Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Last Breath

1.
Kemon kore bolbi Hari moroner dine?

Bodon jaha cheyecho tai diyechi,
E Hari Naam bolba kina, Bodoney e?

Moroner dine, kemon kore bolbi Hari?


In the moment of your last breath,
How shall you remember the Name of your Lord?

All your life whatever your mind wanted, it were granted,
Now will you say the Name of your Lord for once?

-  from traditional Baul Songs of Bengal













2.

And ye most certainly shall journey on
from stage to stage.

- The Quran, al-Inshiqaq



Sufis understand the secret that "The soul is immortal. It is death that dies; life lives forever." How can it be otherwise when life comes from the ever living breath of the Divine, al Hayyul Qayyum, the EverLiving, the Self Subsisting, the One which never dies? Divine revelations of the major religious / spiritual traditions, the direct experience of the illuminated beings, the master guides of humanity, almost all the native traditions of great ancient wisdom - all of the testifies the truth that our soul transits or travels to a new reality after death. The Final cycle of revelation to humanity reminds us that after death the soul is reawakened in a new reality which can not be known through the imagery of the mind, parables or comparisons that intellect can understand while only living and seeing this reality.

We shall transfigure you and make you grow again in a mysterious way you cannot know.
Certainly you have known the first creation, then why do you not reflect?
- The Quran, Chapter of the Inevitable, verses 61,62

Since we have real difficulty in describing the new reality; there have been differences in terms of how it is described, what way it is compared with, what name they are called with - they all vary across various cultures, languages, religions etc. What is common that all illuminated beings, the divine informers have spoken of the after-life reality and none have denied it (Jesus, Muhammad and all previous Messengers spoke about this reality in the clearest of terms). Yes some have remained silent about it (such as Gautama Buddha) because of the possibility of the disciples to misunderstand the concept of the new reality since language and terms can be very misleading - but being silent and denying are two different things when it comes to transmission of spiritual knowledge.

If we can transcend the differences of language and labels and see from a unified gnostic view point, when the soul separate from the body and passes through the intermediary world (the barzakh) and is reawakened in the new reality (akhirah, after-life), it experiences either an Absolute Separation from God or an Absolute Presence of God. 

The Absolute Separation is a complete withdrawal of God's Mercy, Compassion and Grace and that Absolute Separate is known as Eternal Punishment (known as Hell), a complete cut off from the vision of the Beloved which only burns and hence in human language of this reality is called Fire or Nar. The absolute agony suffered from complete separation.

The Absolute Indwelling in the Divine Presence is a complete immersion in God's Love, Grace and Bounty, soul's re-union and granting of the vision of the Beloved which in various tradition is called Paradise, the Garden underneath which rivers (of God's never-ending bounty and mercy) flows. This Absolute Indwelling is called the supreme achievement or success (fowzul 'azim).

Allah knows the best and has unveiled from the unveiling of the elect spiritual knowledge to his beloveds and friends who are drawn near. In a very concise form what is just mentioned above is a summary of the totality of the reality of  reawakening or post-resurrection which every human soul is destined after death and this spiritual truth is confirmed unequivocally, and affirmed, and warned without any ambiguity, and given good news with full certainty - again and again by countless number of illuminated teachers and spiritual guides and divine messengers of humanity in all ages.

Ah indeed! Are they in doubt concerning the meeting with their Lord?
Now surely is not the Divine Presence surrounding all things?
- The Quran 41:54

Just as Hu brought you forth into being, so shall you return. 
- 7:29

Have they not considered how many generations We destroyed before them - that they to them will not return? And indeed, all of them will yet be brought present before the Divine.
- 36:31,32 

What is the life of this world but amusement and play? but verily the Home in the Hereafter,- that is life indeed, if they but knew! 
- 29:64







3.
What! Do you take this message lightly?

Do you make your living by rejecting the Truth?

So why then, when the soul leaps, in the throat of the dying and you are at the moment watching - and We are closer to him but you do not see Us - why, if you are not dependent upon Us - do you not call it back if you claim to know it all?

- The Quran 56:81-87



4.
From those around I hear a Cry,
A muffled sob, a Hopeless sigh,
I hear their footsteps leaving slow,
And then I know my soul must Fly!

A chilly wind begins to blow,
Within my soul, from Head to Toe,
And then, Last Breath escapes my lips,
It's Time to leave. And I must Go!

So, it is True (But it's too Late)
They said: Each soul has its Given Date,
When it must leave its body's core,
And meet with its Eternal Fate.
Oh mark the words that I do say.

- Last Breath, a nasheed by Ahmed Bukhatir



The moment when we die, the moment when we come to inhale our precious last breath - is a moment of inevitable truth (waqia). It is a moment of truth from the vantage point of soul's journey, progression and passing to the next reality. And it is transmitted in spiritual traditions that at that moment of the soul's exit from the body, the soul's journey and progression to the next life depends on the imprints of the heart in that very moment. "one who comes with a purified heart is successful"- is a reflection of that spiritual reality.

