Awareness of Death

There was once a dervish who embarked upon a sea journey.  As the other passengers in the ship came aboard one by one, they saw him and – as is the custom – asked him for a piece of advice.  What he advised was: ‘Try to be aware of death, until you know what death is.’  Few of the travelers felt particularly attracted to this admonition.

While at sea a terrible storm blew up.  The crew and the passengers alike fell upon their knees, imploring God to save the ship.  They alternately screamed in terror, gave themselves up for lost, hoped wildly for deliverance.  The dervish sat quietly, reflective, not reacting.

Eventually the buffeting stopped, the sea and sky were calm, and the passengers remembered how serene the dervish had been throughout the episode.  One of them asked him: ‘ Did you not realize that during this frightful tempest that there was nothing more solid than a plank between us all and death?’

‘Oh, yes, indeed,’ answered the dervish. ‘I knew that it is like that at sea.  I also realize, however, that in living day to day there is even less between us and death.  In that moment of dread you were aware of death because you thought it was immanent.  Will you hold that awareness as you live this day?

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