The purpose of this meditation is to recognise that death is mere appearance to mind, and that in emptiness there is no death.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation and then tried to get a strong feeling for my normally appearing ‘me’ or ‘I’. I thought, without any investigation, ‘I am sitting here in meditation’, again and again. After a while, I developed a strong feeling – a strong sense of ‘I’. ‘I am here, in this room, sitting on this cushion, meditating’.

I then asked myself, ‘where is this person who is meditating – where is this ‘I’?’

I could not find this person on investigation. I could find a body, and I could find thoughts, but no ‘I’. Upon further investigation I could not find a body, only parts of a body. Despite the vivid appearance of an ‘I’ earlier on, and then a body, upon investigation I could find none of these things. It was a real conundrum. On the one hand I was grasping strongly at the appearance of ‘I’ yet at the same time I could see that it was not there at all.

Richard III SkullI stopped thinking about the appearance and focused on the lack of the ‘I’.

After a while I thought ‘If there is no ‘I’, who is it that dies?’.

It seemed to me that the death of the ‘I’ is an event that happens to a mere appearance, and is therefore itself an appearance.

I objected to myself: ‘But my body dies, and that must lead to my ‘self’ dying’. I answered ‘But I cannot find a body either. My body appears to die in the same way that my body appears to be alive. My body’s life and death are illusion-like’.

I concluded that my ‘I’, my body and the death of my ‘I’ and my body are all illusions, lacking any inherent existence. It seemed like everything then dissolved into emptiness – body, time, death – everything stopped appearing.

I called to mind the words of the Essence of Wisdom Sutra:

Bodhisattvas rely upon and abide in the perfection of wisdom; their minds have no obstructions and no fear. Passing utterly beyond perversity they attain the final nirvana. Also, all the Buddhas who reside perfectly in the three times, having relied upon the perfection of wisdom, became manifest and complete Buddhas in the state of unsurpassed, perfect and complete enlightenment.

I realised that in emptiness, it is not that I will not die – it is that there is no death at all.

I focused on this thought for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings realise the emptiness of death, and put great effort in to Dharma so that they can abide in the perfection of wisdom.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to identify the person who normally appears (for example, who is typing this right now? *pauses*) throughout the day.