Friday, July 5, 2019

Why Cling to Bubbles in a Stream?

     It's very common, especially in our youth, not to acknowledge our limited & uncertain lifespan, and instead pretend we all live forever. Then, as acquaintances, friends & loved ones become ill & die, each one is a shock - as if death were a huge, tragic mistake, a grossly unnatural surprise. But the Buddha advised:

Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.          Buddha, Diamond Sutra

     The Buddha also advised regularly reciting and contemplating "The Five Recollections":

I am of the nature to age.
Aging is unavoidable.

I am of the nature to get ill.

Illness is unavoidable.

I am of the nature to die.

Death is unavoidable.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot avoid the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

     "Contemplating these recollections encourages us to awaken from denial and avoidance. The recollections offer a pathway of nonattachment and equanimity and a deeper, more sustained appreciation of this moment, now. A lightness of being emerges when we face what is undeniably so. If we take these recollections up as a practice, we are deliberately calling these realities forth instead of simply being at their mercy, overwhelmed by the thoughts and emotions they activate. 
     ... it is not a fault to get sick and to age. We are not separate from nature.
     All sentient beings, without exception, are subject to these natural laws. This body is not ultimately in our control. This body belongs to nature. Even this mind isn't in our control. We cannot choose what arises. This mind belongs to nature. What happens when a deeper understanding of how little control we really do have leads to a diminishing or dropping out of the sense of self? Old age, sickness, and death are not dukkha {stressful / unsatisfactory / suffering} if they are not clung to as I or me or mine. When we see clearly that illness and death are not I, me, or mine, the dukkha that they ordinarily cause may lessen a great deal or even cease altogether."

       Narayan Helen Liebenson. “The Magnanimous Heart. Compassion and Love, Loss and Grief, Joy and Liberation.” Wisdom Publications, 2018.

Jetty - photo by P. Michael Lovas

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