Thursday, November 01, 2007


"Verily, the soul has no birth, no death, no beginning, no end. Sin cannot touch it, nor can virtue exalt it; it has always been and always will be, and all else is its cover like a globe over the light."

Hazrat Inayat Khan

This past weekend the whole family drove down to Virginia. My wife, my step daughter, her two children and I all went together. I had been going to go by myself but we decided it would be a good thing to go as a family so the kids could see a bit of Wash DC. This was a secondary reason. The primary reason for going was to meet my brother and his wife and to scatter our mother's ashes in a park she loved.

My regular readers will remember that my mother died last May and I wrote about it on June 6. A few weeks after that a package arrived in the mail from the funeral home, it was a box containing her ashes. For the next few months this box sat on my desk. Occasionally I would look at it and wonder about my emotions. What did I feel? I wasn't sure. It was a little strange to have the remains of my mom sitting in a small box on my desk. I did not feel her presence. When I tuned into her it felt like her soul was gone, that it was no longer anywhere around the Earth. I was and am quite content to allow her to experience the totality of the soul's journey. Unlike many, I have no desire to inhibit her soul's path by incessantly calling her back. But there the box sat insisting on reminding me of a presence of some kind.

After all of these months it is still not clear to me just how I feel. We are constantly reminded by our culture that we feel loss or grief or psychic pain but I do not seem to feel any of these things. The act of scattering ashes seemed surreal to me. They came in a plastic bag which was inside of a plastic box apparently fabricated just for this purpose, to hold human remains. I suppose the box could have some other use but I threw it away directly after.

By now, six days later, I imagine there is no sign of the ashes at all. I imagine it has rained at least once down there so they would have been thoroughly absorbed into the landscape. Perhaps this is a good thing.

We give much credence to the personification of death. Our cultures are full of all sorts of myths about the significance of death. We say that death is a kind of punishment or that it is earned for doing some awful deed. We reserve the death penalty for what we say are the most serious crimes. We look upon death with dread. And yet it is the most natural of acts. We are capable of creating all sorts of different ways of seeing the universe and of existing within our world, whether because of economic circumstance or with our own efforts. But death comes to us all, every one of us. What happens after is pretty much open to speculation for most of us. The one thing we might agree on, though not all will agree, is that there is not enough life.

I have been reading about Socrates. I never really did before and I am coming to realize that I should have. He had a very simple point of view with an extremely complex way of getting people to understand his point of view. His simple point of view was, "I do not know." No matter what the subject, no matter what the attitude he would deconstruct it to the point where you would have to admit that you did not really know and that your surety about a thing was based on illusion. In one of the famous dialogues recorded by his student Plato, he walks two army generals through this. The subject was courage. At the end of this dialogue he has shown these two men, no strangers to battlefields, that they could not really define courage. Yet he would also admit that courage is a real thing. This is an attitude that any esoteric student will eventually find, not knowing. Perhaps the real key then is to continually challenge yourself and your knowledge to the point that you discover that not only is 'not knowing' quite real it is also the only true means of self discovery.

We tend to layer ourselves with knowledge. We know who we are, where we fit in the world, what our role is, etc. All of these things are valid of course and give us direction that we need in order to participate in our family and in our culture. They are however illusions, convenient illusions.

What then do we accomplish in the world if eventually it is all swept away into the wind as ashes?

I will be curious to read your answers.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Sarala said...

Maybe this will change in the next decade or two for me, but I don't really think about the question you pose. What do I accomplish.... wind as ashes? (which I am reading as "What will I leave behind?")

What I do think about is "what impact do I have right now, today, with this very choice, action, or inaction, in this moment?"
When I'm gone from this world, won't "I" be somewhere else, in some other form? And then what impact will I have there, then....?

Maybe I can extend my question to your question by asking myself "what impact do I have now, today, with this choice......... if the ashes to wind are CONCURRENT?"
Hmmmmm, OK, now I have to go off line, my mind is scrambled. :-)

molly said...

What if it's an accomplishment just in being here and noticing what is going on? Doesn't HIK suggest that the Divine discovers itself in man - and that is the accomplishment; not necessarily something to be done. We hear about Masters leaving their atmosphere here. We have such a very limited awareness of what impact we have on the universe or on each other every day. Every interaction or nonaction has the possibility of being so much more, or conversely, so much less, than we give credit or creedence.

Anonymous said...

"What then do we accomplish in the world if eventually it is all swept away into the wind as ashes?"

...what do we do when the convenient illusions are swept away while we are still in the midst of them?...I am stuck I think. The illusions do give meaning and purpose to being. Recognizing they are illusions is important I guess; but what replaces them?