Contemplating death and life. One of the delegates from Thailand was killed brutally by a mentally unstable security man in the middle of International Congress on HIV Drug Therapy in Glasgow, UK this week. She posted a picture of the conference on her facebook page only a few hours before the incident. How uncertain life and death is. May she rest in peace.
Why does death shake the mind? Because we identify with the body (rupa), we identify with feelings (vedana), perceptions (sanna), thought constructs (sankhara), sensory consciousness (vinnana). As long as we identify with them, we’re going to be shaken not only by death, but even by the slightest changes in these things. Life seems to be going along well and all of a sudden something comes up unexpectedly. We’re rocked by it. So the path of practice that allows us to let go of these things, to stop identifying with them: That’s the path of practice that’s the best use of our time right now.
There’s a passage in the Pali Canon where a group of monks are going to a strange land. So they go to say good-bye to Venerable Sariputta, and he asks them, “Suppose someone asks you: ‘What does your teacher teach?’What are you going to say?” Apparently they hadn’t given much thought to this, so they said, “Well, what would you say?” And Sariputta said, “Our teacher teaches the abandonment of the attachment to the five khandhas. And the next question would be, “What advantage do you see in that?” And the answer: “Because when the five khandas change, the mind isn’t shaken by them.” That’s Sariputta’s synopsis of what the whole teaching is all about: how to keep the mind from being shaken.
And this is what we’re working toward, what they call the unshakeable release of the mind. To get there involves virtue, concentration, discernment: heightened virtue, heightened mind, heightened discernment. With heightened virtue, you really are meticulous about your precepts, you really are meticulous about your actions. The heightened mind is the development of strong concentration. Heightened discernment is the discernment that sees through our attachments. These are all activities, things we can do.
If the anticipations of the future are coming up in the mind, reflect on death, because you don’t know when or how it’s going to happen. You have to be prepared for that eventuality. Someone once said that wisdom starts with the reflection on death, realizing that you don’t have all the time in the world. You can’t just do anything you want to. You’ve got to figure out what you are going to do with the small amount of time remaining to you.What is the best use of your life? And again, that boils down to: What are you doing right now? If you’re putting the mind in shape so that death won’t shake it, you’re doing the right thing with right now.
So days and nights fly past, fly past, what are you doing right now? Try to keep
coming up with better and better answers for this question, not in terms of the words
you would use to answer the Buddha, but just simply by being very careful about what
you do. Because it all comes down to your actions. That’s what the Buddha's teaching is all about.
An excerpt from Days Fly Past by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Metta Forest Monastery
13560 Muutama Lane
Valley Center, California.
July 28, 2004
Thank you Ajahn Brahm for this brilliant Dhamma talk and thank you Ajaan Thanissaro for the above Dhamma talk "Days Fly Past" . May everyone be free from attachment to the Five Khandas (senses). May everyone be free from greed, hatred and delusion leading to realisation of Nibbana in this very life.