AT Buddhism all techniques are not for idleness, but for a specific purpose. What is the purpose and purpose memory of death (Marananussati in Pali)? Its purpose is to develop awareness of the inevitability of one’s own death in particular and the nature of the impermanence of everything in general. If a yogi begins to realize the inconstancy, both of his body and of the whole world, thirst and lust are weakened in him. With the weakening of thirst, anxiety, fear, and generally any kind of dissatisfaction subsides, since all fear, or anxiety, is the other side of lust. As soon as there is a thirst for something to have, at that moment, as a rule, dissatisfaction arises because it is not. With the advent of joy from receiving the desired object, the fear of its loss also arises.
When a person is ready for death, fearlessness is born. His own death would not take him by surprise. He will not be saddened by the death of a loved one, because he is aware of inconstancy.
Since the fear of death is the fundamental fear on which all other forms of fear are built, this technique is precisely aimed at eliminating the fear of death by eliminating attachment to your body. This method is one of four protective practices. What does he protect from? From all the negative emotions associated with death. The mind becomes stable and fearless.
There have been cases when some of his ill-wishers wanted death in letters or words (cursed), and he died, because he was seized with fear that this desire, or a curse could actually happen. And so it happened, because the mind of the unfortunate was already programmed for his own death.
A yogi who has achieved success in this practice is protected from such curses, because his mind does not hesitate from the idea of his own death, illness, or some kind of trouble. That is why this practice is called defensive. Even if you do not intend to devote the entire meditative session to this practice, it is useful to complete it for several minutes before moving on to the main practice.
Nor should we think that if we are aware of our death, we will bring it closer. Nothing like this. Proper preparation for death, on the contrary, prolongs life, since many physical disorders are directly related to disorders of the untrained mind. We cannot avert our death, but we can introduce a dose of calm and awareness if it threatens us.
In other religious systems, an adherent usually takes for granted the idea that part of him (spirit, soul) does not die after death, but is sent to different worlds that are pleasant for habitation. It is determined to reduce the fear of death. Buddhism, instead of believing in the afterlife of part of our "I", offers to look at death, not referring to any beliefs about life in heaven after death, but to work only with what we see in our life - the process of dying.
There are many methods of this practice - with detailed visualization of the corpse or without it. Read about Bhikkhu Nyanananda's method.
To perform this practice, you need to take a pose for meditation, and visualize the corpse. The more disgusting the corpse, the greater the effect this meditation will have on the mind. You must realize that how disgusting this corpse is, how disgusting your body will be when it dies. You will be exactly the same. When the visualization has become stable, you should mentally repeat the following settings of your choice, or one by one, in the Pali language, or as it is more convenient:
MARANAM ME DHUWAM
My death is predictable
JIVITAM ME ADHUWAM
My life is unpredictable
MARANAM ME BHAVISATI
I will surely die
MARANAM PARIYOSANAM ME JIVITAM
My life will end in death
The idea of these installations is that the only thing we can be 100% sure of is our death. As for our life, we cannot predict how events will develop in it when it breaks. But the fact that it is interrupted is a fact. Everything else is speculation that costs nothing.
In ancient times, yogis performed this psychotechnology in cemeteries, where one could personally see corpses of varying degrees of decomposition, or the remains of cremated bodies. In some meditation centers and monasteries, you can see the skeleton, or parts of the skeleton, which are used as objects of this meditation. Nevertheless, the main thing in this practice is not a detailed visualization of corpses, but a deep awareness of the impermanence of this body, the unpredictability of life.
Does it bring disaster?
Death is a topic that many people try to avoid discussing, especially in other [non-Buddhist] cultures and religions. Many people think that talking about death is unpleasant, capable of causing misfortune and failure. Death, as the saddest side of life, is considered an inappropriate topic of conversation. People tend to hide their sense of the reality of death with a huge number of abstract images and theories. They are actually trying to suppress this reality in their minds. Thus, the intellect deceives the mind and over time, deception turns into its own opinion. However, this perception of death seems to have reached widespread acceptance.
The way of thinking of the Buddha is different, and in this particular case it is completely opposite to the established one. Buddha said: "Death is one of the objects of meditation." We must realize, accept and try to understand this. Buddha taught his followers that in order to destroy mental pollution and thereby achieve peace [Nibbana], one must be vigilant and develop a clear mindfulness of death "(Pathama Maranassati Sutta - AN 6.2.9) Can we avoid death? Of course not. This is inevitable the process that we all have to go through.
