Sacred West

Buddhism and Modern Life

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Entries Filed Under 'Death'

Death Shows Memory, Shows Dream

December 8th, 2009 · 1 Comment

A sangha member died last week, a revered elder teacher. As is the Shambhala practice, we sat with the body for three and a half days, around the clock in the shrine room, taking shifts.

On Sunday afternoon I was there for a couple of hours, contemplating the cold body on ceremonial display, marveling as always at the nature of appearances, the mysterious essence of life that animates matter – the difference between the alive and the not alive. I was thinking, even if Lord Yama takes the body, he can’t take the regard we hold this person in, that endures forever.

And yet – where is there that anything endures? There is only interdependent arising.

Funny how soon the presence of a person disappears, how rapidly the context of a person recedes into memory, how memory shows itself as thought, all thoughts fading as they will, and all the business of knowing someone having had the nature of dream all along.

It’s as if, whatever was left after dying, that was all there ever was, in the reality of this person to me. Everything else was elaboration out of the endless river of thoughts.

There’s only ever the essential presence of a moment, and everything else is empty thought, curling upwards and away like smoke.

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Two Accumulations: Merit and Wisdom

December 26th, 2008 · No Comments

Why do we need both merit and wisdom, they asked us in a recent class I was taking?

This morning I thought, well, because we’ll be reborn, for one thing (unless we do really well in the bardo).

And when we’re born, for a time there won’t be a lot of wisdom going on. We’ll want our karma to magnetize not just the right parents but the right teachings from our parents, and from life, as we develop in our formative years. This can be such a great asset for the rest of that lifetime.

I think of investing now for a better return down the road.

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