“Death, Rebirth,And Vanity”. Taken from an interview with Amir Mourad for Nonduality Magazine, April 17th 2014.
NDM: At the point of death and breakup of the body, what happens to the mind ?
Before looking deeper into the matter, it could be of enormous value to look into whether there is even such a possibility of knowing what happens beyond death of the body in the first place. It is a rational question – because even though you have probably heard many theories about it from different philosophies and the world religions, still nobody who has ever talked about the subject is either himself dead or has died and returned to give a report about what he has seen. Yes, perhaps you have heard of the “near death experience”. But the “near-death experience” cannot be categorized as clinical death. It is just on the edge of a total dysfunction of the physical system – and because of this alone, all of the reports that have been given about the near death experience are completely unreliable when it comes to investigating into what lies beyond death of the body. There is an entire process that is involved – both in the process of the body gradually coming to the point of clinical death, and the processes that happen after clinical death. Perhaps a “near-death experience” would have some more credibility if a person has died and returned to the body perhaps several days, or one week later as the elements of the body were already decomposing. But based on certain things that one may have experienced in the very early stages, it is very short-sighted to make sweeping conclusions about what lies beyond death.
So how is it that it may be possible, without leaving the body, that one may come to know of what lies beyond death of the body? You have heard certain sages talking about reincarnation and samsara, the cycle of birth and death. Yet all of them were speaking about such realms while still living in the body. How is it possible? It is just like travelling through a forest and witnessing the footprints of an animal. You may not have seen the animal passing. Yet just through seeing the footprints, you know that the creature has been there. Or perhaps, you may not have yourself seen the fire burning in the forest, but through witnessing the aftermath, you know that there was a fire that has been burning. This type of knowledge is knowledge through inference. Even today, with all of our modern science and technology – there still has not been a single scientist who has witnessed an atom. They have only been able to measure the traces of its existence. Because they are able to measure the traces of its existence, without observing the atom itself, they know that the atom exists. The same was the case with the breakthrough discovery of the Higgs Boson not too long ago in July 2012.
In the same way – it is possible to explore into what are the possibilities that may happen after death of the body, through understanding the tendencies of the energies that you have gathered in the present. Insight into your programming right now is the very key for understanding the trajectory your programming will be pulling your energies beyond death of the body. Whether or not this is true, it has very little relevance until such realms enter into one’s own direct experience. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a story, or at the most a hypothesis. A hypothesis accepted without verification is nothing more than a belief. So for this reason, it is absolutely important that the one who is looking into this question should not accept what is being said here on the basis of theories, beliefs, or philosophies, but only as a temporary hypothesis.
In this life alone – you are gravitating in many different ways depending on the tendencies of the memories you have gathered over time. In other words, the karmas that you have gathered are just this – the influence of past memories which are unfolding in the present. The word “karma” means literally “action”, and every action performed by the mind and body has certain side-effects, both within oneself and in the world. So you can see the process happening very clearly while you are alive, that depending on the tendencies of memory you have gathered in this life, that is very much having an influence on what direction you are moving through in life. That is, assuming that you have been living out of unconsciousness, without looking more deeply into the very fundamentals of who you are. Then – it is as though you are a mechanism with a pre-determined program, and your whole system is just fulfilling the programming that has been unconsciously written on it.
It is a well-known fact, as it has been understood in the East for centuries, that all energy in the universe can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only express itself in many different forms. The East had developed a whole metaphorical system to express this understanding. This is why there are 330 million gods and goddesses. These images should not be taken as literal. If you understand them literally you will miss the whole message. All of these deities are different cosmic energies that can be directly perceived within the human system through a process of the expansion of consciousness. These have been described through metaphors and parables to help preserve certain teachings and so that only those who were initiated into certain methods would have an understanding of their inner meaning. They are not just symbols, they are part of a whole science and technology for inner transformation. If you actually believe that Shiva has blue skin and a third eye on his forehead, then you are just being foolish Now the East has always been saying, in spite of all these millions of gods and goddesses, “sarvam brahmasmi” – everything in existence is Brahman, one and the same divine energy. It is just another way of saying the same thing which is understood today in modern science, that everything in existence is an expression of the same energy manifesting in different forms.
So once clinical death of the body arrives the contents of the mind do not simply disappear, they can only be recycled from one form to another. How this energy will be transformed has much to do with the samskaras and vasanas, the seeds of conditioning and their tendencies, that have been gathered. This is why it would be false to think that what lies beyond death of the body is fixed for everybody – as it is commonly thought in some of the world religions. I have always described it as though you are an archer, and throughout your whole life you have been aiming the arrow with your bow in a certain direction, with a certain focus, force, and intensity. Once you set the arrow in motion from your bow, now it simply travels by the influence of whatever forces were working on it. The tendencies of the mind are not simply destroyed, they continue travelling along the same path. The only difference is that here – you no longer can no longer put the discrimination of the intellect to use. That is what is so valuable about being born in a human body – you can actively put your intellect to use to influence the very course of your life. You can question the very basis of your existence, and make an effort to look deeper into the realities of one’s life. Once death of the body comes, this discrimination of the intellect is no longer there, the contents of the mind and its information simply drift like a raft travelling along the river stream.
NDM: Is rebirth into a heaven, hell, human, animal, spirit, hungry ghost realm a reality?
