When we think of that sense, that feeling, or that inclination
that makes us affirm the word 'I' we realize that it is difficult
to point out what this 'I' is, what its character is. For it
is something that is beyond human comprehension. That is why
a person who wishes to explain, even to himself, what it is,
points to what is nearest to him, declaring, 'This is the one
whom I have called, 'I'.' Therefore, every soul who has, so
to speak, identified itself with anything has identified itself
with the body, its own body, because that is the thing that
one feels and realizes to be immediately next to one and that
is intelligible as one's being.
So, what a person knows of himself, as the first thing, is
his body. He calls himself his body, he identifies himself with
his body. For instance, if one asks a child, 'Where is the boy?'
he will point to his body. That is what he can see or can imagine
This forms a conception in the soul. The soul conceives this
deeply, so that after this conception, all other objects, persons
or beings, color or line, are called by different names. The
soul does not conceive of them as itself, for it already has
a conception of itself – this body, which it has first known
or imagined to be itself. All else that it sees, it sees through
its vehicle that is the body and calls it something next to
it, something separate and different.
In this way, duality in nature is produced. From this comes,
'I' and 'You.' But as 'I' is the first conception of the soul,
it is fully concerned with this 'I' and with all else it is
only partly concerned. All other things that exist, besides
this body which it has recognized as its own being, are considered
according to their relation with this body. This relation is
established by calling them, 'mine,' which is between 'I' and
'you'. As, you are 'my' brother, or 'my' sister, or 'my' friend.
This makes a relationship and according to this relationship,
the other object or person stands nearer to or farther from
All other experiences that the soul has in the physical world
and in the mental spheres become a sort of world around it.
The soul lives in the midst of it, yet the soul never for one
moment feels with anything that it is, 'I'. This 'I' it has
reserved and made captive in one thing, only – the body. Of
everything else, the soul thinks that it is something else,
something different, as, 'It is near to me, it is dear to me,
it is close to me, because it is related. It is mine, but it
is not me.' 'I' stands as a separate entity, holding, attracting,
collecting all that one has and which makes one's own world.
As one becomes more thoughtful in life, so this conception
of 'I' becomes richer. It becomes richer in this way, that one
sees, 'It is not 'my' body only, but it is also the thought
that I think that is 'my' thought; the imagination is 'my' imagination;
my feelings are also a part of my being. Therefore, I am not
only my body, but I am my mind, also.' In this next step that
the soul takes on the path of realization, it begins to feel,
'I am not only a physical body, but also a mind.' This realization
in its fullness makes one declare, 'I am a spirit,' which means:
body, mind and feeling, all together with which I identify myself
– it is these that are the ego.
When the soul goes farther on the path of knowledge, it begins
to find that, 'Yes, there is something that feels itself, that
feels the inclination to call itself 'I'.' There is a feeling
of 'I-ness' but at the same time, all that the soul identifies
itself with is not itself. The day when this idea springs up
in the heart of man, he has begun his journey on the path of
truth. Then analyzing begins, and he begins to find out, 'When
this is 'my' table and this is 'my' chair, all that I can call
mine belongs to me, but is not really myself.' Then he also
begins to see, 'I identify myself with this body, but this is
'my' body, just as I say 'my' table, or 'my' chair. So the being
who is saying 'I' in reality is separate. It is something that
has taken even this body for its use; this body is only an instrument.'
And he thinks, 'If it is not this body which I can call 'I'
then what else is there that I can call so? Is it my imagination
with which I should identify myself?' But even that he calls
'my' imagination, 'my' thought, or 'my' feeling. So, even thought,
imagination or feeling is not the real 'I'. What affirms 'I'
remains the same, even after having discovered the false identity.
We read in the tenth Sufi thought that perfection is achieved
by the annihilation of the false ego. The false ego is what
does not belong to the real ego and what that ego has wrongly
conceived to be its own being. When that is separated by analyzing
life better, then the false ego is annihilated. A person need
not die for it. In order to annihilate this body, in order to
annihilate the mind, a person has to analyze himself and see,
'Where does 'I' stand? Does it stand as a remote, exclusive
being? If it is a remote and exclusive being, then it must be
found out.' The whole spiritual process is to find this out.
Once this is realized, then the work of the spiritual path
is accomplished. As in order to make the eyes see themselves,
one has to make a mirror to see the reflection of these eyes.
So, in order to make this real being manifest, this body and
mind have been made as a mirror, that in this mirror this real
being may see itself and realize itself as being independent.
What we have to achieve by the path of initiation, by the way
of meditation, by spiritual knowledge, is to realize this by
making ourselves a perfect mirror.
In order to explain this idea, the faqirs and dervishes have
told a story. A lion roaming through the desert found a little
lion cub playing with the sheep. It so happened that the little
lion had been reared with the sheep and so had never had a chance
or an occasion to realize what he was. The lion was greatly
surprised to see a young lion cub running away with the same
fear of the lion as the sheep. He jumped in among the flock
of sheep and roared, 'Halt, halt!' But the sheep ran on and
the little lion ran also. The lion pursued only the cub, not
the sheep, and said, 'Wait, I wish to speak to you.' The cub
answered, 'I tremble, I fear, I cannot stand before you.' 'Why
are you running about with the sheep? You are a little lion
yourself!' 'No, I am a sheep. I tremble, I am afraid of you.
