There was once a certain Sufi sage who had worked upon himself for many years, and who, although he made no claim or show, was often visited by seekers and students. One day, such a person presented himself before the sage, and said the following:
“Master, we are told that to be free we must die before death. I have reflected on this seeming paradox for a long time, but I cannot understand the manner of dying before we die. I have engaged in many disciplines without result. How are we to accomplish this?”
The sage replied, “If only a simple answer could dispel your illusion! For some years,” he continued, “I used to give seekers such as yourself the advice to simply look in a mirror.”
“A mirror?” said the student, puzzled.
“It should be obvious that if we look in a mirror with unwavering honesty, we will instantly see that the body and our individual existence is only a transient phenomenon, a candle that may be blown out at any moment. But although I gave this advice to many, none seemed to profit by it. Some spent hours gazing at themselves, but not one seemed to learn the lesson. Then I began to understand that these students were unable to look with sufficient honesty.”
“Then how can such honesty be attained?” asked the student.
“When consciousness does not see what stands plainly before it, then it lies in its grave,” said the sage. “There is only one power that can resurrect it: the power of love. Now I tell students: gaze on the face of your beloved as on a mirror, and you will soon discover what it means to die before death.”