Perhaps I’ll reprhase that: Death is a big deal to us, as in, to the ego and the self, but not really in the larger scheme of things. As each being is born, each being will die. This is a fact of life with which we should be, but are not usually, accustomed.
Even so, as old of a concept as death actually is, we continually try to ignore it as if it won’t happen to us if we just sidestep it somehow. We put on the blinders and somehow fail to see the fact that it happens all around and all the time. Car drives by splattering insects upon it’s bumper, people ordering fresh lobster at the local eatery, farmers slaughtering cattle so people can have their holiday cookouts.
The examples of death happening all around us are so numerous I could never exhaust them even if given a year to do nothing but sit and write it out. Just look outside your home and think of the activities of the so-called “food chain” that is happening, nearly invisibly, before your very eyes.
Even vegetarians, while surely minimizing the intentional destruction of life, are indirectly responsible for the losses incurred when the ground is tilled to plant crops. This is life in Samsara; this is the real world. While some particularly mindful people work hard to avoid this, it is effectively inevitable and we have to at least be aware of it.
So what am I getting at with this?
I think contemplation on one’s own ending (and the ending of others) is as important as the matter of how one lives. Many people spend their days worried about their current possessions, seeking out new pleasures, and exploiting and abusing others in said pursuits. We spend very little time in the realization that we can’t take any of it with us when we die. If we can so deeply consider how much we want to live, happily and without suffering, we might be more likely to consider the fact that there are other beings wishing for the same.
“But, death is such a gloomy thing to think about! Are you depressed?” I suppose the subject comes to my mind more often of late with my dad’s illness, but it really isn’t a bad thing to think about in general. It isn’t inherently wrong to think about death, and it doesn’t have to be a matter of intense sadness either. How much we will miss a person, or a pet, or how much we think we’ll miss our own life, upon the dissolution of the body, is merely a matter of our attachment to said being and our aversion to change.
As as far as our “self” goes, if we really dig deeply, can we even find an unchanging, permanent “self” to fear loosing?
We cannot fight the immutable truth that all conditioned things will change and vanish, up to and including the human body and, dare I say it, one’s consciousness. I won’t purport to be an expert in the Buddha’s teachings, but one thing I have gathered from my readings is that there is nothing permanent that transmigrates from life to life. One’s Kamma seems to act as a jumper cable, if you will, from one being to the next, but not a single unchanging facet of a being transmigrates from one second to the next, much less one life to the next.
So death isn’t a big deal, but our fear of it probably is. Maybe understanding it, even just a little, on an intellectual level can help us to be prepared for it, to prevent our willfully causing it to come upon other beings, and maybe deeper contemplation of the subject, and it’s causes an conditions, will bring us one step closer to the ultimate peace.
I hope your mind is at ease and your body is untroubled, friends. Be well, and I will write again soon.