Tag Archive | Shantideva

Aspiration

Jizo 10One of my favorite Buddhist verses, the aspiration from Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, here interlaced with some commentary of my own that keeps occurring to me as I do my morning breathing exercises with this aspiration at eye-level:

May I become at all times, both now and forever

     today, tomorrow, this very breath, every breath until I have no more

A protector for those without protection

     including those who need protected from their own delusions

A guide for those who have lost their way

    including those who threw away every map, every compass

A ship for those with oceans to cross

     including those running away from whatever they refuse to face

A bridge for those with rivers to cross

     including those who have burnt the very bridges they now need

A sanctuary for those in danger

     including those who are their own greatest enemy

A lamp for those without light

     including those who will not open their own tightly clenched eyes

A place of refuge for those who lack shelter

     including those who have rejected every shelter offered them

And a servant to all in need.

     including those who are difficult and those I dislike. Including every sentient being. Every single one.

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Mourning

Jizo 12I heard a discussion the other night about the difference between grieving and mourning. After acknowledgement that both terms get defined in many different ways, a basic consensus developed that grieving is the emotions felt due to a loss while mourning is the rituals undertaken to give form to that grieving. Based on that understanding, I’m about halfway through a period of mourning for a recently deceased relative, the period being defined as 49 days since the date of death, which, per Buddhist tradition, is the maximum duration of the journey from one life to the next.

This is not my first experience with mourning. When my beloved cat Fenris died a few years ago, I grieved intensely and found healing through mourning. In that instance, every evening for 49 days I read passages from the Thurman translation of the Bardo Thodol (The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between or Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State, commonly referred to as the Tibetan Book of the Dead) that are intended to guide the departed consciousness through the bardo (intermediate state) of death. Sitting there, exhorting Fenris to resist the allurements that lead to a lower rebirth and to instead focus on achieving enlightenment, rebirth in a pure land, or a precious human rebirth, I really felt like I was continuing to be helpful to him even though he was no longer nearby to feed or stroke or clean up after. I deeply felt the loss of this being who had loved me so utterly, completely, and selflessly. However, I didn’t want to hold him back with my grief. I was grateful to be able to lend my voice and my love to helping him complete his transitional journey.

As the most actively religious member of our household, I undertake the conduct of mourning rituals on behalf of our family. When a close relative recently was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing terminal illness, I contacted spiritual leaders in both traditions I currently practice in, to get advice about the appropriate mourning prayers to say after death. For the Plum Village tradition, I was referred to Chanting from the Heart: Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village, which contains many prayers and practices, including ceremonies relating to death and dying. I decided that every seventh day after death I would recite the prayers contained in the ceremony for the the seventh and forty-ninth days after death. Continue reading