September 16 : Make Our Lives Vivid

When we meditate on death, we must be very clear about what the correct conclusion is. People who do not know the Dharma can fall into a panicky fear of death, and people who do understand the Dharma properly go to wise concern about death. It is very important we discriminate between the two, and not just assume that because we are Dharma practitioners we automatically understand the meditation properly, because we do not always. I have seen it happen; people meditate on death and then they are sobbing because they are thinking of their family dying, thinking of their death, thinking of their friends dying, and are filled with feelings of loss and grief.

It is very clear these feelings are attachment to our life and attachment to the people we love. It is also based on the view of permanence, on people being permanent and on people never ceasing to exist. When the reality of that gross impermanence hits them in the face they fall into fear or despair.

Being ordinary beings, sometimes that fear or that grief comes up. What we must do when it does is to not fall prey to it but learn to think about death from the Dharma viewpoint. Meditate on the correct way to view death and understand the incredible opportunity that we have with this life to practise the Dharma. Given how short this life is, and how short this opportunity is, it is important that we make use of it and do not waste it by doing silly things. That is the purpose of the meditation on death in Buddhism; that makes our minds and our lives very vivid.

When we have an awareness of death, our life is alive because we really cherish and make use of every moment. With attachment, we tend to live on automatically and be spaced out. If we understand death properly, we know that reality liberates our mind from taking our lives for granted, from reifying other people and ourselves and making them permanent. It frees us from all this grief and despair and motivates us to want to practicse in order to attain liberation from samsara.

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