People do not like to talk about it because they are afraid of death. This is true for everyone. Some also believe that talking about death can lead to unhappiness and prejudice collapse. However, the Buddha said that fear of death arises in the absence of a clear understanding of its essence. If you do not talk about it, you cannot understand death. This is why death meditation is meaningful and valuable, however fearful it may be.
Fear of death
Imagine that light will not enter this room and it will plunge into silent darkness. Having come across a wire in the dark, you can take it for a snake and you will be very scared. The reason is that you do not know what is actually there. Having stumbled upon a cat, you can take it for a ghost because of the inability to see clearly. You make assumptions based on the sound of the cat's movement and thereby generate your own fear. The inability to see is makes you afraid. Being in the dark is painful because it prevents us from seeing many things. However, when light appears, fear automatically disappears. We need a light that will help us see that we came across just a wire, that this is not a snake at all. Even when it comes to things like death, we should understand it, know what it is and what the fear of death is. Understanding can be compared to light.
In many religions, over the centuries, attempts have been made to unravel the mystery of death and the fear that inevitably follows it. They propose various philosophies on the subject of death in order to dispel fear in the minds of people. The threat of death always exists in a conscious or subconscious form. This is an integral part of life, no matter how you try not to notice it. Buddha said that we need courage to analyze and think about death. This courage comes from remembering. Many religions offer something that they consider a solution to the psychological problem of people living in fear of death.
In pre-Buddhist India, it was believed that death was like changing clothes, similar to what happens every day. It was said that by the same principle, the eternal soul changes its body from one to another. They believed in rebirth. The concept of rebirth existed before the Buddha. This is emphasized in ancient scriptures such as the Upanishads. It says that at the time of death the soul passes into another body and the cycle of rebirth (samsara) continues. From this it follows again that the doctrine of Samsara at that moment was already known. It was said that liberation (moksha) occurs when a particular soul (it was believed that everyone and everyone has it) is reunited with the universal eternal soul called Atman. When these souls reunite, they no longer remain a personal soul or universal. Only one remains. If you see two, you are subject to illusion. This way. These are their attempts to dispel the fear of death. You have nothing to fear, because you are one step closer to reuniting with the universal soul, which is eternal. People are afraid of inconstancy, termination, disappearance, leaving.
Therefore, they are trying to present the idea of the existence of something eternal. Although people are taught such ideas, fear still does not disappear. All Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity, preach about one rebirth after death, which will be after the "Judgment Day", as a result of which we will be reunited with the creator god, who gives the dead eternal life. And I also consider this an attempt to dispel the fear of death. Fear is real. Your fear, my fear, the fear of any person on the street is very real. All these philosophies were created with one goal: to reduce the fear of experiencing death. Unfortunately, all these theories are of little help to a person who is faced with death. I think the problem is not really death, but fear of death. We will now consider fear, not death itself. Think about whether we could enjoy life if we had to constantly live under the shadow of the fear of death? Can true peace of mind then arise? We are already struck by the fear of death even before it comes.
The fear of death is the fear of the future, which leads to our inability to live a full life at the present moment. We worry and are afraid of losing what we have, being unable to accept the idea of the impermanence of everything around us. This brings suffering and keeps us from thinking that we will have to leave all that hard-won property and reputation, and move on. For people, the future is always seen as something uncertain. Uncertainty is the main feature of life after death. Buddhism says that we will never feel safe until we fully accept the uncertainty inherent in death. Of course, life is inherently unsafe. However, it is possible to feel safe amid the dangers if we develop our minds.
Buddhist attitude towards death
In addition to various meditation techniques, such as "insight meditation" (vipassanā), there are teachings in Buddhism that help to lessen the fear of death. These include the doctrine of karma and rebirth. However, now we will consider the issue of fear of death from the point of view of "insight meditation." In this meditation, the basic principle is to consider things from the most famous aspect and then a gradual transition to the less known. The most famous aspect here is fear. He is present in you, in me and in all of us. Therefore, we will begin by working on this fear. We will not start with anything unknown, such as life after death and all the secrets associated with it. If it is unknown, how can we begin with it? I want to say here that despite all these theological concepts, including Buddhist ones, for example, the concept of paradise, the world of Brahma, of human rebirth, based on the assertion that, even in theory, life after death exists, the fear of death still does not disappear. Therefore, instead of thinking about little-known things, such as rebirth, we begin with the most famous, namely, the fear of death. When the essence of this fear is understood or comprehended, we will no longer be afraid of death. We will be happy while we live. That is why we reflect on death.
