Why Think About It?

to preface this blog entry I need to start off by saying that I used to be scared to think about the act of dying, or becoming deceased. It would keep me up at the point of tears! Even when I have been the strongest in my faith, death has always lingered in the back of my mind.....almost haunting me. Since the age of 7 up until about the present day, so for those who don't know how old I am that would be a span of 25 years, DEATH..the Grim Reaper....ETERNITY....has been a daily thought or two! And not to say that I am infatuated with it, but it always seems to come around right when I am about to get in bed.... BUT alas I have found the reason death seems to be with me every step of the away and so I leave you with this:

Why think about it?

First of all, why should we think about death? Why should we contemplate it? Not only did the Buddha encourage us to speak about death, he encouraged us to actually think about it, contemplate it and reflect on it regularly.

On one occasion the Buddha asked several of the monks, "How often do you contemplate death?"

One of them replied, "Lord, I contemplate death every day."

"Not good enough," the Buddha said, and asked another monk, who replied,

"Lord, I contemplate death with each mouthful that I eat during the meal."

"Better, but not good enough," said the Buddha, "What about you?"

The third monk said, "Lord, I contemplate death with each inhalation and each exhalation."

That's all it takes, the inhalation comes in, it goes out, and one day it won't come in again - and that's it. That's all there is between you and death, just that inhalation, the next inhalation.

Obviously the Buddha considered this a very important part of meditation and training towards becoming more wise and more peaceful. Why is it that this contemplation is encouraged? Because we don't usually want to think or talk about death. Be it conscious or unconscious, there is a fear of death, a tendency to avoid it, a reluctance to come face to face with this reality.

Death is very much a part of life; it's just as much a part of life as birth. In fact, the moment of birth implies death. From the moment of conception it is only a matter of time before death must come - to everyone. No one can escape it. That which is born will die. The mind and body which arise at the time of conception develop, grow and mature. In other words, they follow the process of aging. We call it growing up at first, then growing old, but it's just a single process of maturing, developing, evolving towards the inevitable death. Everyone of you has signed a contract, just as I did. You may not remember signing that contract, but everyone has said, "I agree to die." Every living being, not only human, not only animal, but in every plane, in every realm, everywhere there is birth, there is the inevitable balance - death.

Today, according to a book I read, about 200,000 people died. That is the average everyday. Apparently about 70 million people die every year. That's a lot of people isn't it? The population of Australia is only about 16 million and every year 70 million people die by various means, 200,000 in one day. That's an awful lot of people. But in our society we have very little contact with death. We are not usually brought face to face with death, we are not encouraged to contemplate death or come to terms with it.

What we are usually encouraged to do is to avoid it and live as if we were never going to die. It is quite remarkable that intellectually we all know we are going to die, but we all live as if we are never going to die. This avoidance, this negation, usually means that we will always be afraid of death. As long as there is fear of death, life itself is not being lived at its best. So one of the very fundamental reasons for contemplating death, for making this reality fully conscious, is that of overcoming fear. The contemplation of death is not for making us depressed or morbid, it is rather for the purpose of helping to free us from fear. That's the first reason, which I will explain later in more detail.

The second reason is that contemplation of death will change the way we live and our attitudes toward life. The values that we have in life will change quite drastically once we stop living as if we are going to live forever, and we will start living in a quite different way.

The third reason is to develop the ability to approach death in the right way. By that I mean dying, the way we actually die.

The contemplation of death has three benefits:

* relieving fear
* bringing a new quality to our lives, enabling us to live our lives with proper values, and
* enabling us to die a good death.

It enables us to live a good life and die a good death. What more could you want?

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