22 May 2008
In order to answer what happens us when we die, we need to answer another question – what happens when we are alive?
What is happening now to us? In English we say ‘we are’ but it’s proper to say ‘we are becoming’ because things are becoming. We’re not the same person in two consecutive minutes.
A picture of you as baby looks different to you now. The fact is you are not exactly the same as that baby and not entirely a different person either. In a picture of you as a five year old, you are not exactly the same as that child and not entirely a different person either – the form, feelings and mental formations are different.
In the middle way there is no sameness and no otherness
You may think you are still alive but in fact you have been dying everyday, every minute, cells die and are born - for neither do we have funerals or birthdays (laughter).
Death is a very necessary condition of birth. With no death, there is no birth. They inter-are and happen in every moment to the experienced meditator. For instance a cloud may have died many times, into rain, streams, water. The cloud may want to wave to itself on earth! Rain is a continuation of the cloud. With a meditation practitioner nothing can hide itself. When I drink tea, it’s very pleasant to be aware I am drinking cloud.
When you are parents, you die and are reborn as your children. “You are my continuation, I love you.” The Buddha told us how to ensure a beautiful continuation – a compassionate thought, a beautiful thought. Forgiveness is our continuation. If anger, separation and hate arise, then we will not ensure a beautiful continuation. When we pronounce a word that is compassionate, good and beautiful that is our continuation.
When a cloud is polluted, the rain is polluted. So purifying thoughts, word and action creates a beautiful continuation. We can see the effects of our speech in our children. My disciples are my continuation – both monastic and lay. I want to transmit loving speech, action and thought. This is called karma in Buddhism.
This body of mine will disintegrate but my karma will continue – karma means action. My karma is already in the world. My continuation is everywhere in the world. When you look at one of my disciples walking with compassion, I know he is my continuation. I don’t want to transmit my negative emotions, I want to transform them before I transmit them. The dissolution of this body is not my end. Surely I will continue after the dissolution of this body. So don’t worry about my death, I am not going to die.
Let us meditate on the birth of a cloud. Does it have a birth certificate? (laughter) Examine the notion of birth – the notion that nothing can come from something, from no-one to someone. Is it possible for something to come from nothing? Scientifically this is not possible.
The cloud was water in an ocean, lake, river and heat from the sun gave it birth – the moment of continuation. For instance, birth – before you were born you were in your mother’s womb. The moment of birth is a moment of continuation. Is the moment of conception the start? You are half from your dad and half from your mum already, this is also a moment of continuation. When you practise meditation you can see things like that.
It is impossible for a cloud to die. It can become water, snow – it cannot become nothing. It is also impossible for us to die. Speech, action and thought continue in the future. The person who dies still continues because we are not capable of using meditators’ eyes. They continue in us and around us. All our ancestors are alive in us. Our ancestors are in our chromosomes.
I wrote a book ‘No Death, No Fear’. When conditions are right I manifest and when not, not. There is no coming, no going. Before she manifests we should not call her non-existing. Before manifestation you cannot call her non-being. They are a pair of opposites.
Meditating on the nature of creation and being may be the best way to understanding God. The theologian Paul Koenig describes God as the Ground of Being. Who then is the Ground of Non-being? This diminishes God. In Buddhism both notions of being and non-being can describe reality. Similarly, above and below, Europe and here.
Nirvana is the absence of all notions, birth and death, coming and going, sameness and otherness. According to Buddhism, ‘to be or not to be’ is not a real question.
Meditation takes us beyond to a place of fearlessness. We’re too busy, so we become victims of anger, fear. If we have really touched our nature of no birth/death, we know to die is one of the root conditions to realise oneself.
We have to learn how to die in every moment in order to be fully alive.
This teaching on the middle way is the cream of Buddha’s teaching. Many of our ancestors realised this and were not afraid of death.
We should be able to release our tensions. We are the karma we produce every day in our daily life, if we know how, to ensure continuation. I have a disciple in Vietnam who wants to build a stupa with my ashes. He wants to put a plaque with the words ‘Here lies my beloved teacher’. But I want to write ‘There is nothing here’ (lots of laughter). Because if you look deeply there is continuation.
