Monday, March 20, 2006

Birth and Death

A few weeks ago I had an email from a woman who studies with me. The subject line was, Death. This is how she contemplates preparation for death: "I think that living in the moment and welcoming each new experience and letting go of the last is preparation for death. That learning to do that in meditation and being willing to let go helped us get beyond birth and death so that death is just the next step, when the time is right".

Today the author of the email and I talked on the telephone. Our last contact before she has a potentially life threatening medical procedure. I gave words of support and encouragement; offered my thoughts on the use of the rosary to help keep focused, pointed to faith and reminded her that many people will be offering merit. She quietly said, "Thank you" and I knew there was very little I could or even needed to say. She iswell prepared.

In the opening paragraph of the Shushogi (What is Truly Meant by Training and Enlightenment), Great Master Dogen speaks about the necessity of understanding birth and death completely and of letting go, of going beyond the opposites. The paragraph ends with, "The understanding of the above breaks the chains that bind one to birth and death therefore this problem, which is the greatest in all Buddhism, must be completely understood".

The chain referred to is the chain of dependent origination. Simply put, this is a description of how beings remain bound within the cycle of birth and death. There are twelve links in the chain of dependent origination and another twelve that describe how the cycle ceases.

So, there is nothing like having impermanence come into ones life for focusing on basic practice and the reasons for training in the Way.

All Merit offered for those who sit in waiting rooms and for those whose life may hang in the balance.