© Path Press – Archive of AKALIKA FORUM – nanavira.top-talk.net 1 'How do I know (contemplating death)?' by Mathias on Tue 14 Sep 2010 - 11:52 I often contemplated death. But there is one thing I did not achieve, namely the conviction that it will actually happen to me. I don't want to say that I am convinced of the opposite (i.e. not to die), but the only thing which seems for sure is the insecurity of not knowing. What's the point of contemplating death if it doesn't leads one to a definite "answer"? Right know there is nothing here which indicates that I am going to die, neither is there any guarantee visible that my life will go on. But the feeling is still closer to immortality than mortality (till the next anxiety attack creeps in). An example of the Suttas (DN 22): "Furthermore, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground — one day, two days, three days dead — bloated, livid, & festering, he applies it to this very body, 'This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate'..." It's easy to "apply" it, but how to know and see it? What's the point of "applying" something uncertain (however much likely it seems to be)? How do I know that this body is of the same nature? It might be the only exception. My body doesn't tell me anything about its future, so what is left for me if I don't want to rely on imagination? by Bhikkhu Nyanasuci on Tue 14 Sep 2010 - 15:36 I will allow to give some (too) simplified thoughts on that. Have you ever experience grief of loss when somebody died, or something gone from you? Is it not there a feeling of insecurity? The same happens in every experience, and not necessarily in that gross level. As you can get from the Notes, that “I am” it is because there are things which are “mine”. “Mine” is taken anything what we experience. In practice of awareness we will be able to recognize that there is something what we can observe, and that there is another level which cannot be directly observed, and it could be taken as Self. In this practice we might become aware that this Self is dependent on things in the world. Now try to imagine that this dependence is in danger when we think that the world could cease. We experience some particular loss, but try now to image that there is more general loss. Would not be there a sense of death for “you”? What would happen with Self? Would not it die? The same is with birth, but in opposite direction. And how is there dependence between jati and jaramarana you will have to find it for yourself. For arahant, birth and death do not apply. He saw that there is not such Self which can be ever again threatened by sense of death. In Dhamma, Bhikkhu H. Ñānasuci
© Path Press – Archive of AKALIKA FORUM – nanavira.top-talk.net 2 'How do I know (contemplating death)?' by Varapanyo on Wed 15 Sep 2010 - 5:40 Mathias wrote: I often contemplated death. But there is one thing I did not achieve, namely the conviction that it will actually happen to me. It is impossible for you to see your own death. Even with the best imagination, you will always survive as a observer of "your" death In Dhamma to contemplate death = contemplation of dying body which leads to detachment and disidentification with a body. Do you have a problem to imagine your body as a corpse? In that case, perhaps you should exercise your imagination ... With metta by Mathias on Thu 16 Sep 2010 - 11:12 Dear Bhantes, thank you for your answers. As far as I can see the contemplation of death (regarding "me" and "my" body) remains in the realm of "what if". My body still doesn't tell me that it is going to become a rotting corpse. I have to believe this (which is certainly "healthier" than to deny it, but it's still not seeing). Take a mechanical clock for example. As long as I don't understand the functioning of the mechanism inside, I won't understand why this clock has to stop one day. It would appear to me that this clock could go on forever. The same with the body or life in general. Seeing other "clocks" stopping (i.e. other people dying) can only fortify one's beliefs, but it doesn't give any understanding how and why this has to happen (to me or "one's own clock" too). And I don't want to build upon mere beliefs. And I am also not really interested in imagination exercises. I want to know how and where to look in order to see and understand why death or impermanence are inevitable. So far, no individual case of death or impermanence was able tell me why there can't be an exception. So either I look at the wrong places or I lack something which is necessary in order to see clearly or maybe both. Thank you! With best wishes, Mathias by Varapanyo on Thu 16 Sep 2010 - 11:57 From practical point of view it is not very important to understand why impermanence is unavoidable. What is very important? To behave as one who knows that impermanence is unavoidable. And since you do not have such knowledge you should use your saddha. By asking questions why? how? you are like Ven Malunkyaputta.
