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The purpose of this meditation is to recognise the precious nature of our human life and to use it wisely in the context of death and impermanence.
I began the meditation by considering all the conditions I have in my life for spiritual progress. I thought about how having a human life at all is very rare, and that to have all the freedoms and endowments necessary for a spiritual life makes my life extremely precious.
I thought about these points for a while and a feeling of valuing my life arose. I sometimes take it so much for granted that I wake up in the morning, but I should remember that each day presents a golden opportunity to attain true meaning.
I stayed with this feeling for a while, and then I considered what my life means in the context of death and impermanence. I will definitely die, and I could die today. This means that my precious human life with all its freedoms and endowments could end today. Tomorrow I could be suffering in a hell realm, separated from the Three Jewels and ignorant even of the word ‘freedom’.
This made me thing about my life again. My life will definitely end. All the things I normally think are important are actually not important at all. Projects at work, relationships, cars, houses, what to eat – none of these things in themselves are important at all. They do not matter! What really matters is the karma I create during my life. If I experience good conditions I should recognise these as the results of positive actions in the past, and use them as encouragement to practice sincerely. If I experience bad conditions I should recognise these as the results of negative actions in the past, and use them as encouragement to practice sincerely. It does not matter what happens to me – I have to transform everything into the spiritual path to enlightenment.
If I live all my life living in one street, or if I travel the world – it does not matter. If I have an illness or if I am healthy, it does not matter. If I have lots of friends and money, or if I have none, it does not matter. All that matters is to transform every experience into the spiritual path.
I thought about my life, death and transforming all conditions for the rest of the meditation, and arrived at the conclusion that I should relax, not worry, and practice sincerely. I focused on this determination for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings recognise what is valuable about their lives, and practice transforming conditions until they become perfect Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will transform all my experiences into the path to enlightenment.
The purpose of this meditation is to encourage us to make good use of our life by remembering that we will die.
I did the experiment today and realised that if we have an unlimited lifespan, we will have no motivation to do anything! I had similar feelings for if my life were to end in 50 years time. I felt differently about 10 years. This duration seemed to be rather more tangible. I felt like I would need to initiate a project which would take about 10 years to complete. A life of one year was frightening: I would quit my job and go into retreat – Dharma 24/7. A life of one month? I would know there is little I could now do except purify what karma I can in preparation for the next life. One day? Say my goodbyes and generate regret at my missed opportunity to attain enlightenment. If you want to know what goes through the mind of someone on the verge of death, see here.
My wife had a slightly different take. She also thought the unlimited and 50 year lifespan would not give any motivation to achieve anything. For ten years she would make sure she went to all the places in the world she wanted to go. One year? She paused at this. She said, although she didn’t feel she was very artistic, she would want to make something. For the shorter durations she wanted to see her family and write letters for our children to open at particular stages of their lives. As the time reduced, her priorities became closer to home – more personal. She felt a creative urge arise, and also a need to be with loved ones.
What I noticed was how the shorter timespans cause both of us to pause for longer and longer, thinking more carefully about how we would use the time.
It struck me when I started my meditation about how we do not value unlimited resources. We only value them when they are rare, or running out. Our life is like this. Normally we don’t think about death, so our life seems to be an unlimited resource. Only when we think about our death do we consider how we should really use it.
I thought about this carefully. I don’t know how long my life will be. It could end tomorrow. Cancer could take me in 6 months.
I felt that provided I practice Dharma purely all the time, everything else will slot into place. My relationships, my projects: everything. I felt like everything had slotted into place, and I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings remain mindful of death, and attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will work to create a Kadampa Temple with a capacity of at least 300 people in my county within the next 10 years.
I began the meditation by thinking about my life. It is precious because it has special qualities which make it perfect for spiritual development. I am free from serious mental and physical illness. I have come into contact with Dharma, and I have not rejected it. I have time and support for my practice. I have met a qualified spiritual guide, who can give me instructions on how to engage in and complete my spiritual path.
I only have this one life. At any time, it could end. I look at the news and I see lives ending all the time – in the most untimely and unexpected ways. I read blogs of people just like me who discover they have cancer. Many cancers show no sign until they are incurable. I read the blogs of these people, and they are just like me. Just like me. In one week’s time I could discover I have cancer, and look on the internet only to discover the appalling situation I am in. I cannot buy another life. I cannot steal one, or arrange for another. This life is my one and only opportunity.
Opportunity for what? For serious spiritual achievement. For attaining a state where suffering can no longer harm me, and from where I can help others. This life offers me that opportunity. Now that I have it, and all the conditions necessary, it would be a truly dreadful waste not to take full advantage of it.
I thought about these points, in the light of blogs from people who are suffering cancer, and I very quickly became focused on the need to use every moment of every day to develop spiritually. I also remembered my commitment to remain natural while changing my aspiration – so this determination will have to remain just below the surface, but very real.
I developed the wish to turn myself inside out. The heart that I normally keep protected – I want to bring it out and expose it to the reality of my samsara. I want to face my real predicament, rather than go on pretending that everything will always remain good and pain free. I want to stop seeing suffering in others and being able to keep myself one step removed from it. I want to feel other’s pain as keenly as my own, so I can use it to make my human life meaningful.
I kept these thoughts in my mind and let a feeling of turning inside out, of being open to the rawness of others despair and suffering, with the wish to make my life meaningful, and stayed with this for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings realise the value of their human life, and use it to attain great Enlightenment for the sake of all living beings.
Practice in the meditation break
I will constantly recite mantras today, looking for evidence of the suffering in the world, and try to feel it as keenly as I feel my own suffering.
I began the meditation on my precious human life by imagining that I had a wish fulfilling jewel in my possession. It was perfect, and possessed all the attributes needed for me to achieve complete freedom from suffering. It was incredibly rare, and if I lost it, it would be countless centuries until I could find another one. Such a precious jewel.
I understood that this was effectively my life at the moment. I thought about how I should use my life. I realised that I need to study Dharma and constantly put it into practice every moment. Beautiful and ugly things teach me about karma and appearances. Suffering teaches me about samsara and renunciation. People remind me about everyone being my mother. Kind acts remind me about the kindness of all living beings. Unkind acts remind me of mistaken appearances, and the cruelty of samsara.
I will rely on Dorje Shugden to show me Dharma truths throughout the day. I will apply Dharma to everything I meet. I let my mind settle on this thought, and slowly my mind became very still and peaceful. It was filled with a feeling of purpose and serenity. I stayed with the feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May I and all living beings realise the preciousness of our human lives, and put Dharma into practice in our daily lives so that we may all attain the supreme happiness of Buddhahood.
Practice in the Meditation Break
Today I will be looking for the Dharma lessons that my protector Dorje Shugden will provide.
I began the meditation by considering that my life is precious, rare and meaningful.
It is rare because it has many qualities which are unusual and special. It is precious because it is very unusual to have all the conditions necessary for a successful Dharma practice in one life. It is rare because I only have one life. And it can potentially be very meaningful.
I rolled through these three thoughts and added a fourth – that I should practice Dharma constantly.
I then began to think that Dharma is the only truly meaningful thing in my life, and that it is the only way to make all the other things in my life truly meaningful.
I then settled on the thought that from this moment on I will apply Dharma to everything I see, everyone I meet and everything I do. I kept with that recognition for the rest of the meditation. It felt progressive and positive. It felt like a force passing along my lifeline into the future, alongside everything in my future.