June 11th, 2010

Dhammapada (11) - Old Age

You are a house of bones,
Flesh and blood for plaster.
Pride lives in you,
And hypocrisy, decay, and death.
The glorious chariots of kings shatter.
So also the body turns to dust.
But the spirit of purity is changeless
And so the pure instruct the pure.
Dhammapada (11) - Old Age

I do not meditate on death, on illness, or on old age.
Yet it was these three "sights" (plus the sight of holy man) that sent the Buddha on his quest for enlightenment.

I didn't like this chapter, but it did get my attention.

The Dahlai Lama meditates daily on his death; he is two years younger than i.
Bob W. is dying of Parkinson's disease; he is three years younger.
For Dianne each step and almost every breathe is both victory and frustration; she will not mind dying when her time comes.
     She is four years my junior.
In today's newspaper, half the obituaries were for people younger than i; this is becoming less and less atypical.

Death is a problem only for the ego.
Ego wants to live, and it wants stuff.
In fact, it wants immortality and its desire for things is insatiable.

It is better to want to too little than too much of what is scarce.
Some things are not scarce; sorrow is ample, but who wants that?
But other things are also sufficient because they are within each of us and they grow through being given away,
Love, peace, joy, humility, happiness, fairness.

I think those mystics who contemplate death do so to enhance their appreciation of life.
But also, death is a part of the cycle of life; each sentient being dies so that others may live.

Right now, I have no pain.  My body feels young, my mind sharp, my senses clear.  Of course, this is mostly illusion.  My eyes are dimming, my hearing is getting worse, my arteries are slowly clogging, my breathing is affected by almost 50 years of smoking.
My diabetes control has been miraculous. but miracles do cease and I will someday have to rely on common sense.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation and nirvana; but these beliefs are not required.  Taoists know that death is natural, and what is natural has to be right.  Even mystics in the monotheistic traditions cannot be bothered with thoughts of heaven or hell.  Death comes tp us all and I don't think anyone really knows what is on the other side.