Episode 124 - Mindful of Our Own Impermanence

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Our modern culture tends to make us turn away from thoughts about death and even our own aging. Yet death is something that all of us, without exception, will experience. In Buddhism, there is a focus on coming to terms with our own death ans impermanence. This world is not our home, it is said. We are a traveler destined for other worlds, other lives. By becoming mindful of our own mortality, that the time of our death is uncertain, and even that we might die today, we develop a great urgency for spiritual practice. In this episode we look at the many benefits of and do a meditation on a death. Paradoxically, this meditation gives us a great zest for life, and we can do it quite joyfully.

Benefits of mindfulness of death

  1. Our spiritual practice becomes powerful and pure
  2. We engage in spiritual peace
  3. Buddha said that people would never fight or argue if they fully realized they were going to die.
  4. Reduced attachment
  5. Gratitude for each moment of our precious human life
  6. An appreciation of human vulnerability that leads to greater compassion for self and others
  7. A diminished anxiety about death, the death of our loved ones, and dying in the world around us. This helps us to support others during their dying process and friends and family who are grieving
  8. A reduced fear of our own death, which can help us die in a state of peace rather agitation
  9. Greater zest for life

Atisha's contemplations on death:

Death is inevitable.

Our life span is decreasing continuously.

Death will come, whether or not we are prepared for it.

Human life expectancy is uncertain.

There are many causes of death.

The human body is fragile and vulnerable.

At the time of death, our material resources are not of use to us.

Our loved ones cannot keep us from death.

Our own body cannot help us at the time of our death.

Only spiritual practice will help us at the time of death.

“Here I will live during the rainy season,

And here during the winter and summer.”

So the fool ponders

Unaware of the danger.

Intoxicated by children and cattle,

That addict

Is swept away by Death,

As a sleeping village is by a great flood. (Verse 286-287)

Children, parents, and relatives

Are not a protection

For someone seized by Death,

Relatives are no protection

Knowing this,

The wise person, Restrained by virtue,

Should quickly clear the path

To Nirvana, (288-289)

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References and Links

Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 73 (Link)

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