I treasure the time I have left, more for me to practise. I want to generate energy of love, compassion and understanding so I can continue beautifully. I would like you to do the same. Use your time wisely. Every moment produce beautiful thoughts, loving, kindness, forgiveness. Say beautiful things, inspire, forgive, act physically to protect and help. We know we are capable of producing beautiful karma for good continuations and the happiness of other people.
When the time comes for dissolution of this body you may like to release it easily. You aren’t to grasp – releasing body and perception. Remember the image of a cloud in the sky seeing continuation in rice and ice-cream waving to itself. You can already see your continuation. The art of living is continuation. For myself and the other beings.
Sariputra – one of Buddha’s main disciples, Ananda and other friends went to see Anathapindika a lay disciple who was a businessman and dying. He had made time to come to dharma talks and weekly practice.
When the Venerables came they asked whether the pain had diminished. He replied that it was increasing. The monks led him on a meditation on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. After a few minutes there was no more suffering and he smiled.
When you sit close to a person dying talk to them of happy experiences in their life. Touch seeds of happiness in them.
The monks asked Anathapindika to look at his feelings and perceptions. “I am life without boundaries, this body is a residue.”
Help the dying person not to cling to his or her body. If there is regret, help them to see they are not their feelings. When conditions are manifested this body manifests and when not, it goes. The nature of this body is not birth, death, coming or going – not hurt by notion of being or non-being. I am free from birth or death. That practice helps me.
Anathapindika cried. Ananda asked, “why are you crying?”
“No, I don’t regret anything,” Anathapindika replied.
“Why are you crying?” asked Ananda.
“I cry because I am so moved by such a wonderful practice as today,” Anathapindika said.
“We monastics receive this every day,” said Ananda.
“There are those amongst us lay people who still need this, please tell the Lord Buddha this.”
Ananda promised to tell the Buddha, and Anathapindika died smiling peacefully.
Thich Nhat Hanh gave an illustration with a box of matches.
Holding up an unlit match, he said, “there is flame, but the conditions to manifest it are not here now.”
Then he lit the match and blew it out.
He said when the conditions were right (the conditions being his hand striking the match to the matchbox), the flame became. And when the conditions were not right, the flame was extinguished.
Courtersy: Holistic Hong Kong
21 May 2008
The Great Tao has no form;
It brings forth and raises heaven and earth.
The Great Tao has no feelings;
It regulates the course of the sun and the moon.
The Great Tao has no name;
It raises and nourishes the myriad beings.
I do not know its name —
So I call it Tao.
The Tao can be pure or turbid, moving or tranquil.
Heaven is pure, earth is turbid;
Heaven is moving, earth is tranquil.
The male is moving, the female is tranquil.
Descending from the origin,
Flowing toward the end,
The myriad beings are being born.
Purity — the source of turbidity.
Movement — the root of tranquillity.
Always be pure and tranquil;
Heaven and earth
Return to the primordial.
The human spirit is fond of purity,
But the mind disturbs it.
The human mind is fond of tranquillity,
But desires meddle with it.
Get rid of desires for good,
And the mind will be calm.
Cleanse your mind,
And the spirit will be pure.
Naturally the six desires won't arise,
The three poisons are destroyed.
Whoever cannot do this
Has not yet cleansed his mind,
His desires are not yet driven out.
Those who have abandoned their desires:
Observe your mind by introspection —
And see there is no mind.
Then observe the body,
Look at yourself from without —
And see there is no body.
Then observe others by glancing out afar —
And see there are no beings.
Once you have realised these three,
You observe emptiness!
Use emptiness to observe emptiness,
And see there is no emptiness.
When even emptiness is no more,
There is no more nonbeing either.
Without even the existence of nonbeing
There is only serenity,
Profound and everlasting.
When serenity dissolves in nothingness —
How could there be desires?
When no desires arise
You have found true tranquillity.
In true tranquillity, go along with beings;
In true permanence, realize inner nature.
