The Supplementary Papers
The Certitude of Life in the Hereafter
Beloved ones of God,
I would like to speak a few words on the question of the certitude of life in the hereafter. This is a question which occupies every mind. Sooner or later in life a person begins to think if there is such a thing as a continuity of life. There are many who by their pessimistic idea think that there seems to be nothing afterwards. And there are others who owing to their optimistic idea think: whether there is something or whether there is not something, it is just as well to think that there is something. Nevertheless this thought is most painful, when a person thinks that there will be nothing after death. And how many reasons he may have at the support in his belief, that belief itself is worse than death. There are some who through different phenomena wish to get the proof of the life in the hereafter.
But they meet with ninety nine disappointments and perhaps one reality. And when we come to the idea of the Sufi, his idea is that life lives, death dies. In other words: to life there is no death, and to death there is no life. But his way of attaining to the certitude of life is not only an intellectual one. Because a person may study all the philosophies, all the metaphysics all through his life which may in every way prove by reasons that there is the continuity of life, still this realization gained by the effort of mind will not give that feeling of certitude which one wishes to have.
The Sufi therefore practices that process through which he is able to touch that part of life in himself which is not subject to death. And by finding that part of life he naturally gets the feeling of certitude of life. It makes him more certain of life than of anything in the world. Because he sees in all things changeability and limitation. For everything that is composed is subject to be decomposed: everything born is subject to death. But he finds in finding that life that was his self, and that was the real life, and all else that he knows about life that begins to lose its importance.
And now you will say: in what way does he discover that life in him which was never born and will never die? By self-analysis; but according to what mystics know of self-analysis. To understand what this vehicle what we call 'the body' is to us, what relation we have to it. And by understanding what this mind, which we call mind, consists of. And then by knowing that: "Am I then, am I this body, am I this mind?" There comes a time when he begins to see that he himself is the knower of the body and the mind.
But to this realization he only arrives when the body and mind he can hold in his hands as his objects which he uses for his purpose in life. Once he has done this, then the body and mind, these two things, become as the two cords which the person puts on himself in order to swim in the water, and there is no danger of drowning. The same body and mind which, at least in his thought, cause man mortality, the very body and mind then become the means of his safety from being drowned in the water of mortality.
In reality mortality is our conception, immortality is reality. We make a conception of mortality because we do not know the real life. By the realization of the real life the comparison between real life and mortality makes one know that mortality is non-existent. Therefore it would not be an exaggeration if I said that the work of a Sufi is an unlearning. What he is accustomed to call or recognize as life he then begins to recognize as death. And what he is accustomed to call death he then begins to recognize as life. And therefore life and death both are not for him conditions to which he is subject, but are conditions which he brings about upon himself. A great Persian Sufi, Bedil, he says: "By myself I become captive, and by myself I become free." If I were to interpret it in a simple language I would say that: "By myself I die, and by myself I live." But why does a Sufi say this? Why does everyone not say it? Because for a Sufi it is a condition which he brings about; for another person it is a condition in which he is helpless.
And now you will ask me: in what way this realization is to be brought about? The first thing is that one must learn in every little thing in life the way of unlearning. For the difficulty in my own work I find greatly when a person comes to me and says: "Now so far I have learnt, will you add to my knowledge more?" And in my heart I say: the more you have learnt, the worse it is for me. And if I would like to add to it, it would not be adding, it would be taking away from it in order that I may unburden you from all you have learnt, that you may be able to unlearn first, and that through this unlearning what will come will be the true learning. But one might say: "Then is it all useless for us to learn what we learn in life?" And the answer is: "No, it is all useful, but for what? For that object which you are searching after.
When you wish to search after the secret of life, the learning which one calls learning, that is the first thing to unlearn. No doubt it is something which is a difficult thing for everyone to understand. And yet when we read the life of Rumi, a great Teacher, and his Teacher, Shams Tabriz, the first lesson he gave to Rumi was that: unlearn all that you have learnt. And now you may ask me: is this unlearning forgetting all that one learns? Not at all. It is not necessary. This unlearning is: to be able to say with reason, with logic, the contrary to what one knows. When you are accustomed to say: this is wrong, this is right, this is good, and this is bad, this is great and this is small, and this is higher and this is lower, this is spiritual and this is material, this is up and this is down, and this is before and this is behind, if you can use the opposite words for each with reason and with logic, naturally you have unlearn what you have once learnt.
