Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
MISSED A GREAT DEAL
It's not that any of us can reject I want! Or when we say, I realize that I love this person, and I want from them these things! That is like our attachments! We cannot reject those things. But maybe we should try to put at the fore front of our relationship, what can I give that person? And just make a little bit of a change. And it's not that you are going to become this incredibly selfless giving person and giving everything that that partner could want of of you, like do the laundry all the time, do the dishes,... like we would want. Like I would love it if I just had to live and my whole family functioned giving everything to me! Wouldn't it be wonderful. I'm sure each one of you would love that too if your family did that for you! But it doesn't work that way.
In reverse, of course, you don't become this selfless giving person. Well you could if you were a very evolved person, but have in your mind the thought which says that I'd like to give good things to those people. I would like to give them emotional support, I'd like to give them the possibility of growth in a relationship, that they can get good feelings from me. Confidence from me in our relationship, that they become more generous, kind hearted. And in doing that, what you do is show kind heartedness. And that is what you do in giving to them. You support activities of love and compassion and you act them out yourself. In that way in any relationship, if you think like, what is the statement when I die? I try my best to give the best I could to the people around me.
If you have that feeling that I gave my best to my children, to my partner, my parents, relatives, friends, then you feel good about yourself. So when death shows up you don't have messy relationships left behind. You don't have a lot of what we call excess baggage or garbage there. You have a fairly clean experience of yourself. And you feel really good.
That is the thing. It's like I say, on a really mundane level, and it is sort of called the entrance to a spiritual life, to die with confidence and to die with the good feeling is the initial level of spirituality. That is that you feel that you have met life as a good statement. It's not a question of what can I get from the people that I relate to or what can I get from my material possessions, it's what can I use my material possessions for in creating a better experience for people and beings around me. What can I do with the people I interact with to give them happiness, goodness and support.
Final thing of course is our own body. In our relationship to our own body most of us have a certain sense of identity about ourselves. I'm like this and that. We also have a lot of insecurities but on the upbeat side of it we feel that we are alright. I am beautiful or pretty, these sorts of qualities about ourself. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it's good to have a positive feeling about oneself, but when it is based on a very material sense, i.e., for men I'm not so bald... the thing is, we get very obese or whatever. Something changes in our body. Well our mind which normally grasps at ourself as being very capable or dynamic or whatever, is hassled by that. Our mind's image of ourself when our body changes grossly or drastically is strongly agitated by that.
That means we don't have a good relationship . We have a deluded style of relationship. We have deluded ourself in regards to our relationship to our body. We have to reappraise! Like, when I die, do I want to have used my body in a very positive manner or have I lived for my body.
If you think about it, what do we do when we get up in the morning. We take our body in the bathroom and clean it and flush it, wash it's face and sort of look in the mirror and say its a pretty handsome body, it's not so bad. We do a little mascara or shave, splash a little perfume, look decent, smell nice and then we go out, look at our clothes closet and ask how we want to dress my body today. And we make decisions. I want to look fairly decent or attractive. I'm meeting special people today. I want to impress them. And if you think about it, you are living for your body. That is the way it is! You are putting your body as the main thing, and then how my body is going to look, how can I hide these certain parts of myself and accent other parts of myself and this!
This is how we do it when we get up in the morning! We then take it out and drive it off to work. We drive off all shiny and clean. Then we come home and it's all dirty and we have to start all over. But the process is what we are stuck with. But our relationship to that, again we have a possibility of doing something with it. You should make it that maybe you have to clean your body, do whatever you do to make it comfortable to live in, but then when you make it beautiful or attractive, you have to have that reflection which says that no one likes to look at me as a slob! No one enjoys that. So unless there is a purpose, there is someone I could actually enlighten by being slovenly, that might be effective, but generally if I want to be a good influence on people it's nice to look attractive because that attracts people.
So all you have done is taken the same process of shaving, dressing, whatever, and put it on with a different reason. i.e. I can function better doing it that way than I could if I didn't do these things! To over do isn't necessary. The point is, you make yourself that you are attractive because in being attractive you can be effective in helping people. And influential people like being around you. And that is productive for what you are focused on. Again you can see, there is all the activities that we do exactly can be the same. Our perspective or relationship to those activities is the thing that can be different.
It is important. To come back to the beginning you really need something that is stark, lays the situation bare, to make you be able to do that effectively. And that is what death is. It is effective that way.
The point is that death is a reality. In coming to our own death we don't want to have anguish over things which we have left our selves engaged in. If our whole life has been external manipulation and power and involved in wealth, when death comes and one is withdrawn from that and left with a big emptiness, a vacuum. And if one has spiritual teachings to draw on and think that one is going to go to hell because one has never been spiritual, etc, and one gives twenty or thirty thousand dollars to the church before one passes on hoping that will redeem one's soul... it's sort of like that.
We have to ask ourselves if we want to die like that? And each time you know somebody who dies, actually rejoice at the opportunity to be around to experience that other person's death. It is a real present to you because death is something vague or void. I remember a friend of mine in Australia who died. I thought about it. He was the same age as myself and he was dead. It bothered me for a while, then I forgot. Three days later it was out of my consciousness totally.
