Dying While Living
The history of philosophy and religion abounds with descriptions from romantics and visionaries who vehemently proclaim that "man's common consciousness is only a shadow of reality": witness Plato's Cave, Dostoevsky's Underground, and Plotinus, who said, "Insofar as the soul is in the body it rests in deep sleep" ( Plotinus III, V.6.).
What does Plotinus mean by this statement? Does he echo Euripides, who would have us consider physical death and thereafter as "life" and corporeal existence no more than a dream? Or is Plotinus emphasizing that knowledge is primarily attained through disembodied experience? If the latter is true, what is the significance of Gautama ...view middle of the document...
Dying while living can mean a release from the psychological boundaries of mind and matter and a spiritual flight into the transcendental regions of the sublime. Here the pilgrim sees himself apart from the body and begins to acquire self-knowledge. Lastly, this maxim denotes the imagery of merger, annihilation, and complete surrender of identity in bhakti. It is at this stage of union between lover and Beloved that the ultimate death or culmination is realized.
To begin the task of illustrating the above components of dying while living , a systematic review of surat shabd yoga (lit., "union of the soul's attention with the sound current") will serve to organize the esoteric features involved with the art of withdrawing the soul from the body. This yoga was introduced by Kabir and the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak. [*NOTE: See W.H. McLeod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), page 157. Although the actual physical meeting of Kabir and Nanak is doubtful, they are placed in the same spiritual tradition. *] Sant Kirpal Singh (1894-1974), a contemporary master of this school whose writings constitute the theme of this paper, will be consulted repeatedly for clarification on the subject.
After a comparison of the tenets of the yoga of dying while living with several traditions, an attempt will be made to align these principles to a universal view of immortality and salvation. That is, to translate the aspects of dying while living into prerequisites for the reception into eternal life.
Surat Shabd Yoga
In his works on comparative religion, Sant Kirpal Singh traces [*NOTE: See Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life (Delhi: Ruhani Satsang, 1970) and Naam or Word (Tilton, New Hampshire: Sant Bani Press, 1974). *] the evidence of the spiritual principles Light and Sound to be the primary manifestations of God into created form. These two principles are said to sustain creation as well as the human body through varying degrees of spirit and matter. In sant metaphysics there are five main sounds, or melodies ( panch shabd ), which represent the inner planes of consciousness. A sant (saint) is one who has contacted the shabd (sound or word as divine communication) through the grace of the guru and, reversing the action of creation, follows the sound current to its positive-pole or fifth plane, Sach Khand :
Kabir, the Guru hath shown the current issuing forth from the Unapproachable; Turning that current back and joining it to the Lord remember Him. [*NOTE: P.D. Barthwal, Tradition of Indian Mysticism Based Upon Nirguna School of Hindi Poetry (New Delhi: Heritage Publishers, 1978), page 93. *]
The negative pole is the material universe, a region where the spiritual light and sound vibrations are veiled by gross matter. The human body is a microcosm in which these two "poles" operate as soul and body. The light and sound energy is held to radiate from the intangible soul which has its seat behind and between...