Tag Archive | death

Death

Jizo 26I had intended to spend the last couple of weeks diving further into the Avatamsaka world by rereading one of my old college texts on Chinese Buddhist philosophy, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-Yen Buddhism, by Thomas Cleary. However on starting the book, I soon rediscovered how incredibly dense it is. My mind started spinning as I tried to grasp the interrelated aspects of phenomenon and noumenon (the latter defined as “a thing as it is in itself, as distinct from a thing as it is knowable by the senses through phenomenal attributes”, derived from Kantian philosophy and used by Cleary to denote the principal of emptiness). In other words, Entry Into the Inconceivable is simply not something I can absorb on my metro commute! I will have to save it for more focused, quiet reading time. In the meantime, I turned to another book on my to-read list: Living in the Light of Death: on the art of being truly alive by Larry Rosenberg with David Guy.

Rosenberg, who founded the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, has trained with a broad spectrum of Asian spiritual teachers, including those from several different Buddhist traditions. This book focuses on the Buddhist teachings on death: how awareness of the inevitability and inescapability of old age, sickness, and death leads to deepened spiritual practice (these are the Four Messengers said to have set the Buddha on his path to enlightenment). As Rosenberg writes, “We know in our heads that we will die. But we have to know it in our hearts. We have to let this fact penetrate our bones. Then we will know how to live.”

When I think of the Four Messengers, I like to substitute ‘aging’ for ‘old age’. Old age is not something that all of us will be fortunate enough to face and it’s a pet peeve of mine when people say things along the lines of “believe me, you don’t want to get old”. I’ve known people who have died quite young and would have given much for more time. Unlike old age, however, aging is inevitable. Even children are aware that they’re different now when they were babies. Continue reading

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Focus

Jizo 8I’ve been struggling with focus the last few weeks as a number of unexpected events have brought suffering and impermanence directly to the forefront of my experience. The regular sitting meditation practice I had been carefully cultivating crumbled in the face of uncertainty and stress. Most days I had no formal practice at all, though I continued to practice mindfulness as much as I could manage.

I also did tonglen meditation, a Tibetan Buddhist breath meditation where you breathe in the pain and suffering of sentient beings and breathe out peace and happiness. Tonglen is a practice to develop bodhicitta, the mind intent on attaining enlightenment for the benefit of others. It’s also a wonderful, simple meditation when in the presence of suffering or when personally experiencing pain. If you’re interested in more direction, Lama Kathy Wesley has 2 excellent, concise PDFs about tonglen on her website here.

My Dharma reading the last few weeks has concentrated on being with, preparing for, and helping others cope with death and loss. I’ve recently acquired a great many excellent Buddhist books on the topic and so far have particularly enjoyed the two that I will profile in this blog. Continue reading