Good afternoon, Dhamma friends!
I wanted to share with you a booklet that I’ve found immensely helpful. It’s called “The Last Breath” and it’s available for free here
It takes about 30 minutes to read cover to cover. It’s about a man who was able to face his execution on death row skilfully and with composure of mind. It’s perhaps the most inspiring story I’ve come across. Since it’s a bit of a hidden gem, I wanted to post about it to broaden the reach of this magnificent story.
Yes, very powerful! I read it a couple months ago, and it’s so telling. Sometimes we truly only start practicing when we’re pressed up against a wall. Of course, the Buddha would say we’re always pressed up against a wall! But we forget when conditions are more comfortable.
Yes, indeed. It strikes me that the only real difference between us and someone on death row is how we die. Thats it. Nothing else. We’re just as certain to die. Without mindfulness of death, there’s this separation between death and now. Death is always something that happens later, until its not. So it seems like things have changed when we come to face death. But of course, death was just as certain all along.
Remember that mindfulness of death has a purpose, the attainment of liberation:
“This, monks, is how mindfulness of death is developed & pursued so that it is of great fruit & great benefit, gains a footing in the Deathless, and has the Deathless as its final end.”—AN 6.20
A person on death row is through force of circumstance made aware of the suffering nature of life in a clear way. But every practitioner faces the same condition of suffering usually unknown, and it varies from one to another how aware they are of it, again depending on what obstacles life has thrown up to them. It is every practitioner’s duty to uncover this essential nature, according to the first noble truth:
"illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended.’ "—SN 56.11
It is an insight into the Buddha’s integrity to register he comprehended the same realization as a person on death row from simply seeing the three divine messengers, old age, disease (including viruses), and death.