Confronting Mortality

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Yavana
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Confronting Mortality

Post by Yavana » Sun Dec 23, 2018 3:01 am

What activities and practices should be undergone by someone confronting their mortality such as 1) a terminally sick person, 2) a soldier being sent to war, or 3) a prisoner awaiting execution? Asking here to get a wide range of responses from those of different lineages.

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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by Malcolm » Sun Dec 23, 2018 5:50 am

The Cicada wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 3:01 am
What activities and practices should be undergone by someone confronting their mortality such as 1) a terminally sick person, 2) a soldier being sent to war, or 3) a prisoner awaiting execution? Asking here to get a wide range of responses from those of different lineages.
Look at the Wisdom at the Time of Death Sutra. It pretty much spells out how any Mahayana practitioner should die.


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明安 Myoan
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by 明安 Myoan » Sun Dec 23, 2018 7:36 am

Read the Three Pure Land Sutras.
Make a vow to go to Amitabha's Pure Land to continue cultivation in a supportive environment.
Add Amitabha's name, mantra, or dharani to one's practices, or make it one's exclusive practice if the situation is very dire.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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Grigoris
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by Grigoris » Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:54 am

The Sutra is only two pages long, yet the book is 98 pages! :smile:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

amanitamusc
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by amanitamusc » Mon Dec 24, 2018 4:38 am

Grigoris wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:54 am
The Sutra is only two pages long, yet the book is 98 pages! :smile:
I love a good commentary. :twothumbsup:

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tomschwarz
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by tomschwarz » Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:20 pm

Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 7:36 am
go to Amitabha's Pure Land
How are you, or anyone else, going to do that? I mean sure the intention of loving kindness and all things amitabha will help to calm the mind and remove distorted aflicted mental states.... ....but what about emptiness? Emptiness is said to be rhe ultimate truth, that all things are empty
Signless
Absence of defining characteristics
Etc...

So lets assume that everyone can intuitively see the conceptual relative truth. And let's assume that the Buddhist dharma identified a non-conceptual heart level realization of the ultimate truth as both very hard and very important for all things good (e.g. happiness). Hence the path of seeing.

So lets say that a practitioner can see emptiness. How will it the help him/her to go to one land verses the other? Isn't that a negation of emptiness: "absence of defining characteristics "? Note that in the definition of emptiness, there is "all things are empty" and not "all thing are not empty". So if all things are empty, why make a dash for one land versus the other? Just to create a good vibe at the time of death? Albeit that good vibe is surely a good thing in any case, even if it is conceptual and denies the basic tenants of the perfection of wisdom....
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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Miroku
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by Miroku » Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:59 pm

From the book about dying that can be found on the resource page of Garchen Buddhist Institute (Garchen.net)
H.E. Garchen Rinpoche: A Brief Teaching on Impermanence and Letting Go

One day we will die; no one escapes this fate. The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices says,
"Consciousness, the guest, will cast aside the guest-house of the body." When we die, we have to
leave everything behind, so there’s no point to being attached to this life. We should ask
ourselves, “Does it really matter whether or not I’m prepared for death? Why is it important to
receive instructions on dying?” In receiving these instructions, we learn that our consciousness
should exit the body through the crown at the time of death. If we don’t know this, we will be
tossed around by afflictions such as hatred, desire, ignorance, and jealousy. In this state of
delusion we lack autonomy. We are controlled by mental afflictions that cause consciousness to
exit the body through one of the eight impure gates leading to birth in samsaric existence. All
happiness and suffering relies on karma, cause and effect. It’s crucial to use the little time we
have in this world to make our life meaningful.

Through experiencing suffering we develop trust in the Buddha's teachings. The nature of
samsaric existence is suffering. The root of all suffering is self-grasping, which can only be
destroyed by love and compassion. The more people give rise to love the better the world
becomes. There is nothing more important than to die with love. That is all we need to take with
us at death. The Three Jewels protects those who die with an altruistic mind.

Suffering and pain are experienced mainly in the body. The body is impermanent, a compounded
phenomenon created by the mind through habitual patterns. It’s not who we really are. Clinging
to physical comfort and having aversion toward discomfort is a delusion of the mind. After
death, we don’t have a physical body anymore, yet we experience more intense suffering in the
bardo. By letting go of attachment and aversion in this life we avoid experiencing dreadful bardo
appearances. That’s why it’s important to reflect on the dream-like nature of this life again and
again. The ability to recognize afflictive emotions’ empty nature while alive stays with us after
death, and we will be able to recognize the bardo’s empty nature. However, if we succumb to
afflictive emotions and accumulate negative karma, then due to the imprint in the mind
frightening bardo appearances will seem real.

Life is like a fleeting dream. Death and falling asleep are similar. The body dies, but the mind
cannot die. Because we believe afflictive emotions are real, we create our future body. We are
born and die countless times. By not grasping at whatever arises we become free and attain the
deathless state of an Awareness-holder. However, having knowledge only won’t liberate us; we
have to experience that suffering is nothing but a thought, a habit. By gaining the experience that
habitual thoughts don’t actually exist, we realize death is just a habitual thought. If we don’t
grasp at the truth of these thoughts, we will attain the deathless body of the yidam deity.
Remember this at the time of death.

Our only true, constant friends are the Three Jewels, the guru, and the yidam deity. All worldly
companions are impermanent; we can’t take a single one with us at death. So stop all negative
thoughts and pray to the deity or the guru. And don’t worry too much about death—this only
creates more suffering. Change negative thoughts and think about Tara or any other yidam deity
instead. Worrying about death brings no benefit. We all will die one day, so it’s pointless to
wonder when it will happen. When the karmic time comes, we die. We can’t say that we aren’t
ready to die; there’s no right time to die. We don't have a choice because it’s karma. If it’s not
your time, you won’t die even if you think you will. So, let go of worrying and allow karma to
unfold.

