The Mystical Marriage
Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Is it the cup,
Is it the drink in the cup,
Or is it the drinker of the drink?
The mystery peers through all.
Regardless of what I happen to be doing—working or conversing, resting or walking—I am aware of the reality of death. Death constantly occupies a corner of my consciousness. I seem to be contemplating death spontaneously, with no conscious initiative. There is no agitation or anxiety, only curiosity and bafflement. The questions arise unbidden: what is death, what does it mean, how does it feel?
I feel certain that one day there will be death, at least for some part of me. I feel as if I am trying to grasp within my heart and soul what death will be like, but to no avail. I feel that death is staring me in the face, yet the whole question of death feels unknowable and mysterious. I keep wondering: is it loss of sensation, is it loss of boundaries, is it loss of mental capacity, because there will be no brain?
I generally feel peaceful and contented. My life is fulfilled and complete. But this completeness and fulfillment seems to be the reason that my consciousness is spontaneously contemplating the question of death. It is not a morbid preoccupation, but a genuine desire to face something significant, in a way I have never dared. I want to know death, for it feels so near. I want to feel it, taste it, touch it, be intimate with it. My soul is a burning question about death.
One night, I am walking through the hallway, coming from the bathroom and going into the living room. The family is asleep, but I have developed the habit of spending time alone at night, being quiet with myself, doing nothing in particular, allowing experience to arise and enjoying the contemplation of whatever Being presents. The contemplation of death is an almost palpable sensation as I walk slowly through the hallway. The contemplation intensifies as I reach the dark end of the hallway. Here I begin to see a blackness. I feel I am walking into a mysterious, veiled blackness, not the semidarkness of the hallway, but a blackness that I perceive through the walls, beyond the boundaries of the physical world. It is as if the walls around me dissolve away, becoming increasingly transparent, revealing the mysterious blackness.
As I continue walking, now slowing my pace, I realize that the blackness that I see in front of me, the blackness I seem to be walking into, is veiled. I see it through obscurations, through what looks like many subtle veils.
The contemplation of death appears to me now as the dissolving of veils. I realize that throughout all these days of contemplating death, I have been going through and dissolving these veils. Each question, each realization, each feeling, each intuition moves the awareness through another veil. I have been contemplating death through the veils of my ideas, and as my consciousness sinks deeper into the contemplation, the deepening of consciousness rends further veils, allowing a deeper penetration into this mystery. Now this penetration reveals a blackness that pierces through all physical appearance.
I am looking death right in the face. I see death everywhere, all around me, penetrating everything. At this point several insights fill my consciousness, creating an overall understanding and furthering the ongoing contemplation. First, I am aware of a direct, spontaneous acknowledgment of my mortality as a human being. Death is certain for me, as I experience myself as a human being.
At this point I am sitting in the living room, with dim lights, and the darkness of the night pouring through the window. The darkness of death feels deeper and much more profound than this darkness of night, but the two become one, and I am enveloped by a deepening blackness.
The blackness peers at me through everything. I begin to feel a curious aloneness, peaceful and poignant. This is what death is: total aloneness. In fact, it is simply the acknowledgment of my already existing fundamental aloneness, the aloneness of Being.
I am alone, in death.
My experience of my existence is all there is, and this existence is the presence of death itself. The awareness now is that the mysterious blackness is the face of death, which is aloneness—a peaceful, pure aloneness.
The aloneness begins to reveal a quality that I do not usually associate with aloneness. I begin to feel an exquisite intimacy, as if the atoms of my consciousness have become its very essence. Death seems to coincide with both intimacy and aloneness. The mysterious blackness of death brings aloneness and intimacy together, joining them into one quality. There is a sweet and delicate intimacy in the heart as I contemplate death and see the presence of blackness.
Contemplating the intimacy and sweetness pervading my chest, I realize that my body has lost its usual boundaries; it is now all of existence. I am the room, everything in the room, and everything beyond the room, all as one presence. The sense of what I am is an immense, adamantine crystal presence, an indivisible totality. This totality which I experience as my body is all of the universe. Also, curiously, at the location of my physical chest this unity of existence is a sweet intimacy. The contemplation of death has led me to the mysterious blackness underlying all of existence, and this has made it possible for me to experience the unity of Being as my body.
The contemplation of death continues for days, each time taking me to the mysterious blackness, and ushering me into the unity of all existence. If all existence is my body, then what does it mean to die? It seems I am learning that death is the entry into the undying cosmic body.
A few days later…
The recognition of my mortality keeps returning: I will not remain the way I am now.
This deepening contemplation mingles with another thread of experiences. I have been noticing various experiences of loss of support. I keep feeling this loss of support in relation to people I have depended on for various things. Situations seem to conspire for me to experience the loss of one support after another, from one person after another. I do not feel any recrimination about these losses; in some sense I am relieved, for I am learning more deeply how I have unnecessarily depended on others for various things. I am aware that these losses are inevitable, for my sense of identity is now with something no one can support. Being is its own support, and the more I recognize it as my very self and identity, the more the supports for the old self fall away. Vulnerability arises, along with a sense that there is no ground to stand on. This becomes quickly a loss of the sense of self; of feeling lost, not grounded, not centered.
These perceptions seem to relate to the confrontation with mortality. This contemplation makes these experiences of loss of support less important.
I realize that the issues regarding support feel important only when I think I will be around for some time. The contemplation of death exposes the familiar sense of self, and dissolves its habitual supports.
This contemplation begins also to highlight awareness of my sensual attachments: to physical and sexual contact, food, entertainment and comfort. I feel unable to break such attachments. Sometimes I feel unwilling to break them, because I still love such things. It seems to me there is something behind such attachments that I do not yet understand, something real.
