SuttaCentral

A personal reflection on the fragility of life

A personal reflection about a lack of a guaranteed ‘long and happy’ life.

Because people have a false sense of security that they will lead a long and happy life, they get their priorities rather mixed up. This is a core aspect of the deluded beliefs that the Buddha spoke about. Instead of diligently working at the Noble 8 fold Path, individuals feel like they have unlimited time, and so put off doing the work – until in 99% of cases it is too late.

I’m very lucky. I have had several near death experiences, which served to jolt me out of complacency. It is quite common for people who survive, after having believed they were going to die, to completely reappraise their priorities and to live a much more fulfilling, satisfying and happy life afterwards.

This current Corona Virus, is giving the general population a taste of what it is like, to know there are no guarantees of a long and happy life. We all know this anyway – but it is like a slap in the face – it is not just a theory anymore.

I have an enduring immune disorder, which places me in the very high risk group. I say this so that you know I am not speaking theoretically, but from the pointy end of experience.

OF COURSE, one follows health advice to minimise transmission of infection – this is a fundamental part of a wise response. But it is also the easiest and most straight forward part of the response.

By far the hardest thing to do, is to react with wisdom and kindness to the entire situation. As I have said before, living with no regrets, with no remorse over ones own conduct, is of primary importance. When it really counts, with death imminent, I cannot emphasise strongly enough the suffering that comes if one has remorse and regrets. So this is a great opportunity to get things in order, to be kind, to forgive others and to forgive oneself. It is immensely comforting to be able to face death knowing that one has lived a good life.

Secondly, This is an opportunity to realign the priorities in ones life. We are very lucky to actually get a chance to do this. Most people delay the spiritual work and keep focusing on empty and unfulfilling aspects, until it is too late. How fortunate to get a wake up call.

I am quite happy and tranquil, death will come when it comes, and that is fine and expected. I don’t want it to come soon, but if it does, it is no big deal.

In the mean time, it is an extra spur, to take every opportunity to be kind to all other beings. There is great joy and contentment in this. :slightly_smiling_face:

May all beings reduce their suffering :pray: :revolving_hearts: :dharmawheel: :relieved:

https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/reasons-to-be-happy-and-optimistic-about-the-future-ajahn-brahmali/15314

17 Likes

May you be well - in every way!

6 Likes

May we all be well, and meet all challenges with wisdom and serenity :pray::sparkling_heart:

6 Likes

If I may add some comments… As I see it humans are mostly social beings, and the part within us which is guided by our own personal experience is quite small. That means that typically our goals are social, the way we reflect on death is social, and even our understanding of Buddhism is social. By ‘social’ I mean that the discourse is setting the parameters for what I can understand to be true. In the worst case my habitual way of thinking and feeling creates a personal discourse that influences me, but not others - then I feel alone.

So I’m meditating because this friend or youtube teacher impressed me. And the meditation ‘experiences’ I have are based on what my mind creates based on what bhikkhu Analayo writes or Ajahn Brahm says or snippets in the suttas. Also my reflections on death, mortality, and impermanence - which seem to be ‘existential’ topics - are specific social ruminations within my mind.

Btw, these ‘second-hand-experiences’ were, as I interpret, often addressed already, e.g. by J and UG Krishnamurti, so I don’t claim my reflection to be highly original either.

Anyhow, as I see it, this is why I don’t expect that the corona aftermath will make people deal more with spirituality. We don’t collectively face death now, we face a society which deals with some hardship and the anxiety that goes along with it. So whatever people do (netflix, pills, meditation, games) is a reaction to social anxiety rather than spirituality.

It’s great btw that the situation is so civil so far. But it’s quite different, I think, than the situation of people who have personally experienced an NDE or a personal loss or a shocking insight into the nature of the mind.

People naively believe that an experience is personal because something happens in their mind, not seeing how many calculations of the unconscious (i.e. thinking and feeling) are related to socio-psychological processing, even when I think only about ‘myself’ and not about society as a whole.

So, what I try to say so complicatedly is that the ‘slap in the face’ is a social one and will not lead to a genuine dispassion and longing for liberation. The mind, deprived of a social illusion of comfort, doesn’t automatically turn to (non-social) spirituality - it will try to upgrade to a better social illusion.

7 Likes

Interesting points, thank you :slightly_smiling_face:
It may not lead to a mass social change, as you say, but there will be a few for whom it will stimulate greater insights and realizations.

Metta and karuna :slightly_smiling_face::pray::two_hearts::sunflower:

6 Likes

Agreed. Mara must be having fun right now! :japanese_ogre:

3 Likes

Interestingly, I watched this 15 min video literally just yesterday. A very similar sentiment was echoed here by Steve Jobs.
Even though he said he hoped to live for another few decades, he seems to have passed away in less than a decade after this speech was given. :confused:

Life is conditional and thus changeable, but developing restraint against killing/taking life seems to help increase the lifespan:

  1. "Here, student, some woman or man is a killer of living beings, murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Due to having performed and completed such kammas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell. If, on the dissolution of the body, after death, instead of his reappearing in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell, he comes to the human state, he is short-lived wherever he is reborn. This is the way that leads to short life, that is to say, to be a killer of living beings, murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings.

  2. "But here some woman or man, having abandoned the killing of living beings, abstains from killing living beings, lays aside the rod and lays aside the knife, is considerate and merciful and dwells compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. Due to having performed and completed such kammas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, in the heavenly world. If, on the dissolution of the body, after death, instead of his reappearing in a happy destination, in the heavenly world, he comes to the human state, he is long-lived wherever he is reborn. This is the way that leads to long life, that is to say, to have abandoned the killing of living beings, to abstain from killing living beings, to lay aside the rod and lay aside the knife, to be considerate and merciful, and to dwell compassionate for the welfare of all living beings.
    Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta: The Shorter Exposition of Kamma

:pray: :pray: :pray: :pray: :pray: :pray:

2 Likes