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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
44 it hasn’t happened yet, but that it could happen at any time. No matter how old we are, we tend to feel that the most wonderful moment of our life has not happened yet. We fear maybe it’s too late, but we are still hoping. But the truth is, if we con- tinue to live in forgetfulness—that is, without the presence of mindfulness—that moment is never going to happen. The teaching of the Buddha tells you clearly and plainly to make this the most magnificent and wonderful moment of your life. This present moment must become the most wonder- ful moment in your life. All you need to transform this present moment into a wonderful one is freedom. All you need to do is free yourself from your worries and preoccupations about the past, the future, and so on. The deep insight of impermanence is what helps us do this. It is very useful to keep our concentration on impermanence alive. You think the other person in your life is going to be there forever, but that is not true. That person is imperma- nent, just like you. So if you can do something to make that person happy, you should do it right away. Anything you can do or say to make them happy—say it or do it now. It’s now or never. In the practice of Buddhism, dying is very important. It’s as important as living. Death is as important as being born. Without birth, there could be no death. Without death, there is no birth. Birth and death are very close friends, and col- laboration between the two of them is necessary for life to be possible. So do not be afraid of death. Death is just a continuation, and so is birth. At every moment, death is happening in your body—some cells are dying so other cells can come to life. Death is indispensable to life. If there is no death, there is no birth, just as there can be no left if there is no right. Don’t hold out hope that life will be possible without death. You must accept both of them—birth and death. If you practice well, you can gain deep insight into the ultimate dimension while remaining in touch with the histori- cal, or relative, dimension. And when you are deeply in touch with the historical dimension, you also touch the ultimate dimension, and you see that your true nature is no-birth and no-death. Living is a joy. Dying in order to begin again is also a joy. Starting over is a wonderful thing, and we are starting over constantly. Beginning anew is one of our main practices at Plum Village, and we must die every day in order to renew ourselves, in order to make a fresh start. Learning to die is a very profound practice. Shariputra’s Guidance Sudatta was a very wealthy businessman in the ancient Indian city of Shravasti and a famous lay disciple of the Buddha’s. He had used a great part of his wealth to help the poor, helpless, and orphaned, and so the people of Shravasti gave him the name Anathapindika, meaning “supporter of orphans and the helpless,” and that is the name we know him by today. Anathapindika was devoted to the Buddha. He spent a lot of money buying a park in Shravasti called the Jeta Grove in order to turn it into a monastery for the Buddha and a head- quarters for the work of the dharma. In his life he got a great deal of pleasure from supporting the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha. It was always his joy to support the three jewels. When Anathapindika was nearing death, the Buddha paid him a visit. It had been about thirty years since their first meeting. During that time, the Buddha had assigned his great disciple Shariputra to take care of Anathapindika and travel with him, so Anathapindika and Shariputra had become very close friends. Now, the Buddha assigned Shariputra to help Anathapindika die in a happy and peaceful way. Learning that Anathapindika was very close to death, Shariputra asked his young brother in the dharma, Ananda, a cousin of the Buddha, to accompany him on his alms round, and they stopped at Anathapindika’s house. Seeing the two venerable monks, Anathapindika tried to get out of bed, but he was unable to do so. Shariputra said to him, “My friend, lie down. We will get some chairs and come sit with you.” After they sat down, Shariputra asked, “My friend Anatha- pindika, how do you feel in your body? Are your physical pains decreasing or increasing?” Thich NhaT haNh is a Vietnamese Zen master, scholar, author, poet, and peace activist. in 1966 he founded the Order of interbeing, a community of monastics and laypeople with monasteries and practice centers around the world. at age 83, he resides at his Plum Village Monastery in southern France, while continuing to travel abroad to teach. This article is from his new book You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, excerpted with permission from Shambhala Publications. BOnnieWiesnerAllisOnDreW