One evening, driving across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, the contemplation of death arises. It brings to mind my recent losses of support, the sense of being lost, of having no identity or center. I recall how I am still unwilling to let go of some of the things I love in my life. Unexpectedly, my consciousness submerges into the silence of the absolute. There is now depth and intimacy, mystery and radiance. As this mysterious silence, I see the cars around me floating in the black vastness. The whole bridge is floating in my vastness, including my own car. All phenomena, including the bridge and the night sky, are shimmering appearance arising out of my mysterious depths. This appearance is luminously beautiful, penetrated by the black mystery.
I do not drive, I only witness all appearance unrolling in front of me, including the movement of my car, and the arms holding its steering wheel. It is an enchanted world.
Within this beauty, I am aware of a small part of the soul, to the left side of the body, which is not completely open. Sensing into it, I feel the attachment to, and love for, the sensuous objects of desire.
This focuses my attention on this part of the soul that is still not willing to let go and surrender its attachments. It becomes the beginning of a new thread of inquiry that lasts for a few weeks.
One night I am having dinner with a few friends, and allowing this manifestation of the soul to arise and expand. I notice something disconcerting about it. I see that from within the experience of this part of the soul I am not aware of the preciousness of Being. I am still in touch with the presence of Being, but its exquisiteness, beauty and delicacy are dimmed. Furthermore, in the experience of this soul of attachment, I feel no strong desire for the various exquisite qualities of Being. Staying with this understanding, and not trying to change it, I realize, to my surprise, that I simply love the absolute. I am not interested in any of the exquisite qualities and manifestations of Being. I love only the absolute, the luminous night.
Upon seeing this, I am aware of the arising of a gentle, sweet love, softening this part of the soul. The soul becomes a soft, sweet soul. I realize that I am experiencing the love of the soul for its source, nature and home. As the soul, I sometimes mistake this love for a desire for the sensual objects of the world. Now, I am not any of the exquisite manifestations of Being, I am not the mystery of the absolute. I am an individual being, a soul that loves the absolute. I experience myself as a soul, real in the realm of souls, but conceptual at deeper levels of truth. And this soul is having dinner, conversing with friends.
The experience changes slightly as the love becomes clearer, and welcomed. Aware of the absolute as the depth, the ground, the nature of everything, I see this luminous blackness holding everyone, and holding the dining table we are sitting around. The tablecloth, the dishes of food, the people eating the food, all look luminous and radiant, arising from within the silence. They are the patterned radiance of its own nature. Silence surrounds us; the conversations are patterned sounds arising within it. My mind is empty and quiet, even though I continue to talk.
Curiously, I am still aware of the individual presence of the soul. This state of awareness of both soul and absolute is new. I am not experiencing the two alternately, as I have in the past, but simultaneously. I am both the silent vastness and the individual alive presence, but they are one. This perception is difficult to describe; I am the soul loving the absolute, which is my source, nature and home. The absolute is much larger than the soul, infinite; and the soul is a delicate formation out of it, an extension of it. The soul is almost like an image on its surface. And I am both the individual soul and the infinite absolute, paradoxically comprehended as one.
The two are so inseparably one, as if the absolute is the body and the soul the face of the body. The soul is very delicate, transparent and very much part of the absolute.
The experience is subtle and intimate, and in this intimacy there is delicate love. It is after dinner and my eyes are closed, so it is a completely inner experience, between me and my source, as an intimate marriage.
A few days later…
I remember my initial experience of arriving home, when it became clear to me that the absolute is the true beloved of the heart. I remember feeling that my life as I have known it was over, and a new life was beginning. I did not know what to do with the rest of my allotted time, and I decided to wait for the guidance of Being. These memories occasion the arising of a specific feeling. I begin to feel very clearly that what I want is to live in the absolute. I do not want the rest of my life to be simply an exploration of his kingdom. Being home means being inseparable from the absolute, not just in it.
I see that my function from now on is to be a mouthpiece for the absolute. I am an expression of the absolute, an expression that reveals its truth, its majesty, that speaks from this mystery.
I begin to understand that all the knowledge I have encountered about the soul and its development is secondary to living in the absolute.
The discovery of the absolute accelerated the unfoldment of the soul, and a great deal of knowledge was revealed. Before that, Being had manifested many of its aspects and dimensions, revealing a staggering expanse of precise knowledge through the exquisite experiences of the soul. The door of knowledge of Being has been open to me for many years now. All I need to do is to be interested and to focus my inquiring attention on a particular area, and experiential knowledge unfolds.
I realize that all this experience and knowledge is an exploration of the kingdom, the manifestation of the treasures latent in the absolute mystery. This exploration now is seen to be identical to the development of the soul, leading to its realization of the absolute and its eventual ripening. It is clear that this development of the soul is not only for its development and realization: it is for her to serve the absolute, by expressing it, by embodying it in the world. The ripened soul is the vehicle by and through which the absolute lives and acts in the world. How else could the absolute walk and talk?
I am aware that I do not care for any of the knowledge about the soul and the various manifestations; my love is the absolute. But since as a human individual I have time to live, I will live it by purifying and developing myself in order to become more able and worthy to serve the absolute, and express it by being an expression of it.
The guidance is finally showing me that the rest of my life will be spent in developing and purifying the soul to be a true and complete expression of the absolute, an effective instrument for it. The knowledge gained is for the guidance of others towards the same aim. In other words, I live not for myself, but for the absolute mystery. The absolute is the self that lives the personal life of the soul.