Forever going along, forever tranquil —
This is permanent purity, lasting tranquillity.
In purity and tranquillity,
Gradually enter the true Tao.
When the true Tao is entered,
It is realised.
Though we speak of "realized,"
Actually there is nothing to attain.
Rather, we speak of realization
When someone begins to transform the myriad beings.
Only who has properly understood this
Is worthy to transmit the sages' Tao.
The highest gentleman does not fight;
The lesser gentleman loves to fight.
Highest Virtue is free from Virtue;
Lesser Virtue clings to Virtue.
All clinging and attachments
Have nothing to do with the Tao or the Virtue.
People fail to realize the Tao
Because they have deviant minds.
Deviance in the mind
Means the spirit is alarmed.
There is clinging to things.
Clinging to things,
There is searching and coveting.
Searching and coveting,
There are passions and afflictions.
Passions, afflictions, deviance, and imaginings
Trouble and pester mind and body.
Then one falls into turbidity and shame,
Ups and downs, life and death.
Forever immersed in the sea of misery,
One is in eternity lost to the true Tao.
The Tao of true permanence
Will naturally come to those who understand.
Those who understand the realization of the Tao
Will rest forever in the pure and tranquil.
By Seng Ts'an,
Third Patriarch of Ch'an
The Supreme Way is not difficult
If only you do not pick and choose.
Neither love nor hate,
And you will clearly understand.
Be off by a hair,
And you are as far apart as heaven from earth.
If you want it to appear,
Be neither for nor against.
For and against opposing each other --
This is the mind's disease.
Without recognising the mysterious principle
It is useless to practice quietude.
The Way is perfect like great space,
Without lack, without excess.
Because of grasping and rejecting,
You cannot attain it.
Do not pursue conditioned existence;
Do not abide in acceptance of emptiness.
In oneness and equality,
Confusion vanishes of itself.
Stop activity and return to stillness,
And that stillness will be even more active.
Only stagnating in duality,
How can you recognise oneness?
If you fail to penetrate oneness,
Both places lose their function.
Banish existence and you fall into existence;
Follow emptiness and you turn your back on it.
Excessive talking and thinking
Turn you from harmony with the Way.
Cut off talking and thinking,
And there is nowhere you cannot penetrate.
Return to the root and attain the principle;
Pursue illumination and you lose it.
One moment of reversing the light
Is greater than the previous emptiness.
The previous emptiness is transformed;
It was all a product of deluded views.
No need to seek the real;
Just extinguish your views.
Do not abide in dualistic views;
take care not to seek after them.
As soon as there is right and wrong
The mind is scattered and lost.
Two comes from one,
Yet do not even keep the one.
When one mind does not arise,
Myriad dharmas are without defect.
Without defect, without dharmas,
No arising, no mind.
The subject is extinguished with the object.
The object sinks away with the subject.
Object is object because of the subject;
Subject is subject because of the object.
Know that the two
Are originally one emptiness.
In one emptiness the two are the same,
Containing all phenomena.
Not seeing fine or coarse,
How can there be any bias?
The Great Way is broad,
Neither easy nor difficult.
With narrow views and doubts,
Haste will slow you down.
Attach to it and you lose the measure;
The mind will enter a deviant path.
Let it go and be spontaneous,
Experience no going or staying.
Accord with your nature, unite with the Way,
Wander at ease, without vexation.
Bound by thoughts, you depart from the real;
And sinking into a stupor is as bad.
It is not good to weary the spirit.
Why alternate between aversion and affection?
If you wish to enter the one vehicle,
Do not be repelled by the sense realm.
With no aversion to the sense realm,
You become one wit true enlightenment.
The wise have no motives;
Fools put themselves in bondage.
One dharma is not different from another.
The deluded mind clings to whatever it desires.
Using mind to cultivate mind --
Is this not a great mistake?
The erring mind begets tranquillity and confusion;
In enlightenment there are no likes or dislikes.
The duality of all things
Issues from false discriminations.
A dream, an illusion, a flower in the sky --
How could they be worth grasping?
