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            "mine" or Thine??

The human ego enjoys interpreting everything in an egocentric manner, a manner that is centered on "me", a manner that interprets every situation according to how it affects "me". The ego is a useful tool for protecting and maintaining the human body, but it can become a great source of confusion when it is allowed to influence one's understanding of the spiritual realms. That is, the ego is a useful tool, but all too easily we can become totally mesmerized, or preoccupied, by the egocentric view of "my" existence and thus become unable to clearly understand what is really happening, and who we really are. One's excessive attachment to the sense of "me" is often the greatest impediment to spiritual understanding.

The point is not to deny our ego, but to extricate ourselves from our exclusive preoccupation with it.

One-Liners, by Ram Dass

A confusing, and often troubling, situation arises when the human ego decides that it is the possessor, the owner, of life. Great difficulties arise when the ego imagines that life is "mine", and that "my" life is sacred. We often imagine that life is "ours", when in fact it is the other way around. Life is not something that is created for use by the human being, but rather the human being is something that is created for use by Life.

The Inner Journey is a path away from egocentricity to the Life-in-God.

Samuel Lewis, Commentary on the Inner Life, p3

When we view life as something that is "mine", we place great limitations on the idea of Life and may become quite confused by what appear to us as life and death. What appears to the ego as "my" life and "my" death is simply the ever-changing nature of Life. Life does not die. Life lives!

The mistake is that man wishes to live through the mortal part of his being; that is what brings disappointment. For he knows only that part of his being which is mortal, and he identifies himself with his mortal being. Hardly one among thousands realizes that life lives and death dies. That which lives cannot die, what dies will not live. ... This body was only a covering of life; now, that life has left. But the living being is not dead; it is that mortal cover which was covering that life that is dead.

It is often said the God is Love, and yet we often fail to also recognize that God is Life. Life does not die, it only changes from one form to another. We often become attached to a particular form, but Life itself is not attached to any particular form. Life pops up here and then departs and goes over there, then departs that form and moves on to yet another form, in a glorious never-ending parade of forms.

When one observes keenly the nature of this life of variety, one finds that behind the world of variety there is one life, the source and goal of all things.

Mortal life and immortal life are two aspects of our being. To be excessively focused on either mortality or on immortality will cause one to be out of harmony with reality, and the resulting unbalanced condition will cause undue pain, confusion and suffering. The middle path, a path that recognizes and honors both extremes while clinging to neither, is a path that leads to the cessation of pain, confusion and suffering.

We often imagine that life and death are opposites, but they are not -- birth and death are the two boundaries of the existence of a particular form, but Life has no opposite, Life has no boundaries, Life lives, Life is!

The self-centered ego is delighted with a fragmented, divisive viewpoint where it can pretend to be in control. But that turns out to be a painful and foolish way to live. The pain and suffering will only end when one rises above all the distinctions and divisiveness of the ego and begins to live in constant awareness of the Unity of Life, the Oneness of all beings, the wonder and glory of the One and Only One.

A topic that often arises when discussing life is the idea that we must never kill, so let's examine that thought. Perhaps a good place to begin examining this thought is in nature, since as Inayat Khan says:

'There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader.'

Most people consider as sacred scriptures only certain books or scrolls written by the hand of man, and carefully preserved as holy, to be handed down to posterity as divine revelation. Men have fought and disputed over the authenticity of these books, have refused to accept any other book of similar character, and, clinging thus to the book and losing the sense of it have formed diverse sects. The Sufi has in all ages respected all such books, and has traced in the Vedanta, Zend-Avesta, Kabbala, Bible, Quran, and all other sacred scriptures, the same truth which he reads in the incorruptible manuscript of nature, the only Holy Book, the perfect and living model that teaches the inner law of life: all scriptures before nature's manuscript are as little pools of water before the ocean.

To the eye of the seer every leaf of the tree is a page of the holy book that contains divine revelation, and he is inspired every moment of his life by constantly reading and understanding the holy script of nature.

When we look at nature, we see killing everywhere. We can't even do something as "harmeless" as boiling a pan of water without killing the living organisms that were in the water. In nature we see, for example, tiny fish killing tiny plants and killing other tiny animals in order to survive. And we see the bigger fish killing the tinier fish. Then the herons and pelicans kill those bigger fish. And then the coyote kills the heron. Everywhere we look in nature, we see killing -- plants killing plants, plants killing animals, animals killing plants, animals killing animals. But Life is never destroyed, it merely changes from one form to another.