Now that moment of last breath becomes like a single moment with all the imprints of life, both good and bad, both remembrance and forgetfulness, both joy and pain, both sadness and happiness - all comes compressed in one single moment. If our first breath is compared to the big bang, the last breath is like the big crunch. In cosmology, the big crunch is understood when the entire cosmos returns to a single point with all the masses and energy of the cosmos (the ultimate fate of the physical universe, the universe recollapses, ultimately ending as a black hole singularity). At last breath, in the very last moment of one's life, one experience such moment of truth when the entire life flashes before the eyes of the heart, just as within the single point of singularity in big crunch contains all the galaxies, nebulas, quasars, gigantic stars - everything.

How one spends the whole life (or the awakened part of life), whatever impression one has on heart or on soul becomes dominant in that moment. If one lived a life predominantly with anger, unforgiving attitude, tremendous hurt feeling that was never healed because one couldn't come to face unconditional love and couldn't give forgiveness to others, or if one was mostly generous, gave unconditional love to others, lived with a longing for God as Beloved - the soul receive the reality (haqiqa) accordingly. Thus the last breath is a moment so monumental and a spiritually evolved soul strive to live a conscious life by being conscious of the Divine Presence and with certainty that our reawakening is an reawakening in the Absolute. Either in the Absolute Presence or in the Absolute Absence. Sufis call these two aspects Jalal and Jamal.

Sufi gnostics talk about two aspects of the Divine: Jalal and Jamal. Jalal is Absolute Divine Majesty and Jamal is Absolute Divine Beauty. Majesty, the revelation of which burns and consumes the worlds, is in one aspect rigorous, severe. Beauty on other hand is the synthesis of mercy, generosity, compassion and all analogous qualities. God has a jalal side and jamal side, the aspects of Powerful Majesty and Wonderful Kindness, and that these two fall together in Him as kamal or perfection. Jalal is a masculine aspect, the Overpowering. Jamal is a feminine aspect, the loving, kind and beautiful. Jalal and Jamal (Majesty and Beauty), also called the names of Adl and Fadl (Justice and Bounty) or Ghazab and Rahma (Wrath and Mercy) or Qahr and Lutf (Severity and Gentleness). 

The famous gnostic saying of  blessed Master Christ, "The Kingdom is within" - for reality of after-life - this kingdom which each soul will come to experience in post-resurrection is Within God's Jalal and Jamal, is within God's Tremendousness or God's Tenderness.

And Allah knows the reality best.


5.
The advanced Sufi is forever recalling death, for it is the time appointed for seeking the countenance of the Friend, and no lover can ever forget the time fixed for meeting his beloved. He would love to be swallowed up by death so that, being freed from this dwelling place of mindless beings, he might rise to the abode near his Friend, just as Huzaifa relates: "O God, You know that I prefer poverty to riches, sickness to health, and death to life. Make death easy for me, that I might arrive at my reward- You!"

The novice is excused from the aversion or shunning of death, while on the other hand, the advanced Sufi is also excused - for loving death and yearning after it! It is said, however, that there is an even higher stage than both of these, when a person makes use of nothing at all, but does his work purely for the sake of God. For himself, he chooses neither death nor life. This is the stage of resignation and acceptance and it is the final point of those who have reached the summit..

Think more of the destroyer of delights (i.e. death), that your inclinations toward them (delights) might be severed. Thus will you be enabled to turn toward God Almighty. Its related: "If animals knew as much about death as you do, then you would not be able to eat the meat of any fattened animal."

Aisha said, "O Apostle of God, who will appear together with the martyrs on the Day of Resurrection?" He replied, "Anyone who contemplate about death twenty times each day and night."

Apostle of God said, "Death is a present for the faithful, because the world is their prison, and they are always grief-stricken in it. Death is the release from all that, and release from prison is certainly a much-prized gift!" Again he said, "Death is an atonement for every Muslim." Anyone who is a real Muslim, unlike you and me, is in quest of it. Death makes them pure.

A venerable Sufi has said, "There are three types of sorrow: that of worship - has it been accepted or not? that of sin - has it been forgiven or not? and that of the vision of God - will it be denied or not?" The elect ones have said, "There is really only one sorrow - that of being denied the vision of God! Every other sorrow, apart from that, is easy to bear, because it is not destined to last." Hence it is that the prayer of all the wise in this, "O Lord, do whatever You wish, but don't cut us off from this!"

The secret has been mentioned in the verse:

The hearts are all stirred in expectation of seeing Your face!
Our bodies, out of fear of separation, cry out in the midst of pleasure and comfort!
Without Your Beauty, flowers of desire turn to thrones in my hope-enkindled eyes!

-  from Sufi Master Sarafuddin Maneri's counsel on Death


6.
The Messenger of God, Blessed Muhammad has said, "If a dying person witness the reality of truth and pronounced "la ilaha illallah" on the last breath - the person will enter the Garden of Divine Presence, Jannah."