Suppose you enter into certain depths of the unconscious and memories which are impersonal, which extend well beyond the memories you have gathered in this life – start surfacing into your experience. The recollection of past lives would make it certain without a doubt that there is such a thing as future births, and what type of births can be possible in different bodies. Your mind may forget many things, but this body is carrying the memories of the history of the whole humanity. Again, I am mentioning this only as a hypothesis. These things may be a living reality as far as my own experience is concerned. It has little relevance for anybody else’s life. I would not rely on the second-hand reports of other traditions either, because all of the traditions have created their own cultural projections about what is “heaven” and “hell”, and their mythologies of different disembodied beings. What is seen as “heaven” is naturally an exaggeration of everything which the ego finds pleasant. What is seen as “hell” is an exaggerated version of everything the ego finds unpleasant. Look at the Muslim. For him, because he was forbidden by God to touch alcohol in this life, in paradise as a reward he can enjoy streaming rivers of wine. Or, if he dies in Jihad, a holy war, he will have the luxury of 72 virgins available for him to enjoy when he enters heaven.
If you are depending on the theories of other traditions to inform you about these things – you will only become more and more confused. What criteria do you have within yourself to be able to verify such things? Are they actualities, or just superstitions? Or perhaps they are a combination of both? My understanding is that depending on which traditions you are looking at and where –some are almost entirely superstitious, some have come to scientific discoveries through a mind struck with genuine insight, and some which involve a combination of both insight and superstition. It is very easy for a sharp intellect to dismiss something as superstitious. But it is more difficult to throw aside a well structured logical argument. But even amongst well-structured logical arguments, there is still much fiction. To create a well structured argument only requires cleverness and being skilled at games of logic, it has little to do with truthfulness. A brilliant intellect can twist things to support many different hypotheses. Now, seeing all of this, how will you be able to tell which of these traditions carry the weight of more truthfulness?
Do not depend on the authority of other belief systems or traditions – even if they may have come to striking insights into nature. It is fine to look into their teachings and enrich your understanding in certain ways through them, but once this becomes a substitute for insight into your own being, this damages human intelligence. Unfortunately too much damage has happened to human intelligence in the world because people are willing to accept things without question.
NDM: Does an enlightened person fear aging, sickness and death ?
Even in liberation while still living in the body, it is still possible for traces of the ego to rear its head once in a while. Some momentary fear of death may happen even to a realized sage. But if it happens, it will likely be short-lived. There is only one blind spot which has hypnotized the human mind into the dream world of Maya – that is the failure to recognize that one’s entire understanding of life and existence is none other than the projections of one’s own mind.
Once, a master overheard two disciples talking about a flag.
One disciple said, “The flag is moving”. The second disciple disagreed and said, “The wind is moving”.
The master laughed and said, “You’re both wrong. It is your minds which are moving.”
If “enlightenment” suffocates the mind with attachment to knowledge, then it is not much enlightenment. Where there is freedom from attachment to knowledge, having nowhere to rest, one has moved beyond both the sacred and the profane. I call it “illuminated ignorance”. It is not ignorance of the common kind which is a source of much misery in the world. It is the quality of a mind which can be struck with insight without creating hindrances out of one’s own insights. If you have been living life through the freshness of a beginners mind, then for the most part, all fears and anxieties become ashes in the funeral pyre.
NDM: Would an enlightened person wear seductive clothing, makeup, have plastic surgery, (implants, Botox, liposuction), or even color their hair to appear younger, more attractive for their self-esteem, or to attract followers, disciples/clients?
I’ll put it this way – if any of those actions did by some rare chance happen through an enlightened consciousness, rather than reinforcing one’s vanity and egotism, it would still make no difference to the presence of enlightenment. Where there is ignorance of one’s true nature through a mind drunk with egotism, all of one’s actions will become immediate expressions of ignorance.
NDM: Would an enlightened person take sleeping pills, drink alcohol, take recreational drugs (smoke marijuana, LSD), or medication for mood control, anxiety, depression (Prozac, or Viagra)?
Sleeping pills, alcohol, or recreational drugs – maybe. Enlightenment does not prevent you from either physiological disorders or enjoyment. Medication for chronic psychological disorders, definitely not.
NDM: Would an enlightened person have an aversion to harsh or desolate living conditions, isolation, desert, jungle, forest, (excessively cold or hot weather climates), fear of wild animals, snakes, scorpions, bears, tigers, crocodiles, sharks and spiders?
There are two things which need to be distinguished. One is siddhis, occult capabilities of the mind and body. The other is enlightenment. Siddhis do not necessary mean that one is enlightened, and, in spite of what many may believe – enlightenment does not necessary mean that one must have siddhis. One category of siddhis is to be able to have voluntary control over certain things in the human system which were previously involuntary, like the beating of one’s heart, and so on. If one is enlightened without mastery of different siddhis, one could still have aversion to things which threaten one’s physical existence. In a consciousness which has awakened both – siddhis and enlightenment, then the mind and body can handle well-being exposed to extreme conditions or different environments. Pain, after all, is not really experienced in the body – but in the brain. If electrical signals are no longer being received by the corresponding centers in the brain responsible for pain, then pain no longer exists for you. As far as being without fear of wild animals, no occult capability is needed for that, just a simple and equanimous mind.
NDM: Can an enlightened person lose their temper, use foul language, or harsh speech, sarcasm, ridicule, make off-color jokes?
There are no fixed rules as to how an enlightened one should be, and his actions have no obligation to fit into what is considered acceptable or unacceptable by the society. But this does not mean that this becomes a license for all kinds of foolishness either. There is a difference between a qualified surgeon and surgery done by the drug addict who enjoys licking white powder off the side-walk
NDM: Would an enlightened person make a legal disclaimer for their teachings, as to not be held responsible?
If some people misunderstand what is being offered and interpret them according to their own foolishness, then it could be practical to put a disclaimer so that their foolishness does not create inconveniences to the work that you are sharing which could be useful for other countless other people.