The purpose of this meditation is to develop a strong realisation that we are going to die, and to use that realisation to develop the strong wish to overcome our laziness of attachment – the desire for worldly pleasures over Dharma practice. Finally we view this wish in the light of equanimity.

I began by mentally relaxing all the parts of my body, and then relaxing my mind by focusing on my breathing, finding more and more subtle aspects of my breath to concentrate on, until I had a very calm and concentrated mind, filled with peace and stability.

I then thought about the meditation on death described so brilliantly by my teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in his book, The New Meditation Handbook.

He says that although we all know we are going to die eventually, this knowledge is superficial, and does not touch our hearts. I know this is true, because if I really REALLY understood that I could die today, I wouldn’t waste my time on some of the things I do.

I thought about why it is that I have such a strong belief that I won’t die today. I decided that it is mostly because I tend to think that what happened yesterday will probably happen again today. I did not die yesterday, so I will not die today. I thought about how logical this is. To a certain extent it is very logical. When something happens again and again and again, you can have some confidence that it will continue to happen. But for this particular point, there will definitely be a day when I will die, and there is no logical reason to conclude that today won’t be the day I die. As Mr Spock would say, one eyebrow raised: ‘That is illogical, Captain’

Today I will be doing all sorts of things that could cause my death – the most hazardous of which will be driving. It is perfectly possible that I will die in a car crash today, no matter how carefully I drive. I could fall down some stairs, or get run over by a site vehicle.

Or today could be the beginning of the end. I could notice that cough, that pain, or that lump.

There is no logical reason I can find that I can rely on as proof that I will not die today.

I thought about this, and it was very clear that if this was the last day of my life, I would want to use it for the most benefit – I would want to use it in the most meaningful manner possible. I focused on this feeling of wanting to use my day in the most meaningful way, and decided that this meant to practice Dharma purely. How? In all my actions and all my thoughts, to make sure that I am performing virtuous actions and holding correct views. I focused on this wish to practice Dharma exclusively and purely. It felt very meaningful and wholesome – very powerful and pure. I stayed with this feeling for a while.

I then moved on to the thought of equanimity – what does the wish to practice Dharma purely mean in the context of treating others with equanimity. They fit together very well. If I am going to practice Dharma purely today then the first thing I need to do is to develop a feeling of warmth and friendliness towards everyone I think of or meet. If this feeling is strong, I will automatically behave in virtuous ways.

With this understanding of death, virtuous action and equanimity, I returned to my feeling of practising Dharma purely, and remained with it for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings remember that they could die at any time, and rather than being depressed by the thought, may they decide to use their lives for the benefit of others, and through the blessings of the holy beings, attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will remain mindful that I could die today just as easily as tomorrow, or in twenty years time, and make sure all my actions are pure.