Most people don’t even like to hear the word ‘death.’ They prefer to forget that death will eventually come. As we discussed in another post, Impermanence: The Only Thing Constant is Change, wanting things and life to last forever is impossible. We must strive to understand that all bodies are impermanent. This is not done to depress us, to be morbid or to scare us. On the contrary, reflecting on death with the right mental attitude can serve as a valuable tool in your pursuit of inner peace. Contemplating death can give you courage, put your mind at east, provide you calmness and provide insight into the nature of existence. Such an exercise also serves a discouragement to excessive greed, attachment and anger.
At birth, we bring old age, sickness and death along with us. Life is a continuous movement of change towards death. Birth has created this burden for us but we usually can’t accept this. We think that dying or not being born would be the imaginable thing of all. We usually only think about how much we want in the future and then we desire more. We usually say, “In the next life, I want to be born a wealth person or be born among the gods.” We think
Whether you are a novice or monk, king or peasant, we are all lumps of deterioration. There are no exceptions. Our bodies are aging every day. Ask yourself, have you ever seen a very old person with a beautiful complexion or a very old person with a lot of strength?
Yet we tend to think that our bodies are long lasting and strong; that we will never age, get sick or die. Everything has its limits. We must realize that life is uncertain and that death is certain. There has never been a single living being who has escaped it. While we are alive we should think about death. We shouldn’t consider it something far away because the time of death is uncertain. We can die at any moment. It can be said that life is like a candle in the wind: at any moment it can be snuffed out. Understanding that the time of death is uncertain should give us incentive to practice the path to inner peace now. We should not waste this current opportunity and precious human life.
We are obsessed and fooled by the body when the real sanctuary is within ourselves – the mind. The mind is our true sanctuary. The true sanctuary is the heart. There is nothing within the body you can depend on. It’s not too bad when you’re still young, but as you get older things begin to break down. Everything begins to fall apart. There is no knowledge or science which can prevent this natural source of things.
All bodies are composed of the four elements: earth, water, wind and fire. A body is just an consolidation of earth, water, wind and fire, which we call a “person.” The earth elements is that which is solid in the body: the flesh, skin, bones, etc. The water elements are those aspects of the body which are liquid. The fire element is the faculty of warmth in the body, while the winds coursing through the body are the wind element.
Whether taken separately as earth, water, fire and wind or taken together and labeled them as a “human being,” they’re all impermanent. They are all unstable, uncertain and in a state of constant change – not stable for a single moment! Our body is unstable and constantly changing, whether its our hair, nail, teeth or skin – everything changes.
Most people become alarmed when their time of death is near because they are not prepared for it. Understanding the path to inner peace, including impermanence, helps us to understand that because we are born, then we have to die. To understand and face death is nothing more than a temporary end to a temporary existence. Buddhism teaches us to develop an understanding of the way of things so that suffering doesn’t arise. If we think wrongly, then we are at odds with the world and at odds with the truth.
Suppose you became very sick and had to go to the hospital. Most people think, “Please don’t let me die, I want to get better.” This is the wrong way to think and it will lead to suffering. To not suffer, you must say to yourself, “If I recover, I recover. If I die, I die.”
This is the right thinking because you can’t ultimately control the outcome. We can find peace and freedom by not identifying with the changing forms. If you have this thought and attitude, whether you recover or die, you don’t have to worry and you won’t suffer. When we accept that fact, our minds can be at ease and when death eventually does come, we can accept it calmly knowing we have lived our lives skillfully. If we do not accept it, we will shake and tremble in fear at the face of death.
To find this inner peace now and when death is at the doorstep, medication on death is extremely beneficial. Remembering the certainty of our own deaths and that at the time of death, family, wealth and fame will be of no use to us – we must turn our minds to the practice of Buddhism.