Another cause of fear is the pride we experience in everyday life. We are so proud of ourselves, of what we have, of our achievements as individuals or as families, that we begin to behave as if we were not destined to die. On the other hand, the realization that at the time of death you have to abandon all your achievements, is simply terrifying. Pride is one of many types of affection and inability to let go.
In addition to fear, pride causes tension and conflict even between brothers and sisters, as well as between entire families. We often express this egoistic tendency with the words: "I want to do just that, but I will never agree to that." Here it is - our pride! She always creates trouble. Sometimes we continue to argue with others not because of right or wrong, but because of internal resistance, in which we usually declare: "this is my thought, this is my culture." That is, when you are too proud of your culture, you cannot perceive other cultures. This is pride. Young people present at this retreat have the opportunity to perceive both cultures, perhaps even more than two. It’s best to look at things from the Buddhist point of view, according to which nothing is perfect, therefore, none of the cultures, whether English or Burmese, is perfect. None of the cultures is superior to the other. Each has advantages and disadvantages. When we look at the world in this way, we get more than we lose. Otherwise, if we are too proud of Burmese culture, we will not be able to get anything from English and vice versa. With this attitude, you will miss a lot. By thinking about death, we will fight this particular kind of pride.
The lack of a proper attitude is another ground on which the fear of death grows. Death is an integral part of life. Death must be seen in the context of life, and life in the context of death. We go to the funeral and see the dead. If we do not consider them in the context of life, we will not see the whole picture. Examining life alone can make us forgetful and arrogant, behaving as if we would never die (Thana Sutta, AN 4.20.2). Focusing on death alone will bring disappointment, excruciating fear and pessimism. Life and death are two sides of the same coin.
The knowledge that everyone is subject to death without exception - whether it be a billionaire or a beggar, a ruler or a subject, a doctor or a sick man, a woman or a man, an adult or a baby - brings great relief. The painful and terrifying experience of death is not someone's exclusive fate and cannot be avoided.
Thinking about death can make a person wise and allows you to seriously look at life. When Siddhatha Gotama was a prince, his father deliberately arranged for his son not to see the old, sick and dead. The reason was that astrologers, whom the ruler had called to predict the fate of his son, said that the prince was destined to leave the palace and wander homeless. The ruler wanted his son to inherit the throne, and not leave. And until the age of 29, Siddhatha had never seen anything like it. But the very first sight of a dead man, an old man and a sick man turned out to be enough for him to make sure that this is the main problem facing him and all other people, including the closest and dearest family members. This gave Siddhatha the determination to go through inhuman trials, renunciation of life in the palace, following spiritual teachings widespread in India at that time, and testing the hardships of a wandering ascetic.
The realization that death manifests itself all the time while we are considered “alive” from the usual point of view also helps to overcome the fear of it very well. The process of dying off old blood cells and replacing them with new ones is constantly happening. Scientists say the number of cells dying and regenerating every moment is billions. The mind also renews itself in a similar way, but at a much greater speed. This is the law of inconstancy, which the Buddha considers the highest truth. Brain cells that do not recover give a clearer picture of the nature of impermanence. These cells die and others do not come in their place. In this sense, death is happening here and now. It is important to notice and accept this scientifically.
Even during the life of Buddha, a girl named Kisa Gotami suddenly died her only child. She could not and did not accept the fact that her son, who had just begun to walk, died. Kisa Gotami refused to agree with common sense arguments. She went in search of a medicine that will bring her son back to life. Such a reaction as a mother is understandable. The child was everything to her.
Patachara, a young woman who had to ruthlessly face the incredible death of two sons, her husband and parents, fell into a similar situation. It was more than she could bear. For Patachara, the death of his relatives was a complete collapse. She could not accept that all this had happened to her.
From the point of view of meditation, the suffering of these two young mothers intensified because they refused to accept reality as is and continued to reject what had happened. Их скорбь увеличивалась каждый раз, когда в уме они отказывались смириться с произошедшим.
Обеим повезло встретиться с Буддой, который смог убедить их принять случившееся как есть, и научить их смотреть на вещи правильно. Будда попросил Кису Готами принести ему горчичных зерён для приготовления лекарства, способного воскресить сына. Будда сказал, что зёрна должны быть от семьи, в которой никогда не умирал человек. Она отправилась на поиски, в результате которых выяснилось, что нет такой семьи, в которой никогда не умирал человек. Thanks to this, Kisa Gotami came to her senses, buried her child and returned to Buddha with a request for the path to the Immortal. Both Kisa Gotami and Patachara reconciled to what happened to them and later became prominent Buddha students. Patachara exceeded all nuns in observing the rules of discipline.