On a more personal level, nature shows us that the human body cannot exist without what may appear to be killing. To maintain our body, we often kill plants and animals for food. And, on an even more amazing inner level, even the cells of our body are engaged in continual battle killing microbes and killing other living cellular structures in the body. So, clearly, by studying the ways of nature, we do not find any indication that killing is inherently wrong. In fact we find that killing abounds in nature.

Some say that we are commanded "Thou shall not kill". But given that killing is continually happening everywhere in nature, even inside our own bodies, is this a sensible statement? In the book of Exodus (20:13) we're told that one of the commandments given to Moses was:


The King James version did in fact translate this commandment as "Thou shalt not kill", although the significant word here is the Hebrew term ratsach, which could possibly signify killing for any reason, but more importantly it can specifically signify an act of killing due to anger or hatred. In that case, the commandment is not so much about the act of killing as it is about anger and hatred.

Along these same lines, there is an old teaching story, offered in many different forms to many different cultures, which may offer further insight into this issue:

Once a samurai was in the midst of a lesson with his beloved teacher, when an angry villain suddenly appeared, shouted hateful words, killed the samurai's teacher, and escaped. According to tradition, the samurai was then duty-bound to track down and kill this heinous villain.

After some effort, the samurai finally found the villain, and as he raised his sword to take the villain's life, the man spat in the samurai's face. The samurai abruptly stopped and sheathed his sword.

The villain said, "I don't understand. You were about to kill me, and yet after I spit at you, you have now spared my life. Why?"

The samurai replied, "I was going to take your life because it was my duty to kill you, but when you spat in my face, that angered me. Had I killed you then, I would have been a murderer, because I would have struck in anger. I will fight for my duty, but I will not murder for my ego."

Thus, it is our egocentric anger, hatred and self-righteousness that we are being cautioned to avoid, as is discussed by Jesus in the sermon on the mountain:

You have heard that the ancients were told, `thou shall not kill' and `whoever kills shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, `You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, `You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Matthew 5:21-22

Clearly, we must strive to honor Life, respect Life, treat Life with loving kindness, tenderness and generosity. Then, with such a loving attitude, whatever happens will be in harmony with Life itself.

In the Qur'an there is a wonderful parable about Moses being instructed in the ways of the One by a mystical teacher (often known as khidr, the green man):

Moses met Khidr, a teacher of Divine wisdom, and asked "May I follow you, and learn of the Higher Teachings?", to which Khidr agreed, as long as Moses would agree to have the patience to understand and thereby actually learn something about the Divine ways.

Soon, they set out in a boat, and Khidr promptly made a hole in the boat, which later caused the boat to sink. Moses became quite upset and protested  Khidr's sinking of the boat, but they went on.

Next, they met a young boy and Khidr killed the boy. Again Moses became quite distressed and again protested Khidr's actions, but they went on.

Then they encountered a wall that was in disrepair and about to fall down, which Khidr took time to repair. Again Moses was bewildered, and wondered why this apparent murderer would spend out of his own pocket and use his own time to repair someone else's wall.

Finally, realizing that Moses was not understanding the meaning of any of these actions, Khidr said: "Now will I tell thee the interpretation of (those things) over which you were unable to hold patience:

As for the boat, it belonged to certain men in dire want: they plied on the water: I but wished to render it unserviceable, for there was (chasing) after them a certain king who seized every boat by force.

As for the youth, his parents were people of Faith, and we feared that he would grieve them by obstinate rebellion and ingratitude (to Allah and man). So we desired that their Lord would give them in exchange (a son) better in purity (of conduct) and closer in affection.

As for the wall, it belonged to two youths, orphans, in the town; there was, beneath it, a buried treasure, to which they were entitled: their father had been a righteous man: So thy Lord desired that they should attain their age of full strength and get out their treasure - a mercy (and favour) from thy Lord. I did it not of my own accord. Such is the interpretation of (those things) over which you were unable to hold patience."

Qur'an, sura al-kahf (18:65-82)

This parable reminds us that our human viewpoint is very limited, and that if we wish to understand the events of human life and learn to be in harmony with Life itself, we must strive for a deeper understanding, an understanding beyond the limitations of any self-centered style of understanding.