It is after this that the realization of Truth begins, because then the mind is not fixed. And it is then that one has become alive, for his soul has become born. It is then that one will become tolerant, and it is then that one will forgive. For he will understand his friend and foe both. He never then has one point of view; he has all points of view. You might say: is it not dangerous to have all points of view, then I have not my point of view. It is not necessary. You may have one room in the house, or you may have ten rooms in the house; you may use each as you like. As many points of view as one can see so large is his point of view.
But all this is attained by meditative process, by tuning oneself, by bringing oneself to a proper rhythm, by concentration, contemplation and by meditation, and by realization; by dying and living both at the same time. In order to rise above death one must die first. In order to get above mortality one must know what it is. But this is certain, that if there is a greatest and most important thing that one wishes to accomplish in life it is one, and that one thing is to rise above the conception of death.
Q. How can you rise above the conception of death? A. As I have already said, that the most necessary thing is to play death, and to know what death is. And it is a great learning how to play death. For what we do is a very false thing, and that is we play life when we are subject to death. If we played death it would be a real thing, it would not be a hypocrisy. And it is out of that that we shall discover life. For we experience death by playing life, and we experience life by playing death. What we call death is a death of this body.
But if we attach ourselves to this body as ourselves, then it is death. A simple man asked a person: "How can I know that I am dead?" "Well," the man said: "It is very easy. When your coat has become rotten and torn and worn out, then it is a death." Of course, when the coat was worn out and torn, then this man was thinking that he was dead, and he was weeping bitterly. And some thoughtful person came and told him: "It is your coat that is torn. But how can you cry, you are still alive." It is exactly the condition of the mystical idea. For the mystic the body is a garment. But it is no use realizing it intellectually. Because if one says intellectually: body is my garment, but then what am I, and where am I' And as I have said: by the meditative process one finds where one is and what one is. And therefore this does not remain as a belief, it becomes a faith, even greater than faith: it becomes conviction.
Q. In what way can we play death? How can we do it? A. There was a king who thought that he would give up his kingdom, and he would become a mureed, that is to say to become a disciple of a Teacher, and to give up all the worldly things, and just go in the spiritual thought. And when he went to Bukhara under the guidance of a Teacher, the Teacher gave him the probationer's work. The work was to sweep and clean the whole house where all the pupils lived, and to collect the garbage and to take it out of the village.
Of course, the pupils were very much in sympathy with this man, and they were very shocked for this man who used to sit on the throne and be a king – this is a thing which he was never accustomed to do; it must be a terrible thing for him ! No doubt the Teacher knowing the object that he had before him, could not do otherwise. He said: "He must do it, for he is not yet ready." Once all the disciples went and they said: "Teacher, we are all in sympathy with this man, and we think he is so fine and so nice and so cultured, and we would so much like if you would relieve him of this duty." And then they said to the Teacher: "It is a long time now; he must be relieved of it."
The Teacher said: "we shall have a test." One day when he was taking his garbage-pail outside of the town, somebody knocked against him and all was spilled on the ground. He looked back and said: "Well, it is not the days of the past, what can I tell you?" And when the report was brought to the Teacher he said: "Did I not say that the time has not yet come?" And next time a test was made again, after a little time. And when the same thing was done, this man looked at him and said nothing. The Teacher said: "Did I not say that the time has not yet arrived?" And the third time when he was tested he did not even look at the man who spilled his basket. He took all that was there in the basket and carried it along.
The Teacher said: "Now is the time, now he can play death." All the teaching that Christ has taught, that: "If one will strike you on one side of the face, give the other side; if one will ask you to go one mile go still further; if one asks you for your overcoat give your cap also," when we think of it all, what is it? Is it not the teaching to play death? Therefore at any time if the Teachers of Truth have prescribed to their pupils any process of behavior with their fellow men, that process can be called nothing else but playing death. But one might think that it is very hard, it is very cruel on the part of the Teacher.
But the instructor had to go through the same cruelty once at a certain period in his life. But sometimes the greatest cruelty is the greatest kindness. It is hard, but the hardest path can be conquered by this. And if I were to speak about it in simple words it is in this way: how many times we take to heart unnecessary things, how many times we cause or we take interest in disharmony which could just as well not have been avoided. How often we resist evil which could just as well not have been resisted. This is all playing life, and what I have said before is playing death. When we play death we arrive at life. When we play life we arrive at death.