My practice of Phowa—transference of consciousness at the time of death—is twofold: first and
foremost, it’s the Bodhicitta Phowa of love and compassion, which is based on the Thirty-Seven
Bodhisattva Practices. Secondly, I practice the Dharmakaya Phowa—resting in the Nature of
Mind (see page 17). I practice Tara day and night, all the time, to help my students and all
sentient beings. If you recite at least some Tara mantras, you can connect to my practice and I’ll
be able to help you. Even if you don’t practice anything, my prayers still help but their power to
benefit won’t be as strong. So, you must do your part and practice. Remember precious human
life in the morning upon awakening, remember karma throughout the day, and remember
death and impermanence in the evening before going to sleep. You should also take the blessing
pills (dutsi) every day. Take one small grain below your tongue every night before going to bed.
I am sending millions of Taras to help you and all beings.
Sorry for such a long quote.
A boat delivers you to the other riverbank.
A needle stitches up your clothes.
A horse takes you where you want to go.
Bodhicitta will bring you to Buddhahood.
~ Khunu Lama Rinpoche

Even non-buddhists have many virtuous accomplishments
~ Jigten Sumgon

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明安 Myoan
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by 明安 Myoan » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:00 am

tomschwarz wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:20 pm
...
Hi, Tom. See question 5 here. The other questions might be of interest as well.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:05 am

Learn to maintain your practice as you fall asleep.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:33 am

tomschwarz wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:20 pm
Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 7:36 am
go to Amitabha's Pure Land
So lets say that a practitioner can see emptiness. How will it the help him/her to go to one land verses the other? Isn't that a negation of emptiness: "absence of defining characteristics "? Note that in the definition of emptiness, there is "all things are empty" and not "all thing are not empty". So if all things are empty, why make a dash for one land versus the other? Just to create a good vibe at the time of death? Albeit that good vibe is surely a good thing in any case, even if it is conceptual and denies the basic tenants of the perfection of wisdom....
Yeah, of course, if you grasp emptiness that goes even beyond notions of life and death,
then you don't need to conjure up Amitabha or his pure land.
On the other hand, if you really grasp Sunyata then you experience every moment as the next life,
the next incarnation of your karmic bundle. We die and take rebirth 64 times a second.

That's actually the "profound" or "deeper" understanding of Pure Land Buddhism.
It's not just when the karmic bundle of this particular body "dies" and comes apart.
It's not only at the "moment of death", but rather, constantly, which is why many Pure Land buddhists recite Amitabha's name constantly.

I think, confronting what we usually refer to as death, as in the context of the opening comment to this thread,
it is not hard to prepare for, but it is very difficult to know how one will really feel at the last moment.

This reminds me of the famous Zen Story where a soldier, about to go to battle, asks the master if there is really a heaven or a hell.
The master doesn't answer, so the soldier pulls out his sword to chop off the master's head, and the master says,
"you have just opened the gates of hell"
and so the soldier, shocked, puts the sword back in the sheath and the master says,
"now, you have opened the gates of heaven".
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Fo Ming (Buddha Bright) Monk"
People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.

如傑優婆塞
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by 如傑優婆塞 » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:23 am

Try this & that ... for starters
And then, there's this... beloved, recited and memorised by many in the East Asian Tradition

stevie
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by stevie » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:38 pm

Yavana wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 3:01 am
What activities and practices should be undergone by someone confronting their mortality such as 1) a terminally sick person, 2) a soldier being sent to war, or 3) a prisoner awaiting execution? Asking here to get a wide range of responses from those of different lineages.
Generally the assumption should be that one is practicing before becoming terminally sick, before being sent to war and before having become a prisoner awaiting execution (after having totally failed in one's practice).
In that case the past practice, successful or not, is the basis upon which one meets being terminally sick, being sent to war or having become a prisoner awaiting execution (after having totally failed in one's practice). And one surely knows what to do due to past practice.
If one is totally isolated from buddha dharma and then becomes terminally sick or one is sent to war or one becomes a prisoner awaiting execution then there is no advice from a buddhist perspective.

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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:25 am

Agree with the spirit of the above post.

In a profound sense, *all* Buddhist practice is concerned with 'confronting mortality'. There is a saying in many spiritual traditions, not only Buddhism, that the aim of spiritual discipline is to 'practice for death'.

After all, one of the 'four sights' that inspired Gautama to seek liberation was that of a corpse being borne to the funeral pyre.

Of course, there might be a sense of real urgency, rather than just a general realisation, that arises when confronting the imminent fact of mortality. As Samuel Johnson said, '“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” But it's still the case that 'awareness of mortality' is one of the underlying principles of the whole Buddhist path.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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明安 Myoan
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by 明安 Myoan » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:37 am

Wayfarer reminded me too that thinking about death and mortality is one of the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind.

Here is Tsoknyi Rinpoche on the subject.
Here are teachings from Thubten Chodron during a retreat on the Four Thoughts.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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Grigoris
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Re: Confronting Mortality

Post by Grigoris » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:26 pm

tomschwarz wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:20 pm
How are you, or anyone else, going to do that?
Due to the strength of Amitabha's vows.

PS You are confusing emptiness (phenomena have no inherent characteristics) with nihilism (there are no phenomena).
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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