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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
49 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly contains all things. Look deeply into the water element, the earth element, heat, air, space, and consciousness and you will find that each one contains the five others. That is the inter- being nature of the elements. Shariputra said to Anathapindika, “My friend, things appear and disappear according to causes and conditions. The true nature of things is not being born, and not dying. Birth and death are nothing more than concepts. Our true nature is the nature of no-birth and no-death, and we must touch our true nature in order to be free.” Shariputra continued, “When the body or the mind mani- fests, we say that it exists, but that is not correct. When a thing has not yet manifested, we say that it does not exist, but that is not correct either. The ideas of being and nonbeing have to be rejected. These notions do not apply to reality. When the conditions come together, your body or your mind manifests. “Let us look deeply into the five skandhas: forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness. There is nothing there that could be called a self. As a result of ignorance, we are caught up in ideas and con- cepts. But in truth we are free from these ideas and concepts. The true nature of reality is inter-being. The reality of inter-being has the nature of empti- ness and of non-self. We are free in the past, and we are free in the present.” At this point in the meditation, Anathapindika began to cry. It was the first time he had touched the profound teach- ings on emptiness, non-self, inter-being, and so on. He needed this teaching on the nature of no-birth and no-death in order not to suffer, but he had never had the opportunity to practice or study it. Surprised by Anathapindika’s tears, Venerable Ananda asked him, “My friend, why are you crying? Is there some- thing that you regret?” Anathapindika smiled and replied, “No, Venerable Ananda, I have no regrets. I am crying because I have served the Bud- dha and the sangha for so many years, and I have never heard a teaching as profound as the one I have heard today. It is wonderful. I am free.” Venerable Ananda said, “My friend, you don’t know it, but this kind of teaching is given every day to the monks and nuns.” “Venerable one,” Anathapindika replied, “please tell the Buddha that it is true many laypeople are too busy to learn this teaching and practice. But tell him there are other laypeople who are capable of receiving this teaching and applying it in their lives. I beg you, go back to the Bud- dha and convey to him my request to teach this insight to laypeople.” The Venerable Ananda agreed, and the two venerable monks withdrew. The layman Anathapindika died shortly thereafter in a very peaceful manner. This story is told in a discourse titled “Teachings To Be Given to the Sick.” You should study such texts if you wish to attend dying people. To help dying people, you must be very solid. You must have fearlessness within you. You must be able to touch no- birth and no-death yourself in order to support a person whose manifestation is about to cease. If you want to attend the dying, you must practice. Through practice you can develop the solidity, the fearlessness, and the techniques that make it possible for you to help people to die in peace. We should never forget that dying is as important as living. lynnMOrris-MceWAn