Q. Is it not sometimes to become insensible to the pain of others to just look at them and not share with them? A. But I have said: playing with death is rising above sensible and insensible. Because sensible and insensible has a certain stage. One can rise above that stage; then all is sensible. Besides, you can always find among those who play death or who have played death, they have been the most sympathetic and the most open to the pain of others. Because when they are playing death, automatically they are playing life too. And therefore although they are as dead to all the wrong things that come to them, they are alive to everything that can go from them to the others.
Q. May I ask, in what consists that state where at certain days and at certain hours one no longer feels one's body, and only the thought is alive and awake? A. It is a condition. As I say, any condition that automatically comes is not a normal thing, even if it be a high condition. But if it automatically comes it is not normal. The normal thing is to be able to experience any condition one wishes to. To be able to experience death, to be able to experience life, that is the right thing. The one who always experiences death and does not experience life, that is abnormal too.
Q. How to have a balance? A. To have a balance one must do everything, from morning to evening, that is balanced.
Man, the Seed of God
Man may most justly be called the seed of God. God the Infinite, most conscious within Himself, embraces His nature full of variety, in this way He is one and He is all. The whole manifestation is just like a tree sprung from the divine root. Nature is like its stem, and all the aspects of nature are like the branches, the leaves, the fruit, and the flowers, and from this tree again the same seed is produced – the human soul – which was the first cause of the tree. This seed is man, his spirit, and as God constitutes the whole universe within Himself, being single, so man constitutes within himself the whole universe, as His miniature. Therefore neither can God be anything other than what He is, nor can man, for the very reason that He is one and at the same time He is all. This applies to both. Neither can man be reincarnated nor can God.
The scientists of today have admitted the fact that all the skin of man is changed in so many years, and they have been able to discover that each atom of man's constitution changes so many times in life, renewing his body each time. If the body is subject to change, so is the mind and these are the only identification of man's person. Again, in our food and drink we live upon so many small lives, and so many lives, small germs, live upon us, dwelling in our blood, veins, tubes, and in the skin, all of which constitutes our individuality. Again, in the mind our every thought and feeling is as alive as we, even such beings as the elementals, demons and angels, which are created within us, from us, and yet may as fittingly be called individuals as we. So in the end of the examination it is hard to find whether we exist as one or as many.
In our dreams all the inhabitants of our mind resurrect, forming a world within ourselves. We see things and beings, a friend, a foe, an animal, a bird, and they come from nowhere, but are created out of our own selves. This shows that the mind of an individual constitutes a world in itself, which is created and destroyed by the conscious or unconscious action of the will, which has two aspects, intention and accident. We experience ourselves in this world of mind even while awake, but the contrast between the world within and without makes the world without concrete and the world within inconcrete. Someone may ask: "If all that we see in the dream are we ourselves, then why do we see, even in the dream, ourselves as an identity, separate from all other things before us in the dream?" The answer is: "Because the soul is deluded by our external form, and this picture it recognizes as I, and all other images and forms manifesting before it in the dream stand in contrast to this I; therefore the soul recognizes them as others than I."
Therefore, if it is one individual that reincarnates, should we hold our changeable body to be an individual, or our mind, which both appear to be one and at the same time many? One might ask Jack, "Which part of yourself is Jack, the eye, the nose, the ear, or the hand or foot, which each of them have a particular name? Or are you thoughts and feelings Jack? They are numerous, changeable, and diverse. You name them as such an imagination, such a feeling." This shows that Jack stands aloof as the owner of all the finer and grosser properties that have grouped and formed an illusion before him, which, reflected upon his soul, makes him say: "I, Jack," the owner of all that he realizes around and about him, and yet each atom and vibration which has composed his illusionary self is liable to change, to a separate birth and death for itself. Also, if Jack has reincarnated as John, or John has reincarnated as Jack, what were both in the beginning? Were they two, or one? If one became two, then one could become thousands, millions, and still he is one only.
The shooting forth of the soul from Consciousness can be symbolized as an arrow. The arrow shot up in the air goes up as far as the will and power of the sender has predestined it, and when it reaches its almost height, there comes its return. The death of the physical life is the return of that arrow back. Of course, on its return, it may be detained on its way, perhaps, as the arrow is sometimes caught in the branches of a tree, but it has its return some day or other to the earth, its own element. It does not go up again from there by any means. So it is with the human soul, which, after finishing its purpose on earth, returns to its origin, bound by its drawing power.
God bless you.