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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
43 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly wWhat would you do if your doctor told you that you only had three months to live? Would you waste this time bemoaning your fate? Would you give yourself over to pain and despair? Or would you resolve to live each moment of those three months in a deep way? If you do that, three months of life is a lot. Some twenty years ago, a young man came to me and told me exactly this—that he had only three months to live. I asked him to sit down with me and have a cup of tea. “My friend,” I said to him, “you must drink this tea in such a way that life is possible. We must live this moment we have together in a deep way.” One day is a lot. A picnic lasts only half a day, but you can live it fully, with a lot of happiness. So why not three months? Your life is a kind of picnic, and you should arrange it intelligently. Someone I knew once said to his Buddhist teacher, “Master, I would like to go on a picnic with you.” The teacher was very busy, so he replied, “Sure, sure, we’ll go on a picnic one of these days.” Five years later they still hadn’t had the picnic. One day the master and the disciple were on some business together, and they found themselves caught in a traffic jam. There were so many people in the street that the master asked the disciple, “What are all these people doing?” The disciple saw that it was a funeral procession. He turned to the master and said, “They’re having a picnic.” Don’t wait to start living. Live now! Your life should be real in this very moment. If you live like that, three months is a lot! You can live every moment of every day deeply, in touch with the wonders of life. Then you will learn to live, and, at the same time, learn to die. A person who does not know how to die does not know how to live, and vice versa. You should learn to die—to die immediately. This is a practice. Are you ready to die now? Are you ready to arrange your schedule in such a way that you could die in peace tonight? That may be a challenge, but that’s the practice. If you don’t do this, you will always be tormented by regret. If you don’t want to suffer, if you don’t want to be tormented by regret, the only solution is to live every minute you are given in a deep way. That’s all there is to it. The only way to deal with insecurity, fear, and suffering is to live the present moment in a profound way. If you do that, you will have no regrets. That’s what the young man who was told he had three months to live chose to do. He decided to live every moment of his life in a very deep way. When he started doing that, he felt the sources of his despair leaving him, and he got himself back on his feet. It was a miracle. Though his doctor had pronounced a kind of death sentence on him, he lived another fifteen years. I gave him the dharma name Chân Sinh, which means “true life.” Before he was told he was going to die, he didn’t know what real life was. But after that happened, he learned what real life was, because he was there for every moment of every day. Albert Camus, in his novel The Stranger, used the term “the moment of awareness.” When the protagonist of the novel, Meursault, learns he is going to be executed for the murder he has committed, anxiety, fear, and anger are born in him. In despair, he is lying on his prison bed looking at the ceiling when, for the first time, he sees the square of blue sky through the skylight. The sky is so blue—it’s the first time in his life that he has gotten deeply in touch with the blue sky. He has already lived for decades without ever really seeing the blue sky. Perhaps he has looked at the sky from time to time, but he has not seen it in a deep way. Now, three days before his death, he is able to touch the blue sky in a very deep way. The moment of awareness has manifested. Meursault decides to live every minute he has left fully and deeply. Here is a prisoner who is practicing deep meditation. He lives his last three days in his cell within that square of blue sky. That is his freedom. On the afternoon of the last day, a Catholic priest comes to Meursault’s prison cell to give him the last rites, but Meursault refuses. He doesn’t want to waste the few hours he has left talking to the priest, and he doesn’t let him come in. He says, “The priest is living like a dead man. He is not living like me, I am truly alive.” Maybe we too are living like dead people. We move about life in our own corpse because we are not touching life in depth. We live a kind of artificial life, with lots of plans, lots of worries, and anger. Never are we able to establish ourselves in the here and now and live our lives deeply. We have to wake up! We have to make it possible for the moment of awareness to manifest. This is the practice that will save us—this is the revolution. Has the most wonderful moment of your life already hap- pened? Ask yourself that question. Most of us will answer that MichelleKerr