Think about our own relationship with each other. We all think we care and we live for inter relating with each other and things. But if one of us was to die, would you expect anyone else in the room to anguish over you for the next ten years? You wouldn't. So, when you die you will be gone. People will reflect on it a little bit, people more close will reflect for a little longer, but then you will fade away. My own father, I don't even think of him once a year if I am lucky. It's every ten years if I am lucky. The point is, when people die, one it's sad. On the other side though, it's a special moment to go in there, to go in there, and to say like you are right now giving me a special experience. Something that I normally don't want to know about. If it happens to anybody close to me, I immediately try to forget it. So as I watch you pass away, can I take something good from that from you that is I am going to have to experience this and I want to be with you when you die so that I will know how to die better myself. And it is something special. It might sound a little funny, but it is special to have someone die around you because you get a blessing from that. You get the blessing of knowing how look at your own life, knowing how to reappraise you life. And that is maybe the nicest present that someone can give to you . Is wisdom. A little bit of clarity on your life, your relationship to the things around you.
So when people do die around you, you can offer prayers for them and give them good wishes and your support and love, but also in your mind have awareness that you are going to die. And when they pass away and after, just always sort of bring it back to yourself and think of it as a blessing in the sense of how do I want to die? In regards to the things that I relate to in the world, how would I like those things to be? And you can make some very powerful decisions after someone else is dead. After someone dies you can bring some positive and very concrete decisions for yourself. Experiences to yourself which are beneficial and don't come easily.
Like right now maybe we would like to stop smoking or like to be a nicer person. We hope to be that. But we are sort of wishy washy. We get up in the morning and say... we half heartedly attempt these things. If someone dies around you there is nothing more incredible. It just takes them right out of your life. You can't talk to them any more, you can't say anything to them any more, they are gone. You are left all by yourself and the other person is gone. That sort of starkness is good to make you ask if you are obtaining the goals I want. It's sort of like cold water in the face that says hey, life is like that! So what can I do about myself.
When you have this information, the next time someone passes away you can actually get inspired to live a more dynamic life. That is why I say it can be a blessing to you that people die because it can be inspiration to you, a good one. You can even think of it that the other person actually can be happy to think that you have taken positive steps forth from that they have died. If I was to think of people behind me after I have left, came to some very clear decisions about themselves, gave up a bit of their garbage or delusions about their life and became a little more real about themselves, that would make me happy. I am sure if you think of your relationships to other people, if they saw you become a more positive person, that would make them happy. So like I say, it's almost a gift, an offering. You can make an offering back to them saying, thank you. You have given me something. And feel that they can actually rejoice in that. On the other side, you can also rejoice in that saying thank you, you have given something to me to make my life a little more clear.
It is a very good thing and it's not negative to feel that death is a positive thing. Death is a blessing for both you and that other person. Alright? Anyhow it is mostly the ideas that can be given in this. And you can think about your own death and in thinking about it in thinking about your relationship to your material possessions. In saying what are my possessions, do I own my possessions and use them as I want or do they use me? And then I get anguished every time they are broken down. And do I fret and worry over my possessions. Because if I do then I have got a lot of delusion in there. I value them more than I value my own being.
In regards to my relationships am I giving the people I relate to good experiences, positive support, or am I just giving them all my garbage, all my emotional hang ups, my emotional manipulation that I normally do. And we all do that, I think if we sort of become aware of ourselves we will see that we do manipulate people emotionally. We want a little affection so we wine. We do things like that. So, say to yourself in my relationships wouldn't it be nice if I could give something beautiful to those other people. And just make the decision that that is what I would like to do.
And finally in regards to your own body say, my body is something that I have to relay on, something that I need to live this life, so might I use it in a positive way and not let it use me. Like live in my vanity of between the ages of thirty or twenty to forty five or fifty, I am feeling very wonderful and powerful saying this is my life and then get a little older and weaker and the body starts degenerating and then you feel sort of depressed because all of a sudden you are not the wonderful person you envisioned yourself to be. Use your body in a positive way and use that as a vehicle to do good things.
That is most of the topic for tonight. It's good just to reflect on it a little bit to allow death to become a part of your existence. And you can do it just when you see little bugs die, it happens all the time. You drive down the road and you run into a moth. Easiest thing to do is to say an om mani padme hum for the moth. You didn't mean to kill the little guy. But the thing is, you think that poor little moth is dead. Can't do anything more. And so then you allow yourself to think well, one day I am going to die. Am I happy with myself right now? And then you say, alright, I'd like to be happier with myself. So you make a decision to be more positive. Use what I have in a positive manner. You can do it in each moment. And then when you have something that is really big in your life, for example someone who is close to you pass away, at that time you can become, because there is much more invested in human relationships, you can really, you will get a shock. But do it consciously. And then reflect on that person's death. How they died. Reflect on how you would like to die. And how you feel about yourself. And use it in a positive sense. It is a very special moment. It will only last a little while. When someone dies you might be involved with it for a few days or a week, or a little more if the person was very close to you, but after awhile you will forget. It is not an opportunity that you have too often. So use it when it does come your way. And use it in a very conscious manner. Alright!
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