ÂŠ Path Press â€“ Archive of AKALIKA FORUM â€“ nanavira.top-talk.net 3 'How do I know (contemplating death)?' by Mathias on Fri 17 Sep 2010 - 15:50 Ven. Varapanyo wrote: From practical point of view it is not very important to understand why impermanence is unavoidable. What is very important? To behave as one who knows that impermanence is unavoidable. And since you do not have such knowledge you should use your saddha. I try to do that. But as far as I can see the understanding of (the universal nature of) impermanence makes the difference, so I regard it as very important. Ven. Varapanyo wrote: By asking questions why? how? you are like Ven Malunkyaputta. Well, if the end result is going to be the same in my case, I am happy to hear that. Apart from that I don't see any close relation of my question(s) to that of the Ven. Malunkyaputta. With best wishes, Mathias by Varapanyo on Sat 18 Sep 2010 - 5:55 Mathias wrote: But as far as I can see the understanding of (the universal nature of) impermanence makes the difference, so I regard it as very important. If you really regard it as very important, just give up all your possessions, find good cave and stay there.You think too much about the universal nature of impermanence while the same impermanence slowly devouring you How long will you be alive, how much time do you have? Oh sorry, I have forgotten that you are still unsure, whether your body will die or not With meta V by Mathias on Sat 18 Sep 2010 - 10:44 Ven. Varapanyo wrote: If you really regard it as very important, just give up all your possessions, find good cave and stay there.
© Path Press – Archive of AKALIKA FORUM – nanavira.top-talk.net 4 'How do I know (contemplating death)?' I don't think that this is a matter of staying in a cave without any possessions. The Suttas mention quite a lot of lay people who attained that understanding, and as far as I remember the Buddha didn't question their earnestness the way you seem to do here. Apart from that, there are certain reasons which can prevent one from leading the homeless life (which is my case). I already live alone by choice and don't have to work for my subsistance, so within the limits of my capabilities I try to get as close as I can to a life which is suitable to attain my goal. Ven. Varapanyo wrote: You think too much about the universal nature of impermanence while the same impermanence slowly devouring you If you know that, please tell me how. Utterances out of faith are not going to help me. My saddha is strong enough to make me investigate the matter, but it's not a substitute for knowledge. Ven. Varapanyo wrote: How long will you be alive, how much time do you have? Oh sorry, I have forgotten that you are still unsure, whether your body will die or not You seem to think that these questions never occur to me because my lack of certainty. But this assumption is wrong (and barely comprehensible). I don't know how long I will be alive and how much time I have. Therefore I strive (and also ask such questions). With best wishes, Mathias by Varapanyo on Sun 19 Sep 2010 - 5:13 It seems to me so we approach The Dhamma from different sides and perhaps I do not understand exactly what is your problem. So I will leave you with your problems and stay with mine with metta V by BlackBird on Thu 30 Sep 2010 - 22:50 As far as I think, contemplation on death is a tool to be used to combat a certain problem, as Venerable Varapanyo has explained - Attachment to the body. Our goal is to get at impermanence, but it is not concerned with the eventual break up of the body but of the changing nature of the raw experience. What persists is our non-knowledge of it's true nature,
© Path Press – Archive of AKALIKA FORUM – nanavira.top-talk.net 5 'How do I know (contemplating death)?' and that is what we need to find. How is it found? I can't tell you, but the only progress I have made has been in dealing with the raw experience as it is. When you start contemplating death in such a way as you have described, you're doing so through the lens of Attavada, and you must inevitably hit a brick wall. This is because you're already tacitly affirming a self to which death applies. Seems to me that you might be focusing your efforts in the wrong direction, but I do not know. by Mathias on Fri 1 Oct 2010 - 10:33 Thank you, BlackBird. There is nothing further to add from my side at the moment. Different people, different approaches and - maybe - different outcomes. With best wishes, Mathias