Gautama Buddha used a wonderful term for death which according to Buddha's realization is PariNirvana. It is the final nirvana, which occurs upon the death of the body of someone who has attained complete awakening (bodhi). The whole pursuit of Buddhist enlightenment is to be at peace with this Supreme Action by dissolving all veils or illusions of false realities and only then happens the awakening. About this complete awakening Prophet Muhammad said, "the real realities of Son of Man awaken in death".

Connect this with Buddha's language, you may rephrase this as saying, "At the time of death witness the realization mantra, "there is no other reality but God Alone Is, the Oneness of God alone abides" shall enter into MahaPariNirvana, shall enter into the state of everlasting, highest peace and happiness by admittance into the Absolute Presence of God.

- from Death the Supreme Action

Baul in his ecstasy
7.
The Bauls of Bengal belongs to a beautiful spiritual heritage which is rare for the entire world in terms of their devotion and inclusivity. They are the native mystics of Bengal who have absorbed ecstasy of Islam, haqiqa of Hindu wisdom, Mystery of Buddhist Tantra, developed Sahaja philosophy of life that lives in divine surrender  and more of all that was given to this ancient land. In their devotions songs using beautiful universal language which at the same time is very simple yet express truth of the highest reality. Such songs are easily accessible to even the most unlearned person, but speak directly to the heart and soul. 

Following is a Baul Song which is about the Last Breath and here the Baul Mystic is reminding the listeners to ponder on the Last Breath and how the soul will remember its Lord, its Supreme Soul and Source from where it came and where it goes back again. 

The song uses a particular Name of God, Hari, the One Who takes away. In the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which is a very pure devotion based spiritual movement that often experience spiritual ecstacy by dissolving in the love of God. In this particular Indian wisdom tradition, Hari is a Name of the Aspect of the Divine that means "one who steals, or takes away", referring to how God takes away all distress and anxieties, and lovingly robs the heart of His devotee.

I find the song beautiful and which was the inspiration for this post (its sung in my mother tongue Bangla / Bengali). The translation of this song follows. Like all mystics, Baul also celebrate death, it is the occasion of the soul to return to the Beloved and thus in this devotion song an advice is passed on: Start thinking how you will remember your Lord on the Last Breath if you haven't remember Him enough while more conscious.

A friend recently shared, also inspired by this song: "As All Existence... As Everything... as the moment of my last breath becoming a first breath of being inhaled ... flowing into the breath of forever.. melting into the cosmic beauty... love that breathes me into love that summons me to intertwine with the spiraling life immersing me.. baptizing me.. anointing me.. to become new in the swirling intimacy of the sweet breath of the spirit of never ending love.

Remembering ...a spiritual spring so delicious.. none can rival its sweetness... purity... clarity... taste... touch... wonder." May you also be touched by the words of these simple mystics, the bauls as they transmit in their song, Moroner Dine.   

Bauls of Bengal in Ecstasy, Baul Music Listener

8.
Kemon kore bolbi Hari moroner dine?

Bodon jaha cheyecho tai diyechi,
E Hari Naam bolba kina, Bodoney e?

Moroner dine, kemon kore bolbi Hari?


In the moment of your last breath,
How shall you remember the Name of your Lord?

All your life whatever your mind wanted, it were granted,
Now will you say the Name of your Lord for once?

Bodon re tui bolbi kina, Noyon re tui herbi kina, re?
Ore koron dore tui shunbi na?
Ore Korno thakbi kina shorone, Moroner dine?

Kemon kore bolbi Hari, Moroner dine?

Alas! This mouth will come to cease to speak!
Alas these eyes will come to cease to see!
How this ear will come to cease to listen!
Think now my friend: in the moment of your last breath,
How shall you remember the Name of your Lord?

Chobbo chossho lejjo piyo,
Nanan drobbo rupa diyo
kichu ei bodone diyo.

How many things to eat, chew, lick and drink,
How many precious metals, diamonds and pearls to wear.
What shall you give to this dying? Alas, nothing!

Neel Kantha kohe ar
Shonno kale
Hari bolte bolte jae jeno praan, charone.
Moroner dine.

This Song writer cries,
May my last breath goes out with Your Name O Lord!
At Your Lotus Feet may I find my place.


- Baul song, written by Neel Kantha,
translation by Sadiq Alam, London 2011


>> DOWNLOAD .. You may download the song as mp3 here (to do so right click here and select Save As) / or, listen via YouTube.



# Recommended Reading:
} Surah al-Waqiah
} Surah Ya-Siin
} On Majesty and Beauty by Ibn Arabi

# Related posts on the theme of Death:
} Death: Counsel of a Sufi Master
} Death: the Supreme Action
} Meditative Quranic Verses: The Greater Death
} On Death: Khalil Gibran
} Zen Story of Dying before Death
} Death and Dervish
} Spiritual Death and Fana and Baqa
} The mindful death by Waliya Inayat
} Abida Parveen Sings Kabir: Bhala Hua Meri Mataki Phoot Gayee Pin It Now!

LinkWithin