Death and Impermanence

September 23, 2008

Inspired by a few comments I have had from people on this blog and the wish to develop a daily practice, I wanted to write a post about death and impermanence. I am a fan of death meditation, I would say that it is probably the meditation I have engaged in the most in recent times. I like this meditation because I find it easy to relate to when compared with other meditations and I know the benefits of this meditation are immense. It’s weird that people think it is morbid and strange to mediate on death or often to even think about it. It is something that unfortunately we are all going to experience at some time and I for one want to be fully prepared because it scares me to think about the fear I will feel when I am dying (if I am aware I am dying). 

When very first beginning in Buddhism I don’t think I was that keen on the death meditations. If I remember rightly I think it was due to getting upset when thinking about death and dying. As a child and teenager many family members and friends of mine died through accidents or illnesses. I previously often thought about how these people were there one day and gone the next and often thought that is what will one day happen to me. At that time as well, a couple of people I was very close to had died and I really missed them. I have to add that now, personally, I know I cannot progress on my own spiritual path without meditating on death. When I meditate on death now, I definitely develop the wish to immediately practise Dharma purely. At present this wish does not stay with me for very long as I do not yet have a deep experience of this meditation.  Some benefits of this meditation that I have noticed personally are: 

My wishes and aspirations change from wanting to focus and be involved in worldly activities that I know will not give me what I desire, to wanting to engage in study and practice of Dharma and genuinely wanting to train my mind. 

I remember Dharma more throughout the day. If I am thinking that I may die today, I make an effort to develop a mind of compassion, so that if I were to die I would die with a mind of compassion. I often think about people maybe doing a Powa or making others prayers for me when I die, or me myself hopefully remembering that all important thread of clouds from Je Tsongkhapa at my heart to Maitreya in Tushita. I have to say though, it is a bit of a risk to just hope that I would remember something I am not familiar with at the time of death. Instead I want my mind to become so familiar with something so that when I am dying it will be easy and natural to turn my mind to whatever that is, such as the mind of compassion or the thread of clouds.

My attachment to people and objects and this life becomes less and I start to feel like I need to prepare for future lives. I don’t mean that I in anyway love or care less for people, it’s just that my funny attachment mind that becomes slightly less. 

Stupid petty things such as annoyances or ridiculous grievances I have with people or very often inanimate objects, for example when my computer does not work properly, don’t seem to be so important. I also have more restraint towards not even beginning to entertain any angry minds that might be trying to develop.


2 Responses to “Death and Impermanence”

  1. This is a beautiful post. It’s one of my favorite meditations as well. I have never felt morbid thinking about death. It’s only realistic. I live near a graveyard, so even when I am not formally meditating on death, I get a daily reminder, which helps me in many ways.

  2. Chelvi Says:

    Thank You for sharing this with us. I too am inspired by the death meditation – that is when ever I have done it. For me it is only meditation that is so powerful in cutting through attachment. The only problem is I don’t do it often enough. However, as the result of the inspiration I received from the few times I have done this meditation, it has motivated me to seek employment in palliative care, in the hope that the daily reminder of death, will force me to face my own impending death… and lead me to investing my energy in things that will give me true protection – the practice of holy Dharma. As Geshe-la has said it is this meditation on death that causes us to practice Dharma purely, otherwise Dharma practice is also heavily tainted with concerns for this life.

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