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.
Duncan OCT 3 1993
Death and Dying
In talking reality, not something too spiritual or something but just reality, there are two things which very meaningful. If we can bring them into perspective, those two things will give us an incredible revitalization. These are, with a realistic or practical mind, not motivated emotionally or from just being stimulated, but with one looks at with some critique or intelligence, are death and caring for others.
Those two facets can encompass the entire spiritual practice. Being conscious of impermanence or death is extremely beneficial because it can take a lot of the exaggeration of emotion out of something which when we look at more realistically, we can question what we are involved with. Sometimes we have a lot of emotion over decisions we are making. Hesitations and indecision. And what we have done in many ways is taken our life and made things around us responsible for our happiness. We do that all the time. We set up relationships with others, and with a lot of conscious energy we imbue others or even places or countries with power in that it becomes responsible for us being happy or unhappy. And when it doesn't make us happy, we become furious and unhappy. It is like we become a yoyo with a string where in we have given away our mind. Given away our responsibility.
The problem is that we have not had a way to clarify the situation. It is as if the water is turbulent and there were nothing to clear it. In our own life we have a lot of emotions which push us, maybe yes, maybe no. At one time things look rosy, and at others not! We are all equally in that. It is not just that one of us has that experience. We all equally go through trials and tribulations. We all have trouble with decisions. We come up with those crises. Yet it is important to clear the air, clear the water, clear our mind so that we can come up with what would be the right situation. And one thing is to divest power empowering the other objects, that the other object has so much power over us! If we can do that, we gain control over the situation again.
You don't hurt anyone by doing that. In regards to our relationships, we have to go back inside and say, well, how is it that I am doing this? What we have then done is assumed the responsibility of their happiness, or we have given away our responsibility for our own happiness. Either way, they apply. So what can take the power out of that? The recognition of impermanence. Of death.
All you will be left with at your death, is the person that you have been, what you have done, and who you are. And who you are really is what you have done in the way of activities because those things are expressing. Your activity is an expression of how you look at things, how you feel about your attitude. So the awareness of death is that which says at the end of my life, when I hit this point, I want to look back at the decisions I made, but I made them with the clarity of that! Then you have done something wonderful. You have taken death at some unknown future time and brought it to the immediate moment and said to the death, I am going to meet you one day. And when I meet you, I want to meet you in the best way possible because you are the final thing which is going to make me feel comfortable or not.
You can literally take death to the immediate moment. And with that, you have clarified the issue. You have come to what decision would I make if I were immediately faced with death? What decision would I make? And immediately of course, all the empowerment that has been given to other objects is taken away. And it is not that you make yourself selfish, but perhaps more realistic. In that is also the ability to make a decision which brings up the second point which will make your life happy. The recognition that relationships with others is the point where real fulfillment can be experienced. It is not that the relationship with others is the end all, but relationships with others is where fulfillment will be the greatest for you. That aspect, to be in relationship with others, is not what one takes from others, but what one offers or shares with others. To be able to do that well, we have to do that with clarity. That is where those two facets come in, the awareness of death and impermanence, and all I have left is me, and if I want to be fulfilled, it will come through my relationship with others because whether with someone one loves or just relationships with friends, is where you will have your highest high!
Death and impermanence gives clarity to decision making. With that clarity and awareness, the decision gives you perfect power because you understand yourself in the situation. If you have the ability, then you can do something well. If it looks too complicated or you do not have the ability, you can decline the situation because you can recognize you do not have the ability to go through with it and feel well with it's outcome! In that way, the awareness of impermanence brings you to a more practical decision. More importantly it brings you to the recognition that a decision which brings negativity such as being angry or upset, then at the end of your life, thinking the decision the wrong one, all you get stuck with is all the problems and emotional gymnastics that went on. Yet if you go into a situation where you have ability, you have empowered yourself. You have recognized you had something to offer or share. Then at the end of your life you are going to be happy having made this decision, that you could give something to the situation! Because after the situation is over, all you have left is what you have put into it! What you have generated in the way of feelings and such!
So death is good! It can make you more aware with what you are left with in regards to any decision you make. You are only left with your side of the energy, the feelings. So if you clarify an issue, then when you motivate to go into it, you do motivate with clarity. The if later things become clouded again, you can again recognize all you are left with is you and sometimes you again clear the situation! And then you can carry on!
