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Preparing for Death
2023, August, Issue 59
“Dzogchen is considered a very high teaching, containing as it does practices that lead so directly to such complete realization as the Body of Light . . . But if a being is truly realized, he or she has no need of a path at all.”
~Chögyal Namkhai Norbu~
A Spiritual Path is required, if we are to ever awaken. There is no doubt about that. When we die, our Spiritual Path becomes apparent. We see ourselves honestly, with nothing whatsoever hidden. Our karma, attachments, our grasping at concept and meaning, all bring us back.
When we have a Spiritual Path, it is difficult to carry that with our consciousness from one lifetime to another. This is something that really needs to be strong enough for us to carry through the death bardo, as I explained in detail in The Frog: A Spiritual Autobiography, Spanning Many Lifetimes. We must prepare for death, we must prepare for the transition from one lifetime to another. This is not so easy, and it should not be taken lightly.
As I have said many times before, start with Bodhicitta. Even if you do not have the capacity to think about helping others, at least think about your own life! Cultivating an indestructible commitment to awakening is the most compassionate thing that you can do for yourself. If you do not do this, then this feeling of angst, dread, and terror will be what propels you uncontrollably from one lifetime to another, each according to their own karma, which will be revealed without anything hidden.
Death is a direct experience of what is, as it is, even if these storms and visions have no substance. If you have done nothing to bring benefit to your own life, you will continue to spiral out of control for all eternity, at least until you obtain the key of Bodhicitta. This should not be something that you put off until a later date, as death comes to us all in unexpected ways.
Whatever your Spiritual Practice is now, cultivate that with the mind of enlightenment. Become better at that. Don’t change to anything else. Don’t discard what you now find precious. It’s precious to you for a reason.
With the attitude of Bodhicitta, or enlightenment mind, examine all that you believe. Realize that this is like a precious reflection that came from the light, even if what you believe may seem somewhat dark. Look at what brings benefit and what is harmful. Don’t move from where you are, just observe mind, observe your thoughts as well. If something disturbs you or seems harmful to yourself or others, then you can discard that, it is of no use. If something rings of love and compassion, then you know it will bring you benefit when you die.
Having Bodhicitta is pretty simple, when you break it down into the components of love, compassion and the aspiration to awaken. When you have the capacity to apply that in your life, it gets a bit more complicated, simply because we don’t always know what might bring benefit to self or others. This is why we must practice every chance we get, cultivating Bodhicitta, becoming a real good-doer. We will see what we have done in life. If we have cultivated Bodhicitta, accumulating good karma along the way, then that will not be hidden. We won’t be as disturbed by our lives. We’ll see our life as it is, and this will propel us into the next lifetime, and the lifetime after that, and after that, until we finally awaken.
When we have fully awakened, only then will we be able to choose to live among sentient beings. Awakened beings have total freedom. With this awareness, bringing blessings to ordinary beings is not so complicated. It’s very obvious when Ultimate Bodhicitta comes with realization. This realization may bring benefit in ways that don’t seem possible. Among us there are many emanations of those who have already awakened, even if they are seldom recognized.
Contemplate impermanence. Contemplate death, this mad ride you will encounter when your body fails. Are you ready for that? If you have a physical body, then death is a certainty. A Spiritual Path is essential. Remain completely still, having devotion to your own Guru, which is this light we talk about, beyond belief. Remain at ease, persevere no matter what. Cultivate Bodhicitta and good karma.
Utilize every moment of your life as an opportunity to awaken. Meditate, gaze at mind, be realistic about it, without cultivating fantasies. Simply look at your own life, as it is, then cultivate Bodhicitta in a realistic way, understanding why this is the precious key that you need. Aspire to wish yourself and all beings the good fortune of discovering the Path that leads to realization, each in their own capacity.
When we are on a Spiritual Path, it is important to understand that we should never be corrupted by our own ego. It is important to know that awakening is about discovering who we are, as well as the essence of reality itself. Be ready to discard things that are harmful, even if your ego insists otherwise. A Spiritual Path is a great challenge, one leading to your own awakening.
Blessings in Light,