Posting Essays

Advice for someone who is dying (1)

Update: 04/11/2016
Ajahn Chah’s simple, profound advice to an aging student approaching her death.
 

Advice for someone who is dying (1)

 

Today I have brought nothing material of any\r\nsubstance to offer you, only Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha. Listen well.\r\nYou should understand that even the Buddha himself, with his great store of\r\naccumulated virtue, could not avoid physical death. When he reached old age, he\r\nrelinquished his body and let go of its heavy burden. Now you too must learn to\r\nbe satisfied with the many years you’ve already depended on your body. You\r\nshould feel that it’s enough.

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You can compare it to household utensils that you’ve\r\nhad for a long time—your cups, saucers, plates and so on. When you first had\r\nthem they were clean and shining, but now after using them for so long, they’re\r\nstarting to wear out. Some are already broken, some have disappeared, and those\r\nthat are left are deteriorating: they have no stable form, and it’s their\r\nnature to be like that. Your body is the same way. It has been continually\r\nchanging right from the day you were born, through childhood and youth, until\r\nnow it has reached old age. You must accept that. The Buddha said that\r\nconditions (sankharas), whether they are internal conditions, bodily conditions,\r\nor external conditions, are not-self—their nature is to change. Contemplate\r\nthis truth until you see it clearly.

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Keep\r\nmind and body separate

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This very lump of flesh that lies here in decline is\r\nsaccadhamma, the truth. The truth of this body is saccadhamma, and it is the\r\nunchanging teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha taught us to look at the body, to\r\ncontemplate it and to come to terms with its nature. We must be able to be at\r\npeace with the body, whatever state it is in. The Buddha taught that we should ensure\r\nthat it is only the body that is locked up in jail, and not let the mind be\r\nimprisoned along with it. Now as your body begins to run down and deteriorate\r\nwith age, don’t resist that, but don’t let your mind deteriorate with it. Keep\r\nthe mind separate. Give energy to the mind by realizing the truth of the way\r\nthings are. The Lord Buddha taught that this is the nature of the body. It\r\ncan’t be any other way. Having been born, it gets old and sick and then it\r\ndies. This is a great truth that you are presently encountering. Look at the\r\nbody with wisdom and realize it.

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Even if your house is flooded or burnt to the\r\nground, whatever the danger that threatens it, let it concern only the house.\r\nIf there’s a flood, don’t let it flood your mind. If there’s a fire, don’t let\r\nit burn your heart. Let it be merely the house, that which is external to you,\r\nthat is flooded and burned. Allow the mind to let go of its attachments. The\r\ntime is ripe.

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You have been alive a long time. Your eyes have seen\r\nany number of forms and colors, your ears have heard so many sounds, and you’ve\r\nhad any number of experiences. And that’s all they were— just experiences.\r\nYou’ve eaten delicious foods and all the good tastes were just good tastes,\r\nnothing more. The unpleasant tastes were just unpleasant tastes. That’s all. If\r\nthe eye sees a beautiful form, that’s all it is, just a beautiful form. An ugly\r\nform is just an ugly form. The ear hears an entrancing, melodious sound, and\r\nit’s nothing more than that. A grating, disharmonious sound is simply so.

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The Buddha said that rich or poor, young or old,\r\nhuman or animal, no being in this world can maintain itself in any one state\r\nfor long; everything experiences change and estrangement. This is a fact of\r\nlife that we can do nothing to remedy. But the Buddha said that what we can do\r\nis to contemplate the body and mind so as to see their impersonality, see that\r\nneither of them is “me” or “mine.” They have a merely provisional reality. It’s\r\nlike this house: it’s only nominally yours, you couldn’t take it with you\r\nanywhere.

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It is the same with your wealth, your possessions,\r\nand your family—they are all yours only in name; they don’t really belong to\r\nyou, they belong to nature. Now this truth doesn’t apply to you alone; everyone\r\nis in the same position, even the Lord Buddha and his enlightened disciples.\r\nThey differed from us in only one respect, and that was in their acceptance of\r\nthe way things are. They saw that it could be no other way.

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AJAHN CHAH – Lion’s Roar

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