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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
41 SPRING 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly We need to have a sense of humor and not take our labels so seriously. It’s also important to loosen the strong sense of needing to be independent that Ajahn Amaro was talking about. Everything is interdependent. Even buying something at the grocery store with our own money is not an indepen- dent act. It’s connected to so many other people and factors, so many causes and conditions that come together to make it possible. Once we have that understanding and appreciation of interdependence, it won’t be difficult to accept help from other people when we need it. Frank ostaseski: When I had my heart attack, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, a beautiful Dzogchen master, called me. He also had trouble with his heart, so I asked him how to deal with all the drama and the confusion, the precariousness and the beauty that seems to accompany this experience. He said, “Well, I thought, it’s good to have a heart, and if you have a heart, you should expect that it should have problems.” It’s true, all hearts, all bodies, all beings have problems, and we just have to accept that it’s part of the deal. I wouldn’t trade my heart or any of its suffering. Part of its beauty is its fragility. Buddhadharma: That speaks to an actual change in what we perceive as beautiful. Frank ostaseski: Yes. When I’m holding the hand of someone very old or of a dying patient, I notice that their skin is almost transparent, and it’s as if their being becomes that way as well. It’s as if the wind could blow right through them, and there isn’t much that’s obscuring who they actually are. In the aging process, we can’t sustain the energy that’s required to maintain our self-image. It can’t be propped up anymore. So aging, sickness, and even death are conducive to our opening. It’s vital that we reflect on this and reflect that back to the person who’s aging, not in some imposing way, but simply by appreciating it. jan chozen Bays: Cherry blossoms in Japan are appreciated for their transient quality. The poignancy of the briefness of their bloom and their falling is what is beautiful. The very fading of the beauty we want to hold on to is the beauty. Frank ostaseski: The decay actually makes the beauty more apparent. jan chozen Bays: Yes, exactly. Buddhadharma: At some point, aging and old age give way to dying, whether sudden or prolonged. What’s important to emphasize in the dying process, whether it is our own or that of someone close to us? PonloP rinPoche: A friend of mine, a student, came to me a few years ago and told me she was dying of cancer. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. “What are you talking about,” I said. “We’re all dying.” Whether you’re enlightened or con- fused, rich or poor, you will die. That’s the number one thing we need to completely accept. Secondly, we need to see how we cling to this life, and how we can let go of that clinging. At the time of death, it’s important to have a peaceful environment and calm and gentle mind, however you can do that—through Buddhist teachings, Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. No matter what your religious belief, it’s important to have a calm mind. Yes, there are many teachings and prac- tices we could do, but the heart of the matter is keeping the mind clear and peaceful through whatever practices we do. In Vajrayana Buddhism, we talk mostly about resting in the nature of mind. It’s said that your last thought is the most important, because that is what will join your mindstream from this life to the next. Frank ostaseski: In the chaos of illness, one calm person in the room can make all the difference. PonloP rinPoche: Absolutely. Frank ostaseski: When we help a sick person, moving them from the bed to the commode, for example, we lend them our body, the strength of our arms and legs. But we can also lend them the concentration and stability of our minds, and the con- fidence and fearlessness of our hearts. We can open and expand our hearts, which can inspire the other person to open theirs in a similar way. We become a refuge, a presence that restores trust in the patient’s capacity to heal, to come to wholeness. Whether you’re enlightened or confused, you will die. That’s the number one thing we need to completely accept. Secondly, we need to see how we cling to this life, and how we can let go of that clinging. —Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (Facing page) Xu Bing blow, 2004 Artist, Xu Bing. Photography by Jeff Morgan Xu Bing, a Chinese-born artist based in New York, created artwork with the dust he collected in New York following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. xuBingwAswinneroFtheArtesmundiprizeexhiBitionAtnAtionAlmuseumgAlleryCArdiFFwAlesuk