We are all going to die – some of us, earlier than others. And it’s not just the old people – some of you reading this blog will not be here next year. Maybe I won’t even be here next year – who knows?! So I hope that each of you take whatever good you can from this blog and apply it to your own lives. 😀
In the Mahanidana Sutta, when explaining how suffering arises in the 12 conditioned links of Dependent Origination, the Buddha asked, “What is the pre-requisite for death?”
And the answer is that birth is the necessary condition required before you can die. You need to be born before you can die. If you were never born in the first place, then how can you die?
So why do we have to die? Because we were born!
Each of us is dying from the moment that we are born.
Now if you are never born, does that mean you don’t exist? No. Because the Buddha talks about the unborn, the unproduced, the unarisen, the unconditioned – which requires no conditions to come together perfectly before it exists.
Whatever requires conditions to be perfect, before it occurs – is unstable (anicca). Why? Because once those conditions disperse, or are interrupted, then it too disperses and disappears along with those conditions.
For example, say we need conditions to be perfect for us to be happy:
- People are saying nice things to us, praising us, saying how good we are etc… and then we are happy.
- But then someone says something nasty to us – then we get upset.
Our happiness has disappeared!
This is a happiness based on external factors – external conditions (things which are not self), which are unstable. Once something interrupts those conditions – your happiness goes with it.
So don’t rely too much on external conditions for your happiness. Now things aren’t always going to be rosy and life is just downright unfair sometimes, but it’s good to be able to tap into an inner well of joy and safety and security and peace whenever and wherever you want – something to return home to, a true refuge.
Once someone wished Master Hsuan Hua, “Happy birthday, Shifu!” (Shifu means Teacher)
He replied, “Everyday I am happy and everyday is my birthday!”
Now back to the original video, it’s more about being aware of impermanence so that we treasure what little time that we have, living through this body, in this life – with all the beautiful friends and family members that come in to your life and disappear away from your life, and even the enemies. All the visitors that come and go along the journey of your life. Life is short and all those things that have happened all those years ago are as if they happened in the blink of an eye.
As Mother Theresa would say, “I can not do great things! But I can do little things with great love.”
So by the time that you die, you can be at peace. So maybe you and I can’t do great things with our lives, but at least we can do little things with great love during our little time here on earth.
There is an interesting encounter that I read about once where a father was teaching his son. He asked, “Son, what is worse? Smoking or telling a lie?”
His son answered, “Smoking of course!”
The father answered, “Smoking harms your body. But lying harms your soul.”
Isn’t that an interesting thing to contemplate?!
In fact, breaking any of the precepts – killing, stealing, lying and sexual misconduct – harms your soul.
Ajahn Sumedho sees it the same way – because at the moment when you die, you will be reflecting on all those harmful things that you did to others – better to have lived not doing them.
That’s why rising up to the precepts are important – because they help brighten up your heart. So that by the time that you die, you will have few burdens upon your heart – your heart can be free and at peace.