The Sufis talk of an experience which they call annihilation (fana in Persian), meaning annihilation of the personal self. There is no doubt that in the Sufi mystic experience this is what is felt to happen, but if this really happened utterly and completely, would not the characteristics of the person disappear? We find that this disappearance does not in fact take place; the characteristics continue. What then has really happened, for it must have been a tremendous happening to have been likened to annihilation or death? The secret is that what took place was a change in the attitude towards the personal self. The personal self remained, but the attitude towards it was changed. The tyranny of the ego vanished, which is not the same thing as saying that the ego itself has vanished.
-- Perspectives > Chapter 8: The Ego > # 19