Meditation on Death and Impermanence

February 8, 2016 Death Awareness

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Taming the Elephant Mind cover
Meditation on Death and Impermanence
The Whip of Diligence

The following verses are from various Buddhist sutras, especially most from Udanavarga. Elsewhere, it says laziness is the first obstacle and its antidote is joyous effort. Reading these verses can greatly clarify one’s mind and whip the lazy donkey to run faster and safer that a racing horse.

The three worlds are impermanent
like autumn clouds.
Seeing birth and death is like watching a play.
Life is gone like a flash of lightning,
Or a mountain waterfall.

As a bidding mushroom shoots upwards carrying soil on its head,
So, I from birth onwards, carry decay and death with me.
Therefore, from the time of my birth onwards,
I move on in the direction of death,
Without turning back even for a moment.

Just as the sun, once risen,
Goes forward towards its setting,
And does not turn back for even an instant
From the path that it traverses,

Or as a mountain stream rapidly flows downwards
On its way, without ever turning backwards,
Death is now nearer that ever before.

All collections end in dispersal.
Whatever rises must also fall.
All meetings end in parting.
The end of life is death.

From the moment we enter the womb,
The journey from life to death begins.
Once begun, there is no turning back.

Just as brooks are extinguished by the summer heat,
Just as fruit falls from the tree early in the morning,
The stalks rotted by early morning mist,
The dew drops dispersed by the rays of the sun,
So this feeble body of mine, will fall apart in its turn.

Those people whose mind always desire
Family, house, money and wealth,
Just as a flood rushes through a town,
Are soon swept away by death.

Wherever you go there is no place
Where death cannot find an entry.
Not earth, nor sky, nor ocean deep,
Nor far within the mountain side.

As all ripe fruit falls and rots,
So all who are born are destroyed by death,
As every pot a skilled potter moulds from clay
Is finally broken and destroyed.

So, too is every person’s life.
“When I have done this, then I will do that
And after that is finished, then I will do this.”
Old-age, sickness and death consume

Those who make such preparations.
Whether one sits or moves, this life is irreversible.
Like a mighty river’s course relentless through day and night,
Or like a herder with a stick, goading his flock into the fold,
Age and sickness drive all humans to their place of death.

Just as every step of a condemned man
Brings him nearer to the gallows,
Where he is doomed to hang to death,
So too is every person’s life.

All health and in sickness,
All youth in old-age, all life in death,
All constructions in destructions.
Wherever one may dwell in the world,
One is struck down by the inevitable death.

If the diamond-body, the Rupakaya of the Buddhas,
Adorned with the major and minor marks of Enlightenment
Is Impermanent, then my own body,
Which is like a bubble, is certainly impermanent.

Life is fleeting, and passes quickly,
Like a drew drop on the tip of a blade of grass
Which soon dries up when the sun rises.
Or like the bubbles of rain on the surface of a lake, which soon burst,
Or like a cow heading to be slaughtered,
Each time she raises her foot, she steps closer to death.

At day break many people can be seen,
By evening some are gone from sight.
At evening many people can be seen,
Next morning someone else has already passed away.

Some die when they are in the womb,
Some on the ground when they are born.
Some die just as they learn to crawl,
And some just as they learn to walk.

Some die old, some die young,
Some in the very prime of life.
How can I feel secure and think,
“I am young so I have long to live?”

Even though they had everything in life,
Many hundred thousands of men and women
From all walks of life have recently gone
Beneath the power of death, the leveller.

Your children cannot protect you
Nor your parents, nor your friends.
When the time has come for you to die,
You have no refuge except the Holy Dharma.

Like the flame of a butter-lamp
Shaken by a strong wind,
There is no certainty that this life
Will continue for even a single moment more.

The Lord of Death is not to be trusted,
For he does not ask whether one has finished or not.
Whether healthy or sick, I should reflect on
The certainty of death and uncertainty of its timing.

Lying on a bed, afflicted with disease,
Dry-mouthed, pale faced,
Feet and hands trembling,
Lips drawn back, teeth gnashing.

Not able to rise, one’s lips emit a whizzing sound.
The body smeared with urine and excrement,
Unable to swallow
The last mouthful of food and drink.

One sleeps in one’s bed for the last time.
Sinking into an ocean of pain and agony.
Though surrounded by relatives,
Just as one is born alone into this world,
Alone one has to leave it.
One goes to the next world without any help from friends.

“Alas, death will come to me, but when is unknown,
Other than the Holy Dharma, and practising the virtues,
There is nothing to help me at the time of my death.”

Until now, I have been distracted by mundane activities.
I have been attached to the objectives of this life alone.
I have held the insubstantial to be substantial,
And have not made full use of this precious life.

Nevertheless, I shall practise the Holy Dharma
From the bottom of my heart.
From now onwards without attachment to worldly activities.
I must do so consistently, without being swayed
By laziness and attachment to sleep.

If I do not practise the path of the Enlightened Ones
While I have this excellent opportunity,
Will I not be ashamed to let this precious life go astray
Like one who returns empty-handed from a treasure island?

Disclaimer: Use of the information and data is to bring awareness of death and dying. Spirare does not own the information or profit from its use. Photo & Source used with permission of Venerable Lama Choedak Rinpoche Content page 71-75 from the book Taming the Elephant Mind by Lama Choedak Rinpoche 

Words of Inspiration

"Educating people on death and dying, and reducing their fear of death is a giving of fearlessness."
Venerable Wuling

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