Gain and loss, right and wrong --
Discard them all at once.
If the eyes do not close in sleep,
All dreams will cease of themselves.
If the mind does not discriminate,
All dharmas are of one suchness.
The essence of one suchness is profound;
Unmoving, conditioned things are forgotten.
Contemplate all dharmas as equal,
And you return to things as they are.
When the subject disappears,
There can be no measuring or comparing.
Stop activity and there is no activity;
When activity stops, there is no rest.
Since two cannot be established,
How can there be one?
In the very ultimate,
Rules and standards do not exist.
Develop a mind of equanimity,
And all deeds are put to rest.
Anxious doubts are completely cleared.
Right faith is made upright.
Nothing lingers behind,
Nothing can be remembered.
Bright and empty, functioning naturally,
The mind does not exert itself.
It is not a place of thinking,
Difficult for reason and emotion to fathom.
In the Dharma Realm of true suchness,
There is no other, no self.
To accord with it is vitally important;
Only refer to "not-two."
In not-two all things are in unity;
Nothing is not included.
The wise throughout the ten directions
All enter this principle.
This principle is neither hurried nor slow --
One thought for ten thousand years.
Abiding nowhere yet everywhere,
The ten directions are right before you.
The smallest is the same as the largest
In the realm where delusion is cut off.
The largest is the same as the smallest;
No boundaries are visible.
Existence is precisely emptiness;
Emptiness is precisely existence.
If it is not like this,
Then you must not preserve it.
One is everything;
Everything is one.
If you can be like this,
Why worry about not finishing?
Faith and mind are not two;
Non-duality is faith in mind.
The path of words is cut off;
There is no past, no future, no present.
The Supreme TAO is formless, yet It produces and nurtures all things.
The Supreme TAO has no desires, yet by Its power the Sun and Moon revolve in their orbits.
The Supreme TAO is nameless, yet It supports all things eternally.
I do not know its name but for title call It "TAO".
TAO manifests both the pure and the turbid, both as movement and stillness.
The Universe is Pure, our World is turbid.
The Universe moves, our World is still.
The light is pure, the dark is turbid.
The masculine is active, the feminine is passive.
Manifesting in Its Radical Essence, TAO flows even to the last of things, bringing forward The Universe and our World and all that belongs to them.
The pure is the cause of the turbid, and movement is the cause of stillness.
When people attain the power to transcend that which changes, abiding in purity and stillness, The Universe and our World are united in them.
The Inner Spirit of people loves purity, but the mind of people is often rebellious. The mind of people loves stillness, but the desires of people draw them into activity. When a person is constantly able to govern their desires, their mind becomes spontaneously still. When the mind is unclouded, the Inner Spirit is seen to be pure. Then, with certainty the desires will cease to come forward and the poisons will be eliminated and dissolved.
The reason people do not possess the ability to achieve this is because their minds are not clear and their desires are unrestrained.
Those who have the power to transcend their desires, looking within and contemplating mind, realizes that in mind, mind is not; looking without contemplating form, they realize that in form, form is not; looking at things still more remote and contemplating matter, they realize that in matter, matter is not.
When they have clearly thought about these three they perceive only a void, and when they contemplate the void, they realize that the void is also void and has become nothingness. The void having vanished into nothingness, they realize that the nothingness of nothing is also nothing, and when the nethermost nothingness is reached, there is truly to be found a deep and unchanging stillness.
In this profound stillness how can desires come forward? When desires can no longer come forward, there is essential and unchanging stillness.
Truth is essentially unchanging.
All things in The Universe and in our world are in essence unchanging.
The unfolding of a person's mind leads them to this unchanging truth.
In unchanging Stillness, unchanging Purity and Rest are found.
Those who attain Purity and Stillness enter into the Immutable TAO.
Having entered the Immutable TAO they are named Possessor of TAO.
Although they are named Possessor of TAO they know they do not possess it.
Only when they can transmute all living things can they be truly named Possessor of TAO.
Those who are able to understand this can lead others to Sacred TAO.
By Ko Hsuan.