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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 made the appropriate preparations for meditation and then went through all the meditation objects in the great scope leading to Bodhichitta.
I quickly developed equanimity, and remembered the kindness of all mother beings. Feeling grateful, I remembered the disadvantages of self cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others. I reinforced my wish to exchange self with others. Now what? I care only about others and I see they cannot find happiness and they suffer. I instantly want to do something. I mounted taking and giving on the breath for a while and then resolved to attain the ability to actually help living beings.
May all living beings develop the precious supreme Bodhichitta. Once developed, may it not decrease, but flourish forevermore.
I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation.
After breathing out my distractions began by contemplating the benefits cherishing others. To cherish others means to believe that the happiness of others is important and the freedom from suffering of others is important. In short cherishing others simply means wanting others to be happy.
I thought about each member of my family and imagined making them happy and seeing their face smiling back at me. I went through each member of my family and imagined their smiling face.
The strange thing was that as I saw their smiling face, I was filled with happiness.
I focused on this feeling of joy (and it’s meaning) for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings make the connection.
I made the appropriate preparations for meditation and then settled down to contemplate the many faults of samsara.
I thought about the suffering of the people I see and hear about. I have had so many past lives that I may as well say I have been all these people.
- The woman who’s bones are crumbling
- The disabled child
- The woman raped by a solider
- The bankrupt businessman
- The politician living a lie
- The torturer
- The bully’s victim
- The fear filled gangster
- The hopeless lonely office worker
- The baby buried in a collapsed building
- The drowning refugee
The list is endless.
I thought that unless I escape samsara now I will have to walk in their shoes again and again.
May we all leave samsara.
I made the appropriate preparations for meditation and the. Settled my mind for the fifth Lamrim meditation.
I contemplated how my actions are the direct case of my experiences. If we believe in karma then we believe this. We do not look for other cusses for our happiness or suffering. We do not blame others for our misfortune. We take responsibility for our future.
May all living beings create pure actions.
I made the appropriate preparations for meditation and with my mind blissfully mixed with my Guru’s mind, I began.
I started by remembering the three holy objects of true refuge – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Buddha is like the skilful doctor who diagnosed our illness and prescribes the right medicine. Dharma is the medicine itself which will cure us, and the Sangha are like the dedicated nurses who can help us.
I focused for this meditation on the Buddha Jewel. Buddha has infinite wisdom. I need to rely on the wisdom of Buddha rather than my own. Listening to my own ‘wisdom’ has not freed me from suffering.
Now is the time to rely on the wisdom of Buddha. I focused on this thought and felt a connection – a path to Buddhahood. I will follow this path and I will kneel and make offerings at the feet of Buddha.
I focused on this blissful reliance for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings rely upon Buddha.
I made the appropriate preparations for meditation and then breathed away my distractions until my mind was settled.
I have already considered the fact that I will definitely die, but death is not the end of the story. Our mind continues after our death, but in our next life we may have a very different experience from that which we have now.
I thought of all the good conditions that I have now, and how they may be absent when I reach my next life. I may not have access to Dharma, or may not even have the wish to practice Dharma. There are far worse places to be reborn than in the human realm, which has relatively benign conditions. In fact the worst that could possibly happen in the human realm is nothing compared to the suffering of the lower realms where I could take rebirth.
I thought repeatedly about the sufferings of the lower realm and developed a sense of real dread at the prospect. I also developed a dread for the causes of such a rebirth – non-virtuous actions. I focused on this feeling of dread for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop dread of unfortunate rebirth and also its causes.
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.
In my meditation today I focused on the Mahayana practice of cherishing others.
In the Lamrim meditation of contemplating the advantages of cherishing others, I began by remembering that cherishing others is the root of all happiness. How can this be true?
Normally we hold the self centred view that it is our happiness and freedom from suffering which is the most important. In the Mahayana practice of cherishing others, we seek to reduce our self-cherishing and finally abandon it altogether. In the end, we cherish others, and it is their happiness and freedom from suffering that we are most concerned with.
In meditation, I imagined each of my family members in turn, and recognised that their happiness and freedom from suffering was important. I felt a connection between our hearts, and I sensed their capacity for joy. If I have this connection I can share in their happiness when I do something for them. Often when we do something for someone else, it is not so much an act of kindness but more the beginning of a kind of business transaction – ‘I’ll do this for you and I expect an equivalent act of ‘kindness’ in return’! The truth of our sham kindness can be seen when we become angry with the other person when they don’t keep their part of the deal!
In meditation, I thought about what it would be like to feel the other person’s happiness brought about through our actions. What would be the result? The result would be when we do something for others, we would experience their joy as our own. There would be no need for some bargain to be made. If we cherish others and share in their happiness, WE are in charge. If we want to experience some happiness, we don’t have to wait for someone to be nice to us – we just need to find someone and be nice to them!
I thought about this and imagined sharing the joy of others, and focused on the point that if we cherish others, we can experience joy continuously. I tried to stay concentrated on this recognition and feeling for the rest of the meditation.
Who can I turn to? Who knows the problem I have? Not the police. Not doctors. They don’t understand the nature of samsara, and that it is like I am trapped in a ring of fire.
I turn to Buddha because he understands my problem and can help me overcome it. I turn to holy Dharma because the realisations of holy Dharma are path to liberation and enlightenment itself. I turn to my Sangha friends to help me.
I hold Buddha at my heart and turn to my Guru at my heart for my refuge. May all living beings find refuge.