All tragedy of life, all misery and inharmony are caused by one thing and that is lack of understanding. Lack of understanding comes from lack of penetration. The one who does not see from the point of view from which he ought to see becomes disappointed because he cannot understand. It is not for the outer world to help us to understand life better; it is we ourselves who should help ourselves to understand it better.

One should be full of courage and confidence in the face of difficulty and seeming trouble, by recognizing that there is a mighty power, that there is a perfect wisdom behind one, and that all will be well. Through this a person will rise above his limited power and wisdom, and will be able to draw power and wisdom from that unlimited source which in the end will lead him to success. Then even in the case of failure this recognition of a perfect power and wisdom working beside oneself will give one the strength to bear it, and to be resigned to the will of God.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, lord Krishna tells the ever-bewildered Arjuna:

The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There has never been a time when you and I and the kings gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we cease to exist.... One man believes he is a slayer, and other believes he is slain. Both are ignorant; there is neither slayer nor slain... Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies... The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire.

Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter II, tr by Eknath Easwaran

Everything that is born must die, but there is a part of us, the most wondrous part, that never dies. And rather than focusing our attention on the inevitable change of form, which seems to be the end of life, lord Krishna urges Arjuna to raise his ideals a bit higher, to raise his attention beyond the issues of birth and death, and to focus his attention solely upon the One Cause that is behind all of the apparent causes:

The foolish do not look beyond physical appearances to see my true nature as the Lord of all creation. The knowledge of such deluded people is empty; their lives are fraught with disaster and evil and their work and hopes all are in vain... I am the father and the mother of this universe, and its grandfather too. I am its entire support... I am the goal of life, the Lord and support of all, the inner witness, the abode of all. I am the only refuge, I am the one true friend, I am the beginning, the staying and the end of creation... I am immortality and I am death... Therefore having been born in this transient and forlorn world, give all your love to me. Fill your mind with me; love me; serve me; worship me always. Seeking me in your heart, you will at last be united with me.

Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter IX, tr by Eknath Easwaran

Again, the message is clear -- in order to make spiritual progress, we must rise above mere appearances, and discover the glory and wonder of the One Cause who is behind all causes. Paraphrasing the saying attributed to Mansur al-Hallaj: ana al-hayy, I am Life! In order to rise out of our self-centered rut, we must focus our attention on the Truth, always remembering the One Life in whom we all exist and move and breathe.

They should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being

Book of Acts 17:27-28

All of creation is in continual change, with various forms coming into being, existing for some time, and then disappearing. In our confusion, we become attached to certain forms, and we are greatly distressed when the appearance of that form changes. We may call it death, but it is really only a change of form. Life goes on.

If living is an innate desire, then it is most necessary to find the process, the way how to get in touch with that real part of ourselves, which may be called our being, our self, and thus to become free from what is called mortality. It is the ignorant one who knows only the ground floor of his house. By going to the first floor of his house, he thinks that he is dead. He does not know that he has only left the ground floor and is going to the first floor. Why does this ignorance exist? Because he never tried to go to the first floor. The ground floor is quite enough for him. The first floor does not exist for him, though it is a floor in his own house.

Is immortality to be gained, to be acquired? No, it is to be discovered. One has only to make one's vision keener, in other words, to explore one's self. But that is the last thing one does. People are most pleased to explore the tomb of Tut-ankh-Amen in Egypt, in order to find mysteries, regardless of the mystery hidden in their own heart. Tell them about any mystery existing outside themselves: they are delighted to explore it. But when you tell them to see in themselves, they think it is too simple. ... The saying of the Prophet is, 'Die before death.' What does it mean? It does not mean commit suicide. It only means: study the condition of death. One need not die, play it; one should play death and find out what it is. The whole mystical cult is that play, playing death. That play becomes the means by which to understand the mystery hidden in life.

Nonetheless, one must always respond with compassion and sympathy to all who are suffering, even when they are the cause of their own misery. And, by rising above one's own egocentric viewpoint and the consequential suffering, one is then much better equipped to offer a greater quality of sympathy, compassion and healing to those who lack understanding.

When one has acquired knowledge, power, magnetism, he becomes conscious of having greater power than others, of knowing more than others, of being able to achieve more than others. To use these faculties rightly is another struggle. He should not pride himself on these accomplishments. There is an enemy who starts with him on the journey and never leaves him: his pride and spiritual egotism and this enemy stays with him as long as he is on the path.

