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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 9 58 and perishing, but if one remains at this level, in the long run one has not benefited from having all those precious lives. In order to elevate the quality and the meaning of life in the three times, we have to go beyond segmented birth and death and achieve transformational birth and death. that means practicing buddhadharma. transformational birth and death refers to the maturing of merit and virtue in a practitioner whose compassion and wisdom continue to grow life after life. such a person can be called a sage, a bodhisattva, or an arhat. this process of transformation continues over the three times. at this level, a sage can still have a physical body or may have transcended the physical body and be basically using pure spiritual energy to cultivate the path. Buddhahood is the ultimate end of this process of transformation. It is the level at which one has transcended samsara—the cycle of birth and death—and has attained the great nirvana. such a buddha can still appear in time and space to help sentient beings, as did shakyamuni. while a buddha can manifest in human form and experience arising and perishing, for this buddha there is no attachment to birth and death and none of the vexations associated with birth and death. Until we become sages or buddhas, how can we find dig- nity in living and dying? First, we should fully accept this rare and precious life that we now have. then, when death is imminent we should accept it, if not with joy then at least with equanimity. Just as you should be grateful to the reality of life, you should also be grateful to the reality of death. we do not control when we will be born and most times we do control when we will die. From the perspective of Buddhist awareness most people live without clarity, and when death is near, their mind becomes even more clouded. For such a person life is confusing and delusional. there is a Chinese saying that we live and die as if in a dream. at a higher level are those who accept life, make the best of it, and when death comes, they greet it with courage and without clinging. at the highest level is the enlightened practitioner who “cannot find either life or death,” meaning that for such a person there is really no such thing as life and death. Until we die, we cannot know which of these categories we belong to, but as long as we are alive we should try to elevate the quality of our life and to clarify our mind. we should also be grateful that when death comes, we are released from the responsibilities attached to that life. even better, after we die we can use the merit and virtue that we have accumulated to move forward to our next life, which should be full of joy and illumination. Meeting death with a clear mind If you can maintain a clear mind as death approaches, you can then very courageously accept it with joy. whatever you have done during your life, virtuous or not, good karma or bad, be grateful for having received the gift of life. at the moment of your death, there should be no resentment, no regret, no anger, and no pride. gone is gone. think forward to a beautiful future. For this reason, the mental state of a dying person is most important. some people as they are about to die think about the things they have done that they regret, and all the suffering they have caused. that kind of thinking is good for a living person, but not so good for a dying one. If, however, you approach death while holding no resentment, no regret, no anger, no pride, and just strive to accept a bright and illuminating future, it is more likely to happen. whether you are reborn in the heavenly realms or in the human realm, you can again continue to practice, and that is a bright and illuminating future. when a dying person’s condition is such that clarity of mind is not possible, or when they are unconscious or in a coma, friends and relatives can help the dying person with great devotion and concentration, chanting the Buddha’s name, reciting mantras, or meditating in a calming environment. through such practices, we use the power of meditation and the power of faith to guide the dying person’s mind away from If you can maintain a clear mind as death approaches, you can then very courageously accept it with joy. At the moment of death, there should be no resentment, no regret. Gone is gone. Think forward to a beautiful future. ➤ ©dHarMadruMMountainprovidedBYdHarMadruMMountainCulturalandeduCationalfoundation,allrigHtSreServed