Similarly they say when you do go into situations, if you can go in with the heart or the feeling which says just as I am going to offer to the individuals or group I am with, to the place I am going, I am gong to make an offering to enhance it or make it more positive or something. With that feeling, have the optimal way of fulfillment in regard to what we as humans would like to have. So, a warm feeling in our heart. It is sad to see someone die at the end of their life very lonely. The reason they are lonely is because they have never allowed themselves to be vulnerable to others. That is why the loneliness is there, because they feel extremely separate. whereas if you have a sense of relatedness, of sharing and giving with others, I don't think you will be lonely with others at the end of your life. Secondly, when you reflection your feelings and memories with what you are left with, you will be able to bring up warm feelings because that is what you were creating as time went on.
I am trying to finish off the subject of death and impermanence in a realistic way. Not too much philosophy. Just what it means to me and how it is useful. How it can help in your decisions. The key to it is that all you get out of what I am involved is what is happening. And with that, if you are extremely depressed or upset, then that is all you are getting out of it, so why keep on bing that way. Change the mind set to a more positive perspective. In that way you take more control of the situation and empower yourself. If to the best of your ability you do that, you are giving yourself more power in each moment. With that you will be able to utilize yourself in making decisions. You will not be controlled by others, in how you think you should act for them!
For this evenings meditation I would like to talk us through the death meditation.
The guided visualization of the death process.
Thinking of yourself that you have now come to the end of your life for whatever circumstances, whatever the cause, you are now essentially in a bid of some sort.Your body is becoming extremely heavy, you h\can have that sensation as if you were encapsulated in something. You are becoming encapsulated in your body. Sometimes when we become intoxicated with alcohol, you may have had an experience of looking out these two long tunnels. Tunnel vision it is called, or something like that where the body is very heavy, yet our mind inside is still clear. It is a similar sensation which comes at the time of death.
If we are fortunate we will have friends around us, a place where things are meaningful for us in our life. So of course there are pictures of people we care for in a positive manner, and also pictures of people that inspire us, religious pictures or just pictures of something which gives us meaning or context. Gives us some sense that there is some meaning to the life we have led, and to the life that other people have been leading. So we have meaningful things around us.
As our body becomes more heavy, it is said that the visions that start to arise, sort of we are in this wavy sensation. The earth under neath is not longer solid, and we have a sensation of waviness. The cause of it is the energy is starting to move in the channels, it is no solid, able to support us, so we have a strong sense of existence, and in being able to perceive things, rather the energy of the body is leaving. We have wave patterns in front of us, the room will start to fluctuate. If we are fortunate we can think of spiritual beings. And what is important is that we do not be too hung up that maybe we are a Buddhist and we are starting to have a vision of Jesus Christ. That is not impossible that such might happen! Or that something like that comes. It has to do with working on the deep level mind we have at sometimes associated spirituality with certain things.
So as we start to move more inside, our sight is starting to leave, the wavy feelings are becoming more like swirling, thicker energy. We bring to mind something spiritual. As I said it could be that what we have been devoted to for a length of time does not arise, something else arises. Doesn't matter. It is a spiritual thing. It is something which has taken the image of what is meaningful to us on a deep level.
Again the energy is getting deeper, we are loosing consciousness. We are aware of the sounds around us. If we are fortunate, there is someone beside us saying a mantra, a prayer that is special. It is said to be an important thing, as we start to die that we have someone there, maybe reciting the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Maybe saying a special Christian prayer, whatever. That keeps the mind focused because we are having stronger internal experience now. it is like if you rub your sometimes, you get sparks of light running. You are starting to get sparks of energy flowing past and around you. There is nothing you can really hold too, it is a floating nebulous feeling. A lot of sparks and energy, colors going around. Like you are floating on colored clouds, sparks of energy flying by too!
It is said that still at this time you can still hear things which are said close to your ear. So maybe you hear someone saying a mantra or prayer in your ear. Just the echo is coming to your mind. And you are thinking of your teacher and guru and Buddha. Thinking of bodhicitta, something which is very meaningful for you to the best of your ability. The energy is getting stronger and stronger. It is starting to go out a long shaft. There is a light at the end of the shaft, and you are moving down that shaft. It is said that this is with the mind as it starts to pull down to the center of the heart. It's moving through the central channel. The sensation can be one floating down a tunnel. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and you are moving toward it.