It is a great temptation to think, on having received inspiration and power, 'I can do, know, understand more than you.' It is a constant struggle until the end, and at any moment one may stumble and fall down. Only the steadfast traveler will persist in rising up every time, for without patience he may lose his way. But those who journey on this path will get help; as Christ said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.'

Sympathy is an awakening of the love element, which comes on seeing another in the same situation in which one has been at some time in one's life. ... That person is living whose heart is living, and that heart is living which has wakened to sympathy. ... No doubt love, affection, or sympathy without wisdom may seem profitless, as for instance, if a person was crying with pain and his sympathetic friend, on hearing his cry, began to weep with him, doubling his pain.

Sympathy can only be useful when man does not make the condition of the person with whom he sympathizes worse, but makes things better. The feeling of sympathy must be within, it need not manifest purely as sympathy but as an action to better the condition of the one with whom one has sympathy. There are many attributes found in the human heart which are called divine, but among them there is no greater and better attribute than sympathy, by which man shows in human form God manifested.

Mere appearances can be deceiving, so the wise strive to see beyond the mere appearance and to discover That Which the appearance points toward. To understand Life, one must awaken to the Cause which is behind the apparent cause, the wonder of Life that is beyond the bounds of birth and death. When situations do not make any sense to us, the misunderstanding is often caused by our viewpoint.

Without trying to go into big definitions and discussions of things in actual practice, we might say first that spirituality manifests most tangibly in how we deal with problems, especially in relationships with people; secondly, in whether we unfold the potentialities in our being and how we unfold them; and finally, in absolute crystal-clear understanding of what lies behind the appearance of things – not being caught up in the appearance but really seeing the "cause behind the cause and the purpose beyond the purpose."

The Call of the Dervish, Pir Vilayat Khan, p158

'Unless the soul is born again it will not enter the kingdom of heaven'. Being born again means that the soul is awakened after having come on earth, and entering the kingdom of heaven means that this world, the same kingdom in which we are standing just now, turns into heaven as soon as the point of view has changed. Is it not interesting and most wonderful to think that the same earth we walk on is earth to one person and heaven to another? And it is still more interesting to notice that it is we who change it; we change it from earth into heaven, or we change it otherwise.

This change comes not by study, nor by anything else, but only by the changing of our point of view. I have seen people seek after truth, study in books about it, write many books on theology, and in the end they were in the same place where they were standing before. This shows that all outer efforts are excuses. There is only one thing that brings us before reality and that is the awakening of the soul.

All tragedy of life, all misery and inharmony are caused by one thing and that is lack of understanding. Lack of understanding comes from lack of penetration. The one who does not see from the point of view from which he ought to see becomes disappointed because he cannot understand. It is not for the outer world to help us to understand life better; it is we ourselves who should help ourselves to understand it better.

"Awakening" is a key word: it means that we have awakened from our personal vantage point or perspective. Everything looks totally different, and by the fact that you see what lies behind things, you unfold.

The Call of the Dervish, Pir Vilayat Khan, p175

The egocentric viewpoint imagines that life is for the benefit of "me", but such is not the case. In reality, life is not created for "me", but rather this "me" has been created for the benefit of Life. The difference between these two viewpoints is vast. In the former attitude, one finds great limitation, confusion and suffering. But when the viewpoint changes from self-centered to self-less, a new realm of understanding is discovered,  a realm of unlimited understanding, clarity and peace.

Our limited viewpoint regarding "my" life is a result of our limited thinking, our thinking about "me", our identification with a particular form the we consider to be "me". But when we begin to see "me" in every form, and begin to see the Divine Presence in every form, then we are no longer attached to any particular form. This awakening depends only upon changing our point of view.

All the violence, fear and suffering
that exists in this world
comes from grasping at "self".
What use is this great monster to you?
If you do not let go of the "self",
there will never be an end to your suffering.


To see the Cause behind the cause, to see the wonder of Life that we have misinterpreted as a "my" life or "your" life, only requires a change of viewpoint. If we stand in the midst of a jungle, we cannot see very far, but when we stand on a mountaintop, we can see a vast panorama, yet the world did not change, it is only one's viewpoint that has changed. Similarly, to see enduring Life, rather than merely ephemeral life, one needs only to change one's point of view by rising above the dense jungle of "me" and standing firmly on the spacious mountaintop of selflessness.

Life does not die. Life cannot be killed. Life lives.


Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,

posted August 02, 2006