Understanding Death, Observing Life
2022, November, Issue 19
Pay attention to what is happening now. What ordinary beings miss entirely is the life they live. This is why we don’t understand death. Because of mistaken ideas about self, we miss that everything everywhere, all at once, is in a continual state of change. We’re already in that same place where we go when we die. Self and other, life and death, are not separate. This is something that we can observe. It is illusory.
To really understand death, all we need do is observe life. It’s all here. And, to really understand life, we must observe mind, as well as appearances that mind perceives. This is very simple to do. We simply start to notice just what is going on here. Simple.
We have everything we need inside us, in our mind, in our heart. This amazing light that is experienced at the time of death is within us. We have never been different than that. We have always had everything. We have always been home. Just simply relax enough to see that. It’s here now.
What has been going on since beginningless beginnings is that we have remained poisoned by ignorance, attraction and aversion, clinging to what is not real, swayed by disturbing emotions, not seeing our real condition, even though it is so completely obvious. Other than ignorance, there’s no veil. Our real condition is not somewhere else.
Start paying attention to how everything is and you will discover how nothing has ever been secret. The key to our own liberation has been there all along, freely available. Awakening has been there all along. Nothing can prevent liberation.
When we relax enough to develop insight, we begin to see that every moment flows into every moment. We begin to see that we are really just energetic, transitory, transmigrating consciousness that barely ever finds itself aware of anything. The more we meditate, the more our mind relaxes, allowing ourselves the flexibility and the openness to really have some mindfulness in this moment.
Life itself reveals that we are not permanent, that nothing can ever be permanent. We begin to see that this reification that we tend to do is nonsense. Ego is nonsense, even though it is typical to place great importance on self, even though we can easily see that we cause all our own problems with ego. It’s simple enough to discover—no ego, no problems. All is good.
The trouble is that we cling to this idea of self with such a vengeance that we don’t care who it hurts or how much trouble we cause for ourselves. This is why generating Bodhicitta is the key to our awakening. When we successfully generate Bodhicitta, we learn to care more for others than we do for ourselves. We also see the preciousness of our own lives. By observing life and how people suffer, we start to develop such great compassion that it opens our heart and mind to that light that has always been there. We don’t need to die to go into the light. We begin to live in the light, giving everything we have. Awakening becomes only natural. We become altruistic.
Try sitting in a public place, just watching people. Pay attention to how they move, the expressions on their faces, how they are acting towards each other. This can be on a bus, in a restaurant, on a street corner, literally anywhere that people come and go, or gather. Find somewhere where you can safely just observe. You will see that people are uncomfortable in their bodies. People try their best to cover this up, which is really just a basic way to defend ego. You will see people who are sick, people aging, people who are anxious or in distress. Having barriers and boundaries is common. It’s like people put on masks, not wanting anyone to see who they really are. It’s a fascinating way to spend time, simply observing people.
After a while, it becomes very obvious that everyone is suffering greatly. You can see this on their faces, or in the ways they carry themselves. When you hear what people are saying, complaints fill the air.
To observe how people are is to observe our cyclic existence happening, right there in front of us. When you look closer, you can see innate wisdom in everyone. This light cannot be completely hidden. Even people who think they are living in darkness cannot hide every spark of light, no matter how hard they try. We are the light, even if we pretend that we are the darkness.
Life reveals death. Seeing both reveals cyclic existence. We begin to see why our life eventually ends and another one starts. We begin to see eternity.
Sit. Breathe. Relax. Pay attention. You will awaken, if you open your heart and mind completely, if you don’t let this intention to awaken slip away. To meditate on our impermanent condition, our lives, our death, rebirth, cyclic existence, as it is, not as we wish it to be, all will be revealed. We will awaken.