Insight meditation allows us to see and accept everything as it is, and thereby avoid the emergence of new suffering from existing ones. That is the essence of the practice of mindfulness. Through careful remembrance, Patachara was able to understand the changing world like observing the river flowing at the place where she was about to wash her feet. She came into harmony with the unstable world, not expecting from him something that he is not. She lost the desire that the world around her and her life be what she needs and not be what she is. Patachara achieved inner peace, although the world around him remained as it was. Two young women were not influenced by the world. They did not begin to live outside the world, but rose above it, like a lotus flower towering above the water.
Thinking about the reality of death
Thinking about death reduces its fear and ultimately leads to appeasement. The practice of remembering death allows you to achieve the Immortal state (Nibbana) here and now as it develops. There are many causes of death, such as various diseases and accidents (Dutiyamaranassati Sutta - AN 6.2.10). It happens that a person for some reason takes the life of another person. An animal or insect could harm you and cause death. Death can occur at any moment - during sleep, eating, during work, at sea, on land or in the air. Death is impossible to predict and its moment is not defined (Salla Sutta - SNP 3.8).
The Buddha told his disciples the story of one of the Buddhas of the past named Araka. This Buddha taught his followers the thought of death. Araka Buddha said that human life is short, fleeting, fragile, filled with unrealizable desires and anxieties.
Araka Buddha realized during a period when the life expectancy of people was comparatively longer than now. He gave many analogies to human life. Life is compared to a dewdrop on a blade of grass that disappears with sunrise. A comparison is made with dust, which is ruthlessly washed away by heavy rain. The line drawn on the water does not exist for long, and our life is just as ephemeral. A stream that flowed quietly at a great distance may collide with a cliff from which it will have to fall quickly and continuously. Human life is as insignificant and flows fast, like a brook falling from a cliff. A strong man who has collected saliva in his mouth spits it out quickly and naturally. Life is like a clot of saliva that a person has got rid of. A piece of meat burns to ashes quickly if placed in a pan that has been warmed up all day. Life is like this piece of meat. It lasts, but not for long. As soon as an animal has been selected for slaughter, with each step it approaches a slaughterhouse. Similarly, life moves in one direction - towards death. Being born, no one can escape death (Araka Sutta - AN 7.7.10). We must also think that we ourselves cannot escape death, and no one in the world is capable of this.
At the first stage, you should remind yourself of the fact that death is an integral part of our life. Kings and queens, prime ministers, presidents, actors and actresses, rich and poor - can you imagine that one of them will escape dying? If it is inevitable, then why be afraid? Sometimes when I attend a funeral, I imagine myself lying in a coffin. For many, this may seem awful and even stupid. I also find this terrible. However, I was taught just that, and I felt that through such thinking, fear is reduced. You can also understand what is happening on the heart of relatives whom the deceased left. So just think - can at least one person from those you know - a ruler or subject, handsome or ugly, a man or woman, educated or uneducated, a scientist or an ordinary person, old or young - get rid of this fate? This is inevitable for everyone. Death can happen at any moment. There is no guarantee or warning. Death has no calendar. Since there is no guarantee, we need extensive insurance. We are in a hurry to insure ourselves and they often ask us: "are you insured?" People usually answer: "I am fully insured. I have two or even three insurance policies." We might even think that we need even more insurance, because in life we are not safe from anything. You can feel relieved by buying a policy. For example, I have a life insurance policy. But it is not intended for me at all. If I die, what will happen to the insurance claim? She will receive those who survived.
At the first stage, it is absolutely necessary to understand that death is an integral part of life and can happen at any moment, any day and without warning. Mother cannot save her son, and son - mother.
A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of a prominent doctor who suddenly became ill and died a week later. His wife, like him, who worked as a doctor, as well as three daughters and a son, were crying soberly. However, their father lay dead and lifeless. He could not see their care or tears. He could no longer cherish them as before. This is the nature of death. This doctor was very wealthy, but he had to leave everything and leave. In this sense, death is suffering. In his first sermon, the Buddha said "death is painful" (maraṇampi dukkhaṃ). She is tormenting for a Buddhist and for a follower of other religions, for a doctor and a patient, for a monk and layman, for an old man and a baby. The ruler is afraid of her as well as a homeless beggar. This experience is inherent in everyone without exception.
We are in fear of death only if we live in the future. Watching suffering in the present, we do not observe suffering that has not yet arisen, in other words, suffering in the future. Nor are we focused on past suffering. We focus on what is in the present. If you want to learn how to live in the present, you need to understand how to focus on the current object. Train your mind with the present object. Fear of death exists in the present. We are going to watch him. As I have already explained, first of all, it is necessary to reflect on the fact that death is an integral part of life and no one can escape it. It can happen anywhere, anytime, with any person and in any form. Insight meditation teaches us to live in the present moment, and, therefore, is the path to attaining the Immortal here and now.
