Thursday, February 21, 2008

Secret of "why sufis don't grow old"

for some years Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee's teachings in terms of his writings and audio, videos freely made available through Golden Sufi website have been a prominent source of inspiration for me. if i can remember correctly i am familiar with him through Golden Sufi site since 2005. but it was only last 17th February at Berkeley during Global Oneness Project event i had the honored chance to see him for the first time face to face. it was wonderful to be in the presence of someone whom you loved and followed for such a longtime remotely without seeing him really. so when i saw him on the stage the first thing that was striking to me was how young he looks compared to all his pictures and videos of past years.

later in the day, at lunch table his son Emmanuel, Founder & Director of Global Oneness Project was mentioning that earlier after Llewellyn's talks someone came up to him and commented, you have a nice brother! Emmanuel was like, father you mean! and it wasn't the first time. i can imagine that person because easily anyone can mistake Llewellyn (born in London in 1953) to be a brother of his son Emmanuel who is 27 now. and then Sheikh Llewellyn's wife jokingly reminded us the sufi aphorism that "sufi's don't age".

today while reading Lawrence LeShan's book, How to Meditate i came across the inner and outer hints that allude to why sufi's don't age. The author was mentioning the following in the context of why people meditate.

"... we meditate to find, to recover, to come back to something of ourselves we once dimly and unknowingly had and have lost without knowing what it was or where or when we lost it. We may call it access to more of our human potential or being close to ourselves and to reality, or to more of our capacity to love and zest and enthusiasm, or our knowledge that we are a part of the universe, and our knowledge that are part of the universe and can never be alienated or separated from it, or our ability to see and function in reality more effectively. As we work at meditation, we find that each of these statements of the goal has the same meaning. it is this loss, whose recovery we search for, that led the psychologist Max Wertheimer to define an adult as "a deteriorated child."

there goes the inner hint: whereas with time an average adult becomes a deteriorated child, as we continuously condition ourselves with overwhelming externalities that slowly poison and kill our inner child. on the contrary a sufi or a mystic preserve that innocence of the original inner child. there are a lot of commonalities between a child and a sufi. they live in a state of oneness, everything is (the face of) the one, Ahad in specific quality of Divine Oneness. they never cease to be in a state of wonderment and live in the presence. they live spontaneously. just as a little child doesn't hold to the self, infact the duality between self and other is not even there; so is the practice of the sufis to let go of the nafs (self) and its illusion created out of duality. to live in a non-dual state (realizing and embodying Tawhid, Oneness) is what makes a child and sufi on the same field of awareness and being.

a child has an open heart which is also the goal of a sufi. they both are non-judgmental. the same light that glows from the child, can be found in the eyes of sufis and mystics. a child has the infinite capacity to trust and love, as is the goal of a sufi. so the inner state or the heart and mind of a sufi emulate that of a child.

for a Buddhist Mystic or Zen path its explicitly said on a similar note that, "Zen is to have the heart and soul of a little child." - Takuan.

What is very central to sufi idea is also there in Zen as can be realized from these two quotes:

"The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something."
- Koun Yamada

"In the Zen the ego enters into God. God enters into the ego. Both."
- Taisen Deshimaru

Llewelyn and Emmanuel Vaughan-Leephoto | Emmanuel and Llewellyn (right) | Feb 17, 08 | Berkeley, CA

Physiological explanation | from a purely physiological point of view, since sufis (as well as mystics of any path) do practice meditation and prayer on a greater and importantly in a regular level, that might also provide the outer hint why the physical body retains youthful and with vitality on the outset.

despite huge advancement in medical science, human physical body (let alone spiritual) is still one of the most mysterious vessel in the whole universe. what we know is only a tiny fraction of what we still do not know. yet what is emerging from scientific research on the effect of meditation tells us that (quote from the book, How to Meditate): "Essentially meditation seems to produce a physiological state of deep relaxation coupled with a wakeful and highly alert mental state. Central to the response to meditation is the lowered rate of metabolism, the lowered rate of using oxygen and producing carbon dioxide.

The lactate concentration of the blood decreases sharply during meditation, nearly four times as fast as it does in people resting quietly. Blood-lactate level is related to anxiety and tension, and the low level found in subject during meditation or meditative state of being is very likely related to the relaxed state of the meditators." brain wave pattern is also different dramatically. thus there are a lot of positive physiological effects that is created continuously in the body due to meditation, prayer and altered state of being - which can not otherwise be created (neither drugs nor sleep or hypnotism).

also i feel, food is another factor. all mystics eat moderate or less and eat with mindfulness which does make a tremendous difference. as our physical body remains less dense, it becomes more and more sensitive to spiritual vibration. energy can work through better with a less dense body. from chinese traditional medicine's perspective such body have spontaneous flow of Chi or life-energy keeping one in youthful spirit independent of physical age.

many great indian yogis (mystics who aspire to unite with Divine) are great testimony of preserving youthfulness due to their inner and outer practices. Paramahansa Yogananda's physical body was so pristine that even days after his death, no visible sign of decay was there which astonished the medical personnel who examined his body. "This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one" - was reported an account. a brief account can be read here. if one looks at the Lamas and Buddhist monks or nuns of great age one can find the same radiance that comes from a different state of being.

so these inner and outer states, points to the surface secret why sufis (and mystics) don't grow old. someone on the table that day was jokingly said, if we could train everyone to be sufi, we could save billions of dollars in the beauty and cosmetic industry! light of laughter was shimmering in Sheikh Llewellyn and everyone's eyes as you can imagine.

. image credit: zen brush | sufi dancer
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