21 11 2006

Everything that is born is bound to die. Nobody has ever seen anyone or heard of anyone in any realm – even in the world of the gods – who was born but never died. In fact, it never even occurs to us to wonder whether a person will die or not. It is a certainty.

Breathing gently, people enjoy their slumber. But between one breath and the nest there is no guarantee that death will not slip in. To wake up in good health is an event which truly deserves to be considered miraculous, yet we take it completely for granted.

Although we know that we are going to die one day, we do not really let our attitudes to life be affected by the ever-present possibility of dying. We still spend all our time hoping and worrying about our future livelihood, as if we were going to live forever. We stay completely involved in our struggle for well-being, happiness and status – until, suddenly, we are confronted by Death wielding his black noose, gnashing ferociously at his lower lip and baring his fangs.

Then nothing can help us. No soldier’s army, no ruler’s decrees, no rich man’s wealth, no scholar’s brilliance, no beauty’s charms, no athlete’s fleetness – none is of any use.

Death cannot be fought off by any warrior, ordered away by the powerful, or paid off by the rich. Death leaves nowhere to run to, no place to hide, no refuge, no defender or guide. Death resists any recourse to skill or compassion. Once our life has run out, even if the Medicine Buddha himself were to appear in person he would be unable to delay our death.

So, reflect sincerely and meditate on how important it is from this very moment onwards never to slip into laziness and procrastination, but to practise the true Dharma, the only thing you can be sure will help at the moment of death.

from The Words of My Perfect Teacher, Patrul Rinpoche