Let me go. Let me go with the sheep!' 'Come along,' said the
lion, 'come with me. I will take you and I will show you what
you are before I let you go.' Trembling, yet helpless, the lion
cub followed the lion to a pool of water. There the lion said,
'Look at me, and look at yourself. Are we not closer, are we
not near? You are not like the sheep, you are like me.'
Through the whole spiritual process, what we learn is to
disillusion this false ego. The annihilation of this false ego
is its disillusionment. When once it is disillusioned, then
the true ego realizes its own merit. It is in this realization
that the soul enters the kingdom of God. It is in this realization
that the soul is born again, a birth that opens the doors of
Question: Must the true self have mind and body in order
to be conscious of itself?
Answer: The true self need not have mind and body for its
existence. It does not depend upon mind and body for its existence,
for its life, just as the eyes do not depend upon a mirror to
exist. They only depend upon the mirror to see their reflection.
Without it, the eyes will see all things, but they will never
Another example is intelligence. The intelligence cannot
know itself unless it has something intelligible to hold; then
the intelligence realizes itself. A person with poetic gift
who is born a poet never realizes himself to be a poet until
he has put his ideas on paper and his verse has struck a chord
in his own heart. When he is able to appreciate his poetry,
that is the time that he thinks, 'I am a poet.' Until then,
there was a gift of poetry in him, but he did not know it.
The eyes do not become more powerful by looking in the mirror.
Only, the eyes know what they are like when they see their reflection.
The pleasure is in realizing one's merits, one's gifts, what
one possesses. It is in realizing that the merit lies. No doubt
it would be a great pity if the eyes thought, 'We are as dead
as this mirror,' or, if in looking into the mirror, they thought,
'We do not exist except in the mirror.' So, the false self is
the greatest limitation.
Question: Is not our Murshid our mirror?
Answer: No. The Murshid stands in the place of the lion in
the fable. But the pool of water is necessary.
Question: Though the soul feels apart from the different
bodies, does it not feel one with God?
Answer: Not even with God. How could it? A soul that is captive
in a false conception, who cannot see a barrier lifted up between
itself and its neighbor, how can this soul lift its barrier
to God whom it has not known yet? For every soul's belief in
God is a conception after all – because it is taught by a priest,
because it is written in scripture, because the parents have
said that there is a God. That is all. That soul knows that
somewhere there is a God, but it is always liable to change
its belief, and unhappily, the farther it advances intellectually,
the farther it goes from that belief. A belief that is pure
intelligence cannot always hold, will not go far with a person.
It is by the understanding of that belief that the purpose of
life is fulfilled. It is said in the Gayan, 'The uncovering
of the soul is the discovering of God.'
Question: How does the true self dismiss mind and body in
Answer: It is not easy for the true self to dismiss mind
and body, when a person cannot dismiss in life his thoughts
of depression, sorrow and disappointment. The impressions of
happiness and sorrow in the past one holds in one's own heart
– prejudice and hatred, love and devotion, everything that has
gone deep in oneself. If that is the case, then even death cannot
take them away. If the ego holds its prison around itself, it
takes this prison with it, and there is only one way of being
delivered from it and that is through self-knowledge.
Question: Does a person immediately after death identify
himself with his mental body, or still with the dead corpse?
Answer: The mental body is just as the dead corpse. There
is no difference because the one is built on the reflection
of the other. For example, one does not see oneself different
in the dream when the mind is in a normal condition. If the
mind is abnormal, then one can see oneself as a cow, or as a
horse, or as anything. But if the mind is normal, one cannot
see oneself different from what one knows oneself to be. Therefore,
the mental being is the same as one sees oneself in the dream.
In the dream, one does not see the loss of the physical body.
One is running or eating or enjoying in the dream; one does
not realize the absence of the physical body. The same thing
is in the hereafter. The hereafter does not depend upon a physical
body to experience life fully. The sphere, in itself, is perfect,
and life is experienced perfectly.
Question: Is the ego completely destroyed by annihilation?
Answer: The ego, itself, is never destroyed. It is the one
thing that lives, and this is the sign of eternal life. In the
knowledge of the ego, there is the secret of immortality. When
it is said in the Gayan, 'Death dies, and life lives,' it is
the ego that is life, it is its false conception which is death.
The false must fall away someday; the real must always be. So
it is with life. The true living being is the ego, it lives;
all else that it has borrowed for its use from different planes
and spheres, and in which it has become lost, all that is put
away. Do we not see this with our own body? Things that do not
belong there do not remain in it, in the blood, in the veins,
anywhere. The body will not keep them, it will repel them. So
it is in every sphere. It does not take what does not belong
to it. All that is outside it keeps outside. What belongs on
earth is kept on earth, the soul repels it. The destroying of
the ego is a word; it is not destroying, it is discovering.
Often people are afraid when reading Buddhist books, where
the interpretation of Nirvana is given as annihilation. No one
wants to be annihilated, and people are very much afraid when
they read 'annihilation.' But it is only a matter of words.
The same word in Sanskrit is a beautiful word Mukti.
The Sufis call it Fana. If we translate it into English,
it is annihilation; but when we understand its real meaning,
it is 'going through' or 'passing through.' Passing through
what? Passing through the false conception, which is a first
necessity, and arriving at the true realization.