Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends, People, and Ideas

Tag: death

Master Huijing’s Dharma Words about the Purpose of Life

If we step back and pause to reflect a little, we’ll realize just how many concerns dog us in our daily existence. As Buddhists we shouldn’t seek to ignore the conventional realities that can cause concern and vexation to arise in us. I’d be the first to confess that I have plenty of worries. But we should also put these worries into perspective. In our everyday lives, over the course of many years, we discern that some worries are trivial and deserve little thought while others, like marriage, family, and work are legitimately significant and can shape the direction and affect the wellbeing of our lives.

Let’s take the most significant of worldly worries, then, and contrast it with the great matter of birth and death. Even the biggest matters of our lives will fall into frivolity when compared to our concern about that which lies beyond. The true purpose of life is invoking Amitabha Buddha with faith, for when it comes to we who are unenlightened and lacking insight, the matter of transcending birth and death overrides all others.

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Life, Death… All a Matter of Perspective

We like to tell ourselves that we intellectually (even if we struggle to emotionally) grasp the significance of death as the end of our present existence. But time, life, and death are nowhere near as commonsense as we think. In an article in The Independent, professor Robert Lanza lays out the concept of biocentrism: ‘the universe only exists because of an individual’s consciousness of it – essentially life and biology are central to reality, which in turn creates the universe; the universe itself does not create life. The same applies to the concepts of space and time, which Professor Lanza describes as “simply tools of the mind.”’

We don’t experience reality “as it is.” We simply don’t have that kind of access, unless we are bodhisattvas or Buddhas. For us, “life,” “death,” and everything in between is filtered through our senses and perceptions. Similarly, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has said (and which we highlight in today’s Wisdom for Today quote on the main website), birth and death are quite literally a matter of perspectives, much like the concept of above and below when we’re sitting on this blue and green rock in a quiet corner of a galaxy among billions of galaxies in a vast, unfathomable universe.

The most ancient and primeval human story is the struggle to understand the great mystery and what lies beyond, that which is too big to be contained merely by our conceptions of what reality is. Only the Buddha can help us peer past the veil that our minds have created to obscure our insight.

#Buddhistdoor Global—Your Doorway to the World of #Buddhism
#Wisdom for Today: https://www.buddhistdoor.net/wisdom-for-today

Postcard from Raymond: We Never Truly Die

One of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s most eloquent and moving teachings is a summation of Buddhist doctrine about life after death: we do not leave this world until full, total enlightenment. We are integrally part of it and even when our personal time expires on this beautiful but hurting planet, we don’t disappear. Our constituents remain in this cosmos, and the loved ones and friends we leave behind can see us all around them if they just pay attention. This is the message of the Vietnamese teacher when he recounts losing his mother in one of his most personal books:

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.  — No Death, No Fear (2002)

I would like to leave you with this final, beautiful reflection from the same book. When we feel at such peace with our universe, and when we even have the Dharma’s promise of transcending it, and returning to it over and over again as bodhisattvas—What can we ever be afraid of? What can we ever hate?

I hope you enjoy these messages from Thay as much as I have loved to come back to them over the years.

This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there, the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies. All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.

No Tomorrow

Inspired by the Maranassati Sutta

The moment she was born Gemma knew she was about to die. By all accounts she was unlike any other child: she never got excited about Christmas and she never got upset when she was grounded. In fact her brother tells me she didn’t even bat an eyelid when her parents announced they were getting separated. It seemed Gemma had always just gone along with anything that was thrown her way, in the knowledge that she would only need to endure it for a few moments longer. And in her own way, she had breezed through life.

She had been the opposite to her brother Stuart, an excitable, feisty little boy. It was unfair really. Stuart had always cared, really badly. He cared when he found out there was no such thing as Father Christmas, and he cared when his parents were separated. And above anything else, Stuart cared that Gemma was always about to die.

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My Dear Master

Raymond Lam

Big-dark-pink-Lotus-Flower-photo1Recently I got a call from my Dharma sister: my preceptor is bedridden in hospital after suffering a stroke. His health had been deteriorating rapidly for the past half a year thanks to having suffered several physical accidents. The Venerable is also 93 years old, about a decade older than Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who also had a stroke in November 2014. While he was able to speak and even crack a gentle joke with the nurse, the overall picture looks pretty grim.

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