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Life and Death

If you have been reading for a while, you’ll remember that I have done reviews of two books from Master Sheng Yen, and he was quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Well, last week Master Sheng Yen died at age 80. I didn’t have much information, so I didn’t want to make a special post about it here, but I did make mention of it on Twitter. Someone read one of those postings and emailed me with:

Question:

I am following your messages on Twitter. Yesterday you wrote about life and death and how the reality of death must be accepted. But isn’t death something that is impossible to actually experience? As long as we are alive, we obviously can’t experience death. So in our mind, we are alive – until we actually die, but then we can’t experience it anymore. Therefore, death is real, but our own death will never be real for us. What do you think?

Answer:

You are right– you cannot really experience what it means to be dead. At least not to the point where you can remember death. But that’s not really what the quote was getting at. Here’s the full quote I posted from Sheng Yen:

Master Sheng Yen once said, “Where there is life, there must be death. If one cannot face this reality it will become one’s greatest barrier in life, if one can regard death merely as a fraction within the eternal time and space then death is not an end to life but the beginning of the next.”

But you CAN experience death… in your mind. Buddhists often do a thing called “meditation on a corpse,” which involves visualizing your own decomposing corpse. By visualizing this, one can explore the idea of death and by becoming more and more familiar with it, you are supposed to lose your fear. It’s a natural thing that must be accepted, and by understanding all aspects of death, you find it’s nothing to fear.

Check out http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/229 for more on this style of meditation. It sounds disgusting, but people have been doing it for thousands of years.

More about Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Monastery: Link

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