we live on after death. He said, “Yes, in blood and memory.”  In other words, we live on in the bloodline passed to our children and grandchildren and down the generations. And in the memory they carry of us, until that is lost in time, when those that still remember us have also died.  He considered himself a realist.

And yet, the first law of thermodynamics, an expression of the principle of the conservation of energy, states that energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed.

Is that also true of the energy of consciousness, which is, after all, the only part of us that really would go on after the body dies? Or is it just our greater Self that goes on, our soul, which is that ineffable part of us that is always in touch with, and originally a part of, the Oneness of Divine Love? Inshallah, it is so.  I do not mind at all leaving the lesser self behind; the individual ego with its fears and jealousy and enmity and regrets. Let it die as the electro-chemical brain and body functions come to a stop.

I know that love goes on.  And after years on the Sufi path,  I have seen what can only be described as a glimpse of… something other.

There is some comfort in the belief that the body is nothing but a shell for the evolution of consciousness, “to evolve toward the Godhead,” as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest wrote in The Phenomenon of Man.

And, so as not to waste what God has given, I am also an organ donor; I prefer to leave all organs that are still of any use to help others, and the rest to be cremated.  I like the efficiency of the fire, taking up as little room at the end as I did at the beginning. And I like the idea of my ashes scattered to the winds of the world.

But does individual consciousness completely die? Or does the soul or greater Self have its own higher level of consciousness? My late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, was asked this very question, and he said, “In the end, the drop becomes one with the Ocean, but it does not lose its wetness.”

There is hope in that statement. I have studied many religions and their beliefs of the afterlife, and in all honesty they sound mainly the same, a heavenly paradise where the individual self consciousness, and often the resurrected body, is kept intact and rewarded or punished for its life on earth in just measure to its deeds. But if the individual self stops at the end of life, the afterlife must be something else entirely. What that something else, that wetness is, is one of the eternal questions of living beings.  The ultimate mystery!

And that’s what I’m counting on :) All questions are inevitably useless. The answer will come soon enough!

No mythology and metaphor for me. I want the great mystery, all of it, no matter what it is—a billion years in the blink of an eye, or an infinite panorama as vast as the universe; and an endless sea of stars on which to sail.

Death is an angel with two faces; to us he turns a face of terror, blighting all things fair; the other burns with glory of the stars, and love is there.
- T. C. Williams

Alhamdulillah!

Ya Haqq!


Happy New Year 2010 :)

December 31, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Happy New Year 2010 to all my Brothers and Sister of every faith and race and creed around the world!  May God bless you all this year with health, happiness, wisdom, and love, so that we may better serve God by serving His creation.  I can think of no better resolution for the New Year than to try and live up to these true words:

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ya Haqq!


A Beard Made of Love

April 2, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that two religious fundamentalists once came to visit our late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (may Allah bless his exalted soul and raise his rank to those of His nearest beloveds.) They had bristly whiskers and Master invited them to stay for lunch. One of them sought to provoke the Master by asking how he could become a Sufi

Dr. Nurbakhsh said, “Cut off your beard.”

“But,” protested the man, “what about him?” pointing to Mr. Niktab, the Sheikh of Sheikhs, who had a long white beard.

“Ah!” The Master said, “But his is not a beard of religion. His is a beard of love.”

Grow a beard made of love, O darvish

and claim the name of lover,

or do not pretend to the circle of the Friend.

Ya Haqq!

Note: With gratitude and special thanks to Terry Graham for the original telling of this true story on the Nimatullahi Sufi Order website.


Psalm 19 – A Song of David

March 5, 2009

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Ya Haqq!

Note:  This is my favorite Psalm for its simple beauty and universal truths.


Happy 80th Birthday, Dr. King!

January 15, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy 80th Birthday, Dr. King! May God bless your soul. Amen.

Ya Haqq!


Patience, Prayer, and Love – A Resolution for the New Year

January 3, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Seek help in patience and prayer; and truly it is hard save for the humble-minded,
Who know that they will have to meet their Lord, and unto Him they are returning.

