One Day We Will Die
Kabir Sahib wastes no words in explaining our ultimate fate:
Like a bubble in water
Is our fate;
One day we will vanish
Like the stars
That with the coming of dawn
Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name
How often do we even think about the fact that we will die one day – vanish from this earth? The daily media constantly reminds us how temporary and fragile life is.
Yet, many of us seem oblivious to the fact that one day we will be the one whom our friends will take to the graveyard or crematorium. We perhaps only think of death when a loved one or someone our age unexpectedly dies. Otherwise, we avoid the thought.
We instead occupy our minds with the pursuit of enjoyment, money, status and family. Maharaj Sawan Singh reminds us of this when he says:
We are very clever about our worldly affairs and always make appropriate arrangements for their successful execution. But with regard to death, which has no time fixed for it and may come at any time – in childhood, in youth, or in old age – we have never given a moment’s thought.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I
Mystics advise us to reflect on the temporariness of our life and to consider its end, so we can leave this world with a peaceful mind and without regrets. Sarmad, a Persian mystic, put this question to us:
My friend, you have wandered
through cities, towns and deserts.
You have followed the path of desires,
pursuing a hundred passions.
This caravan is reaching the destination
and the journey is ending –
Where have you been?
Sarmad, Martyr to Love Divine
Where have we been? What have all our passions and desires brought us? Are we ever satisfied? Out of fear of the unknown, we keep ourselves and our minds busy, and try to ignore the fact that we will die one day. When we do think of death, we consider it a painful event, full of suffering, fear and grief. Associating it only with the sudden end of loving relationships and the irreversible loss of possessions is part of our ignorance.
Mystics experience death in a totally different way. They describe dying as the end of suffering, as merging into light and love, as going back to the Beloved, the Lord, and becoming one with him. For them death is not a painful end of a worldly life, but just a change from darkness to light. Maulana Rum says:
It is not the kind of death that will consign you
to the grave.
It is, instead, a change that will usher you into Light.
You need have no fear of death,
For apart from your physical body
you have other bodies.
Therefore, do not be afraid to come out of this body.
As quoted in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I
The mystics’ outlook on death is different from ours. They are conscious of the fact that human life is temporary, and they prepare themselves for the end of it, like Uwais, in a short story by Anthony de Mello:
Uwais the Sufi was once asked,
“What has grace brought you?”
“When I wake in the morning I feel
like a man who is not sure he will
live till evening.”
Said the questioner,
“But doesn’t everyone know this?”
“They certainly do. But not all of them
feel it. No one ever became drunk on
the word wine.”
The Song of the Bird
The fact that mystics realize that death may strike at any moment makes them live in a conscious way. During this precious human life, not only do they fulfil their worldly responsibilities and obligations, but they also pay attention to the purpose of this human birth: to become conscious of the presence of the Divine; to realize that we are not this human body but a spiritual being – a soul, a drop of the Divine. According to them, this human birth gives us the opportunity to merge into that divine ocean and become one with it. As Meister Eckhart says:
It is your destiny to see as God sees,
to know as God knows,
to feel as God
How is this possible? How?
Because divine love cannot defy its very self.…
As quoted in Love Poems from God, rendered by Daniel Ladinsky
In this beautiful way, Meister Eckhart explains that the destiny of all is to become God. Sant Mat teaches us that our purpose on this planet, in this physical universe, is to return home, to become one with God. Or more to the point, our purpose is to rediscover the God that we are – that we have always been – and that our souls, hearing the Lord’s call, are spiraling upward on an inevitable inner journey homeward.
The Master repeatedly tells us that what will happen at the time of our death will be the logical conclusion of what we have done during our life. So if we follow the instructions of the Master and cultivate love and devotion for God in our hearts, the logical consequence will be that our attention will be focused on him at the moment we die. If we are sincere in our meditation practice, desires for worldly things will disappear, and only the yearning to meet him will fill our hearts. How could divine love resist such an honest and loving yearning? It cannot, says Meister Eckhart, “because divine love cannot defy its very self.” Divine love will be eternally true to its own being.
Maharaj Sawan Singh confirms in one of his letters that divine love will respond to our yearning:
We are to leave this world one day, and if we are loving, obedient disciples, and have made proper preparations in this lifetime, we do not have the transition which we call death.
While others weep, the spiritually developed soul departs happy – happier than a bridegroom on his wedding day.
The time of death is a critical one in our experience, when our friends and relatives are helpless to render any assistance; but for the followers of Sant Mat, it is the happiest time of all. The Master appears and takes the departing soul with him, and puts it in its upward journey at the place for which it is fit.
There is no rendering of accounts with Kal, provided there have been love for and obedience to the Master. The departing soul is happier than it has ever been before. There is absolutely no fear of death. The Master’s presence within breaks all worldly connections, and the mind is free to continue the upward journey.
The message of the mystics is clear: Recognize the transitory nature of this human life and prepare ourselves for our death.When we practice meditation regularly with love and devotion, we will not experience dying as frightening, mysterious or painful. We will experience it in the way the mystics do, as a change from darkness into light. This change heralds the end of our suffering; it heralds our merging into love, going back to our Beloved, the Lord, and becoming one with him.