MEDITATIONS ON DEATH AND REBIRTH
PRELIMINARIES AND DEDICATION
In order to make the most out of the following analytical meditations, it is
important to realise that one should not only observe the analytical mind, but
also the emotions and feelings that come up. It is adviseable to read the pages
on Meditation Theory (chapter on Vipashyana)
and Meditation Practice if you are
not used to (analytical) meditation..
It is strongly advised to start with a good motivation beforehand, to take a
few minutes to calm down (doing e.g. a brief breathing
meditation is very good) and to dedicate the positive energy afterwards.
For this, the following traditional prayers can be used, but feel free to use
any other positive and unselfish thoughts:
I go for refuge to the Buddha,
I go for refuge to the Dharma,
I go for refuge to the Sangha. (3x)
Setting the Mind to Enlightenment
By virtue of giving and so forth,
may I become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. (3x)
May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering.
Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind;
I present clouds of every type of offerings, actual and imagined;
I declare all the negative actions I have done since beginningless time,
and rejoice in the merit of all Aryas and ordinary beings.
Please teacher, remain until cyclic existence ends
and turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings.
I dedicate the virtues of myself and others to the great Enlightenment.
By this virtue may I soon
reach a Guru-Buddha-state,
and lead each and every being
to that state of Buddhahood.
May the precious Bodhicitta
not yet born, arise and grow
may that born have no decline
but increase forever more.
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THE DEATH PROCESS
When you meditate on the death process, in order to make the experience
real for you, like a rehearsal of your own death, you may imagine a scenario
in which you have suddenly come face to face with death.
Imagine lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by doctors and nurses, maybe
a friend or relative is anxiously watching your face and clutching your hand.
You are on your back in the bed staring up onto the ceiling wondering what
comes next, as you realise that death is approaching.
1. The Earth Element Dissolves
- The earth element loses its power, the body becomes very thin, limbs loose
and you feel as if the body is sinking under the earth.
- The aggregate of form absorbs, the limbs become smaller, the body becomes
weak and powerless, the lustre of the body diminishes and all one's strength
- The basic mirror-like wisdom dissolves, the sight becomes unclear and dark.
- Eye sense: one cannot open or close one's eyes.
- Internal sign: appearance of mirages.
2. The Water Element Dissolves
- The water element loses its power, saliva, sweat, urine, blood etc. start
to dry up.
- The aggregate of feelings absorbs, the body consciousness can no longer
experience the three types of feelings that accompany sense consciousness
- The basic wisdom of equality (our ordinary consciousness mindful of pleasure,
pain and neutral feelings as feelings) dissolve, one is no longer mindful
of the feelings accompanying the mental consciousness
- Ear sense: one no longer has external or internal sounds Internal sign:
appearance of smoke.
3. The Fire Element Dissolves
- The fire element loses its power, one cannot digest food or drink.
- The aggregate of discrimination absorbs, one is no longer mindful of affairs
of close persons.
- The basic wisdom of analysis dissolves, one can no longer remember the names
of close persons.
- Nose sense: inhalation weak, exhalation strong and lengthy and one cannot
- Internal signs: appearance of fireflies or sparks within smoke.
4. The Wind Element Dissolves
- The wind element loses its power, the ten winds move to the heart and the
inhalation and exhalation ceases.
- The aggregate of compositional factors absorbs, one cannot perform physical
actions and one cannot experience smoothness or roughness.
- The basic wisdom of achieving activities dissolves, one is no longer mindful
of external worldly activities, purposes etc.
- Tongue sense: tongue becomes think and short and the root of the tongue
- Internal sign: appearance of sputtering candlelight about to go out.
5. The aggregate of consciousness absorbs
- The eighty conceptions dissolve.
- Cause of appearance: winds in the right and left channels above the heart
enter the central channel at the top of the head.
- Internal sight: clear vacuity filled with white light.
6. The Mind of White Appearance Dissolves
- Cause of appearance: winds in right and left channels below heart enter
central channel at base of spine.
- Internal sign: very clear vacuity filled with red light.
7. The Mind of Red Increase Dissolves
- Cause of appearance: upper and lower winds gather at heart and then the
winds enter the drop at the heart.
- Internal sign: at first, vacuity filled with thick darkness; then as if
swooning into unconsciousness.
8. The Mind of Black Near Attainment Dissolves
- Cause of appearance: all winds dissolve into the very subtle life-bearing
wind in the indestructible drop at the heart.
- Internal sign: very clear vacuity, the mind of clear light of death. Focus
on this clear light for as long as you can.
When the clear light of death ceases, the consciousness passes back through
the stages of dissolution in reverse order.
As soon as this reverse process begins, the person is reborn into an intermediate
state (Tibetan bardo) between lives, with a subtle body that can go anywhere,
through mountains, etc., to find a place of rebirth.
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HIGHWAY CAR ACCIDENT
- Imagine driving in a car on a highway at 200 kilometres per hour.
- The car has no breaks, but I know that somewhere in the middle of this road
is a concrete wall which I cannot avoid.
- This is exactly the situation of our life.
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9-POINT DEATH MEDITATION
1. Death is certain:
a. There is no escape
b. Life has a limit, each moment brings me closer
c. Death can come in a moment and fully unexpected
2. The time of death is uncertain:
a. My lifespan is uncertain
b. There are many causes for death, few for sustenance of life
c. My body is fragile; even a thorn can kill me with an infection
3. What can help me at the moment of death?
a. Wealth, possessions?
b. Relatives and friends?
c. My own body? Only my positive karma from practising dharma can help!
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LOOK AT OTHERS
- Think of other human beings: how many have so little worries about food,
shelter, clothing etc as me?
- How many are stuck in wars?
- How many are stuck in a famine or scarcity of food and water?
- How many live in a country with freedom of expression and beliefs?
- How many have the opportunity to study other philosophies and religions?
- How many are interested in their future after this life?
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APPRECIATE YOUR LIFE
- How do I think about myself? What is my life like, my personality, my abilities,
- Do I have a feeling of inferiority, disappointment, hopelessness or do I
- Remember previous times of depression or disappointment and decide that
I want to get rid of these dark feelings.
- How are most other people on this earth doing, suffering from hunger, war,
sickness, fear, repression?
- What chances do most people have to get happiness?
- Imagine yourself in some of these situations: I am sick, in a war, desperate
- Now remember the positive sides of my life; healthy body and mind, family
and friends, living in a free country, no hunger or poverty.
- What could I do with my life; travel, work, study, enjoy myself
- All nice things, but does it really make me happy?
- Is happiness the amount of my possessions or the amount of memories of my
travels, or is it simply a state of my mind?
- I can decide to be a bit more happy and satisfied with what I have and who
- I have to start here and now; stop complaining; behind the clouds the sun
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8 FREEDOMS & 10 ENDOWMENTS
Remember that right now I have the 8 freedoms:
1. I am not in hell being continuously tortured
2. I am not living as a hungry ghost, always having hunger and thirst
3. I am not an ignorant animal
4. I have some feeling for good and bad
5. I am able to study religion
6. The teachings of the Buddha are now available
7. I have a healthy mind, not crazy
8. I am not a god, only indulging in pleasures
Remember that right now I have the 10 endowments:
- 5 Personal:
1. I am a human being
2. I have access to the teachings of the Buddha
3. I have all my organs
4. I have not killed my parents or bodhisattvas etc.
5. I have the possibility to choose my life philosophy or religion freely
- 5 Circumstantial:
6. A Buddha has come in this era
7. He has taught the Dharma
8. The Dharma is still available in the world
9. People are still practising Dharma
10. Others generally have love in their hearts
Last updated:February 6, 2011