(Quran 2:45-46)

Patience and prayer, two attributes that lift the foot in humility to take a step on the path of Love. Prayer by the Sufi zekr, with each inhalation and exhalation of the breath, and patience forged of acceptance of all that happens, in the certain knowledge that to Him we are returning.

In the Mathnawi, Rumi writes that a piece of iron when kept for long in the fire begins not only to look like fire, but to burn like fire. This is the soul purified by patience and prayer, which are each an act of love. Love is the fire that lights the Way.

And this is my resolution for the New Year. God give me the strength to be steadfast, to be resolute, in patience and prayer and love. Amin.

What are your resolutions  for this New Year of 2009/1430?

Ya Haqq!


Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (1926-2008)

October 10, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order for over 50 years, joined the Beloved on Friday, October 10, 2008.  May God bless his soul and raise his rank to those of His true lovers. Amin.

Through Love, I have reached a place
Where no trace of Love remains,
Where “I” and “we” and the painting of existence
Have all been forgotten and left behind…

- Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

Ya Haqq!

NOTE:  This blog will be silent for 40 days.


Hazrat Ali’s Sermon on Eid ul-Fitr

September 23, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Ramadan will soon be over, and so it is fitting to repost this from last year.

On the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, Hazrat Ali (A.S.) delivered a sermon in which he said:

“O people! Verily this day of yours is the day when the righteous are awarded and the wretched are losers. It is a day which is similar to the one on which you shall be standing (before your Lord). Therefore, when you come out of your homes to go to places of your prayer, remind yourselves about the day when you (your souls) shall come out of your bodies to go to your Lord. When you stand on places of your prayer, remind yourselves of your standing in the presence of your Lord (on the day of Judgment). And when you return to your homes (after prayer), remind yourselves about your returning to your homes in Paradise. O Servants of Allah! Verily the minimum reward for those men and women who fasted (during Ramadan), is an Angel, who calls out to them on the last day of the month of Ramadan (saying): O SERVANTS OF ALLAH! REJOICE THE GLAD TIDING THAT ALL YOUR PREVIOUS SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN…”

- From the Nahjul-Balaghah.

Eid-ul-Fitr is a unique festival. It has no connection with any historical event nor is it related to the changes of seasons or cycles of agriculture. It is not a festival related in any way to worldly affairs. Its significance is purely spiritual. It is the day when Muslims thank God for having given them the will, the strength and the endurance to observe the fast and obey His commandments during the holy month of Ramadan.

Alhamdulillah! May Allah bless us all, and grant that we use this Eid as a lens to focus the sun of good works, that have shone so brightly during Ramadan, to light the way through this coming year until the next Ramadan. Amin.

Eid Mubarak!

Ya Haqq!


Simply for Love!

December 9, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

All this burning for God… All this submitting to his trials and suffering with patience and reverence, the terrible afflictions. My my my… My pain, my suffering, my agonies, and particularly – my tormented soul. I become ashamed that I might be doing so much of this. Perhaps God might be happier if we were simply kinder to our spouses and children, and went about the daily traffic of our lives with a glad heart. Oh the power of a kind word! Perhaps we might best exhibit devotion in our daily, mundane, oh so ordinary acts simply for the sake of doing so, simply for Love, without even the idea of gaining favor in God’s eyes. Let me sing the daily sacrifices of Love for the sake of Love! Oh, let us love those we are traveling with as much as we possibly are able, and let us show them this love with every thing they bring to us. Let us show what we truly believe to be God’s mercy in our kindness. Let us not turn an angry shoulder or leave them unconsoled. Let us be grateful for even the opportunity to love them! What a gift! And let us do this year in and year out on the long path of our ordinary days and be glad of it!

- From the notebook of my beloved wife.

Ya Haqq!


Answered Prayers

October 28, 2007

The knowledge of You
Comes swift as light
To sit within the circle
Of zekr and gratitude
A presence felt in darkness
The soul’s delight

The knowledge of You
My bones remember
My blood, nerves, sinews
And my eyes, this poet’s sight
That writes only You, who
Are pen and ink and paper

You are love and turmoil
Hope and answered prayers
Fathomless as oceans
Encompassing as night
My heart’s rest as winter comes
And all the leaves take flight.

- Irving Karchmar, © October 2007


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