34. The Suffering of Death
Longchen Nyingtik Meditation 34
Take refuge and arouse bodhichitta.
Meditate on the suffering of death: When the hour of your death comes, you lie on your deathbed, and whatever you are wearing, eating, or saying becomes your very last. Some people may not even have the chance to leave their last words. Even if you have many friends and relatives surrounding you, they won’t help a bit for your final departure.
Now you go through the torment of death. The apparitions of the minions of the Lord of Death or the animals you have killed appear to you, and the dangerous bardo unfolds. When you breathe out for the very last time, the four elements of your body dissolve one after another in stages; leaving behind your body, possessions, loved ones, and all; you move on to your next life with utter reluctance.
Everyone is bound to meet up with death, a passage that turns everything familiar upside down. Like a hair being pulled out of a slab of butter, you must embark on the path all by yourself. However much wealth you may have possessed, you can’t bring even a morsel of food with you; however large retinues you may have kept, you can’t take a single person with you. How miserable!
Therefore, resolve: What’s the meaning of my activities in this life—protecting loved ones and fighting foes, managing households and amassing properties, caring for descendants and associates? From now on, I must devote myself to the path of liberation that leads to deathlessness.
Dedicate all the merit of your practice to all sentient beings.
It doesn’t take much for death to arrive. Recently we lost a friend who was only 23 years old but dropped dead suddenly, even though he was fine two days before. Acute mountain sickness was suspected as the cause, but it could have been something else. Really, life is fragile, just like that. Hence we must be watchful of the impermanence of death.
Then, what is useful at death? It is only the Dharma: besides this nothing will help. Today, many people covet money; to them money is everything and the source of every power. True, money is valuable to some extent when you’re alive, but when you die, you can’t bring a penny with you, no matter how big your savings account is.
What can you bring along exactly? It is the virtuous deeds you have done. For instance, if you have recited the Mani mantra one hundred times, the merit will follow you all your lives and remain effective, even after tens of thousands of years.
Thus, it is prudent to make preparations now for future lives. Compared with the few decades of this life, the future ones stretch to no end and deserve our careful consideration.
Ask an intelligent person: Which is more important—to live well for today, or to live well for the rest of your life? Of course, the rest of one’s life would carry more weight than a mere single day of living; the latter is no big deal and can be spent in whichever way.
Likewise, from the long-term perspective of Buddhism, the affair of this life that lasts scores of years is nothing to be fastidious about. Instead, the endless samsaric existence is what we must be most particular about. For that, we must not give in to indolence in our Dharma practice.