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Welcome to the second week of our Meditation Project, where examine the object from different angles to improve our understanding. Towards the end of the week we bring all our thoughts together in two qualified meditations. The anticipated format is one meditation per day Monday to Friday, and then the same meditation on Saturday and Sunday, bringing all our understanding together. [These meditations are taken from the Book – How to Transform Your Life, available from Tharpa.com]
Our meditation topic for Week 2 is Death.
Week 2 Object: A heartfelt determination to devote our entire life to practising Dharma purely and sincerely, and to not allow ourselves to become attached to the things of this life.
Day 1 Contemplation
Our main wish is to avoid all suffering and experience only happiness. The only way finally to end our suffering is by following the spiritual path. However because our desire for worldly enjoyment is so strong, we have little or no interest in spiritual practice. From a spiritual point of view this lack of interest in spiritual practice is a type of laziness called ‘the laziness of attachment’. For as long as we have this laziness, the door to liberation will be closed to us, and consequently we will continue to experience misery in this life and endless suffering in life after life. The way to overcome this laziness is to meditate on death.
Day 2 Contemplation
No matter where I am born, whether is is in the fortunate or unfortunate states of existence, I will definitely have to die. However far and wide I travel, I will never find a place where I can hide from death, even if I voyage far into space or tunnel deep underground. No-one alive at the time of the first century remains alive today and no-one alive at the time of the second century and so forth remains alive today. Could I alone outlive death?
Day 3 Contemplation
Sometimes we fool ourself by thinking, ‘I am young and so I will not die soon’, but we can see how misguided this thought is merely by observing how many young people die before their parents. The time of death is completely uncertain, We could die today.
Day 4 Contemplation
Sometimes we think, ‘I am healthy and so I will not die soon’, but we can see that people who are healthy and looking after the sick sometimes die before their patients. The time of death is completely uncertain, We could die today.
Day 5 Contemplation
Contemplating that we ourselves will definitely die, and that the time of our death is completely uncertain, and understanding that there is no guarantee that we will not die today, we should think deeply, day and night, ‘I may die today’.
After becoming familiar with our meditation object through the previous five meditations, we can now try to bring all our understanding together in one object of placement meditation, arrived at through the following contemplation:
Since I will soon have to depart from this life, there is no sense in my becoming attached to the things of this life. Instead I will take to heart the real essence of my human life by sincerely engaging in pure spiritual practice.
I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation and then settled down with some breathing meditation to clear my mind.
After a while I began thinking about what I will dwell on when it comes time to die. What will I look back on and identify as truly valuable? Will I think of the cars that I have owned, or the plants I got for the back garden. Will I think of my family and friends as valuable? All the time and effort I have spent on these things will be of no use to me at the time of death. Although worldly effort spent caring for my family is important, at my death time it cannot help me. For I will die and all these things will dissolve into emptiness as I watch, never to return.
If I fill my life with worldly pursuits and relationships, I will have wasted my precious opportunity to lead a truly meaningful life.
So what is my choice – how should I live my life? Abandon cars and flowers? Abandon my family? Of course not. I must transform them – transform them all into the spiritual path to enlightenment. If I view all persons as heroes and heroines, and if I remember that all the things I normally see completely lack inherent existence, then I can interact with everything and everyone in my world as normal, but in a way pervaded by virtue.
I focused on my wish to live my life gathering virtue moment by moment, and I let the joyful feeling soak my mind. I stayed with this feeling for a while before rising from meditation and dedicating.
Through the virtue I have generated through my virtuous effort, may all living beings be freed from the laziness of attachment to meaningless things, and live the good life of virtue.
When I die, this illusion-like world will disappear, the self I normally see will disappear, and all my concerns and worries will disappear. Since this could happen today, I shall strive to remember that everything I normally perceive is illusion-like, and keep a calm peaceful mind.
I just had the great good fortune to attend a day course given by a treasured friend on the topic of Life and Death.
The meditation in the afternoon had a profound and unexpected effect on me which I wanted to share.
My friend pushed all the right buttons with me as she led the mediation imagining that the time of death had come.
I settled on the image of myself in a hospital bed, coming to the understanding that my life is now at an end.
I thought about all the things that I will never see or do again:
I will never see my family or talk to them again.
I will never see my friends again.
I will never see the sky again.
Then I thought about the big things but the other things that I take for granted but play a massive part in my life.
I will never see cars again.
I will never drink tea again.
I will never walk again.
I thought about these things and the entirety of death overwhelmed me. I rested in that finality until our teacher said: ‘when we are ready we can arise from meditation’.
What an extraordinary feeling. I was filled with gratitude and the determination to make this second chance as meaningful as possible. Such is the power of death meditaion.
Someone close to me is not very well at the moment. They are always well, but not at the moment.
That reminds me how we can just assume that life will always be fine and our health will always be good. We just can’t afford to make that assumption.
We need to cast off the security blanket of thinking everything’s going to be fine (in samsara) and work to free ourselves for the benefit of all.
The purpose of this meditation is to overcome our attachment to the pleasures of this life.
I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation and then reminded myself:
I will definitely die. There is no way to stop my body degenerating and finally stopping altogether. I have no idea when this will happen. Although I am healthy now, I could fall ill next week, or even tomorrow. In any event, I could die in all manner of accidental ways, healthy or not. Finally, when I die, what will have been the purpose of my life? What benefit will I have gained from it? Worldly pleasures cannot help me in my future lives. Only the practice of Dharma can positively affect my future conditions.
I contemplated these points and decided that I need to practice Dharma purely and not be concerned with my transient worldly pleasures.I will definitely die – in the light of this, worldly pleasures are of no consequence.
I made the determination: I will practice Dharma and not be concerned with worldly pleasures. I focused on this for the rest of the meditation.
I will practice Dharma purely right now, and all day, every day.
Today’s news is a bin truck that lost control in Glasgow today killing at least seven people.
Death can come at any time. People will be asking themselves, once again, ‘why?’
Through the kindness of my Spiritual Guide I understand why death comes, what it means and how I should act. I always need to ask myself ‘what if this is the last time I talk to my children / see my wife / meet this person? What shold my final meeting with this person be like? Meaningful, or meaningless. Death doesn’t care – and it’s coming anytime soon.