In the second stage, we will think in a similar way about specific people. In the process of engaging in goodwill meditation (mettā), we start with ourselves. But now we will not start with ourselves. If we do so, our fear will only increase. Death is a frightening phenomenon.
At this stage, we will apply the thinking of death to a neutral person. Remember people who are indifferent to you, to whom you have not formed an attachment or hostility, for example, people on the street or at the station. Look into the crowd and try to find someone who will not die, who will escape the process of dying. Is there at least one such?
You probably all know about Sir James Goldsmith, the billionaire. He could write a check for several million or even a billion. When Mr. Goldsmith was dying, only his wife was with him, and only a few people attended the funeral. His eldest daughter was in Mexico at the time and was not even informed. She did not know about the death of her father. From this point of view, the signature of Sir Goldsmith ceased to have value. The bank will no longer accept checks signed by him. The accumulated billions are now useless for the dead rich. This is the reality of life. This is how fearful life is and how painful death is. For a person who is indifferent to you, you can also imagine something similar. You can think about a group of people or a specific person.
At any stage of this meditation, if you feel sad or frightened, turn on the mindfulness of how it is practiced in insight meditation. When we are afraid of something, then in insight meditation we look into the mind and mark “fear, fright, fright”. When we are upset, we notice “upset”, if we experience fear, we need to recognize its “fear, fear, fear”. Fear is an object of meditation. Fright is also an object of meditation. It can bring immediate psychological relief.
In the third stage, we must focus on any loved one or loved one who has died. In my case, it will be a father, aunt, older brother and niece. If you did not know a dead person during his lifetime, then you should not choose him as the object of this meditation, since this will not allow you to see death in the right context. All my great-grandfathers died before I was born. Since I have never seen or heard about how they lived, I cannot use them in meditation. You must choose someone you knew during your lifetime and whose death you experienced. Death must be considered in the context of life. You focus on recalling some episodes of these people’s lives and how they died. Their bodies are lifeless and lifeless. Thus, the third reflection is aimed at loved ones whose death you have experienced.
The fourth stage may be difficult for you. It may be the most difficult. Its meaning is to apply reality to oneself. Here we will not think about those whom you love or who do not like. If you direct these thoughts to your loved ones, you will be very upset. If you take an unpleasant person, you will be very happy, and this joy will be filled with feelings of revenge and hostility. In the future, you can try to meditate on them, but now you should not do this. At the fourth stage, we think about ourselves, about how we live and the day will come when we will lie lifeless in the grave.
I want to make a small digression here and ask you to include me in the object of your meditation. You will also reflect and apply this reality to me, the person who gives you these instructions. It is important. I saw this in this country - people become so attached to the teacher that they become blind and no longer look for other teachers. If you, for example, visit the Mogok Sayado meditation center, you will automatically learn to criticize others, for example, the Sunlun Sayado centers, Mahashi Sayado, etc. This is happening in many countries. For me, Sunlun Sayado is a wonderful teacher. Mahashi Sayado is an outstanding mentor. Mogok Sayado is magnificent. Sayaji U Ba Khin is excellent. Lady Sayado and Anagam Saya Thet Gyi are also beautiful. Mingun Chetavun Sayado and Kathitvin Sayado are wonderful. All of them are great teachers and wonderful people. But we must not abuse their greatness by cultivating blind faith and thereby damaging our sense of exploration and beginning to criticize others that these great teachers have never done. Attachment or even commitment can blind you.
I tell you all this and we have been together for several days. But one day I will leave. I have to leave. This is the reality of life. Therefore, you must focus and apply this reality to yourself and then to me, the person who is giving you instructions.
Now I want to once again summarize all the instructions. First you need to reflect on the fact that death is part of life. There is no way to avoid it, and no living creature succeeds. There is no death warning; it can happen at any time. Like a clay pot that can break at any time, we are vulnerable at every moment of our lives. We are like a fruit hanging on a branch that can fall to the ground at any time. The rising sun has only one single way - to sunset in the west. In exactly the same way, life approaches nothing but death. That is the reality. The next step is to apply this thinking to an indifferent person or people, a group or someone specifically. This should be a person to whom you do not feel both sympathy and hostility. Try to reflect on their life and death. The third stage consists in thinking about the life and death of those who were close to you, but now they are no longer alive. At the last stage, you reflect on your own death and my demise.