Slowly that fades and there is no more sensations outside. Actually at this point you have stopped breathing. So to the outside world you are dead. but for you as a person, you have entered into an experience. Your mind is there. It experiencing beautiful whitish light. All around you. Soft white light. Things are much calmer than you have ever experienced, almost blissful. The it says that the whitish expanse that is occurring to your mind's eye becomes more reddish in color. And then there is a blackness like a faint as if you fainted and a blackness arises.
And then very slowly there arises an experience of incredible clear light. This is your most subtle mind. It is your Buddha nature. The clear light. Try to think of space which is completely clear. Brilliant clear light. At this moment, because you are meditating, you recognize this as me, not having a dualistic vision, thinking this is something other than me, in your mind arises the ability to say this is me, my mind. This is me purified, the most subtle level of consciousness. If any image was to arise in this clear light consciousness, it would be merely some thought pattern floating through taking aspect and form. But it is my mind. It is always just me.
At this point it is said your mind is absorbed to the center of your heart,your body is completely dead to the rest of the world, but your mind is absorbed into the clear light experience. Try to carry it on in the meditation. If form or thought arises, recognize it is your mind, creating spontaneous imagery. It is not anything else, it is just you in your own pure nature.
In your meditation try to recognize what duality in your mind means. As you meditate, a thought comes to mind, there is always the experience of I and the subject matter I am thinking about. That is a sense of duality. We allow our mind to relax in its own natural state, not trying to establish observer and observed, just the state of one's own being. If one can recognize that type of limitation or experience whatever, that is moving in the direction of non duality. Any thought comes to the mind, if you don't grasp at it, you remain non dual. If your mind recognizes that from that moment you are involved in duality. Yourself and the relationship to that thought that has just been generated.
It is said that of all things that are hard to overcome, duality of mind is one of the hardest. Generally it is said that it is not a great problem, but at the end of our life that duality, if we are unable to overcome it, will propel us back into a rebirth. So in our quiet time, for example in the evening when you go to bed, or sometimes during the day when you are relaxing, you should try to bring to mind, how would I experience non duality. And allow ourselves to move through the various experiences and sensations.
In the process of meditation, it is said when our mind does move out of the clear light, there is a reversal of the process. WE very quickly go through the dark, the red and white vision. And suddenly we in a very subtle aspect, a very subtle body, has face, arms legs. something similar to the rebirth that we are going to take. So in this way, the type of actions we have been creating in our previous life time, which has now ceased, have a great play of power on us at this moment. If we have done hurtful actions, our mind will produce a body similar to a harmful persons body. If we have had kind, warm loving feelings, we have acted in that manner to the best of our ability, that sincerity will create a beautiful body with quality and attractiveness. If we have been a generous open hearted person, we will also have a quality of affluence and prosperity within our energy. If we have been miserly or uptight it will also create the aspect of our future rebirth body.
So at this point we are in a subtle body or ghost body, and it is said to be transiting through space searching. Searching for parents to give us a new body. We will naturally be drawn to people of a certain character. Because we have a certain energy, a magnetism. So as we fly through space we will be attracted to certain couples whom we identify with. It is said we can follow them around for one, two three weeks, two months, until the right opportunity and circumstances arise. That we have cause to take a new body with that person having intercourse with someone. The person being fertile, so that then our mind mixes with the semen and ovum of the couple. That is said to be the cause of the rebirth.
From the Buddhist point of view it is said that our mind has the ability to a certain degree to affect the type of body it will be. But certainly the physical body will be predominated by the genes of the mother and father. But still there is some affect from our mind. It affects growth and such thing. It is said phenomena are interdependent, so also our mind is interdependent with the dna of the mother and the father. It is not jut the D.N.A. nor just our minds, it is the two mixed together.
And from there we progress into the next rebirth. Having natural affinity to previous lifetimes type of activities. And of course, because we are interdependent, we are dependent upon the parents and what they offer us as opportunities.
So we should dedicate the meditation.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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