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Meditation on death

columns Updated: Jun 20, 2013 23:15 IST

Some of us think death is like a candle flame going out but it can’t be like that. When a candle flame is extinguished, its continuum ceases and it disappears.

We don’t disappear after death. Our death is like a bird flying out of its nest. Our body is like the nest and our mind is like the bird.

When consciousness leaves the body, we continue to experience fear and hallucinations, we suffer and still need protection. If we practise Dharma, we create good habits of mind that continue into the next life.

Since the continuum of consciousness carries the mental habits we have cultivated, our Dharma practice and virtuous actions can help us at the time of death and in future lives!

To prepare for our death, we need to meditate by imagining that the time of our death has come. This is called meditation on the aspects of death.

One can meditate on four aspects of death: Death is inevitable; what causes death; the way in which we die and what happens when we are dying.

These “aspects of death” are to be deliberated upon daily because when we die we enter the intermediate stage, Bardo, as Buddhists call it.

It is like a dream state in which we experience terrifying hallucinations that cause anxiety and panic. When we come out of the ‘Bardo’ stage, we perceive a new world, just as we awake from sleep to a new day.

If we imagine repeatedly that we are actually experiencing the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth, then our mind changes for the better.

If we find it difficult to do so, then we can visit cemeteries and look at the gravestones, remembering that underneath each one lies a body. We can take one grave as a subject of our meditation.

Meditation on death is useful particularly for those who forgets the spiritual practice and who finds it hard to consider anything that is not the immediate present.

( Edited extracts from the writer’s book , Joyful Path of Good Fortune)