Friday, 30 June 2017

Tibetan Mindfulness of Death Meditation1

From Chapter 9 of Tsong Khapa's Stages on the Path of Enlightenment (aka The Nine-Point Death Meditation)


The faults of not cultivating mindfulness of death.
If you are thus seduced by the hope that this body and life will last for a long time, you will create a strong attachment to goods, services, and the like. As if swept away by the current of a river, you will be immersed in strong hostility toward what prevented you, or what you fear might prevent you, from having these objects of attachment; in delusion that is ignorant of their faults; and, as a consequence of these two, in afflictions such as pride and jealousy, as well as strong secondary afflictions. (145)
 
The benefits of cultivating mindfulness of death
Therefore, the thought that you will not die is the source of all deterioration, and the remedy for this is mindfulness of death, the source of all that is excellent. Consequently, you should not think that this is a practice for those who do not have some other profound teaching to cultivate in meditation. Nor should you think that although this is something worthy of meditation, you should cultivate it just a little at the beginning of the meditation session because it is not suitable for continuous practice. Rather, be certain from the depths of you heart that it is necessary in the beginning, middle, and end, and then cultivate it in meditation.(147)
 
The kind of mindfulness of death you should develop
Thus, when you contemplate impermanence again and again, you think, “I will undoubtedly separate from my body and resources soon,” and you stop craving that hopes not to leave them. Consequently, you will not fear death out of the distress of leaving.  (148)
 
How to cultivate mindfulness of death
By way of the three roots, nine reasons, and three decisions. The three roots are:
 
1. Death is certain
a- Death will definitely come and therefore cannot be avoided
The wise know that all
Who have come and will come perish,
Leave this body, and go to the next life.
Therefore, be sure to engage in pure behaviour by abiding in the teaching. (The Collection of Indicative Verses)(149)

b- Our lifetime cannot be extended and constantly diminishes
At the end of this life, the Lord of Death will destroy you and you will pass into the next world. Until then, there will never be a time when your life span does not diminish, whether you are going somewhere, walking around, or lying down. Thus, starting from the moment that you enter the womb, you do not remain for even an instant, but go headlong toward the next lifetime. Therefore, even your intervening life is exclusively consumed in a procession toward death led by messengers, sickness and aging. Consequently, do not rejoice in the thought that while you are living you are stationary and not moving toward the next lifetime. For example, when falling from the top of a high cliff, the time of falling to earth through space is not enjoyable. (150)

c- The certainty of death is such that even while you are alive, there is little time for spiritual practice
Even if you could live for the longest period explained above, it would be wrong to think that you have time. Much of your life has already been wasted. Half of what is left will be spent in sleep, and many of your waking hours well be wasted with other distractions. Further, as youth fades, the time of aging arrives. Your physical and mental strength deteriorate such that even if you want to practice religion, you lack the capacity to do so. Consequently, you have no more than a few chances to practice the teachings. (152)