The description for the April 14th “Death Contemplation & Meditation” Insight Timer live event:
Unwise, unskillful choices can come from an unconscious fear of death. The most profound contemplations and meditations on death protect us and help us appreciate every moment
Some revised notes:
- it’s springtime, why death?
- disclaimer: loss of loved ones, graphic detail
- uncertain and somewhat muddied sourcing on some of the stories and quotes
- intent to align with truth of the way things are now, not with death (as some teachings say we were once in the far ancient past able to incarnate at will without womb births)
- maybe a few masters who won’t, but most must eventually shed body in our current reality
- paraphrasing a remembered quote with unknown origin: “The greatest ill of mankind is seeing death all around and thinking it really doesn’t apply to me”
- terror management theory — defense mechanisms: push (death) off into future or pretend it doesn’t affect me. “Not me, not now”
- death culture, CORPorations
- eating flesh, vegetarianism, life force, decay
- most profound meditation: “Of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme”
- most of us don’t know time, place or how the body will pass and many don’t want to know
- extremes of:
- no negativity, pretend it doesn’t exist
- morose, bleak, dark, death obsessed
Benefits of Death Contemplation And Meditation:
In/for (formal) meditation practice:
‘…can be practiced when mental hindrances and other negative mental states are significantly affecting the progress of one’s meditation which in some meditators can even lead to terminating the meditation practice altogether.’ . . . ‘can be practiced as the powerful antidote to laziness, lethargy and lack of motivation while creating a sense of heedfulness, urgency, motivation and energy in the meditator to continue with the meditation.’via https://drarisworld.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/four-protective-meditations-caturarakkha-bhavana-in-theravada-buddhism
Meditation on death and loving-kindness may protect against any harmful actions of nihilists since they resonate with death and the energy of loving-kindness may be a reprieve from their bleakness.via https://integratingpresence.com/2021/10/23/wisdom-snippets-some-of-what-the-four-protective-meditations-deter
In the bigger picture of life:
- after death, what will happen to any and all we find so important now like diagnoses, challenges with body, over-planning, striving, perceived problems, quarrels, etc.?
“There are those who do not realize that one day we all must die. But those who do realize this settle their quarrels.”via https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.01.budd.html
- prepare for death
- realize the deathless, nibbana
- easier to forgive
- more alive
- tranquility, calmness, peace
- priorities clearer
- can help with grief: lends composure and understanding
- two friends recently lost parents. Denny Miu’s death wisdom:
‘…the dying really needs final resolution which many family members inherently are incapable of delivering mainly because they confuse dying with mourning. Dying peacefully is about letting go whereas mourning is about not letting go. This discrepancy actually creates tremendous arguments among family members when the timing is the most critical which doesn’t help. To let a love one die peacefully in front of your eyes require great discipline and self-abjection. Try to enlist your family members so that their conversations with the dying are centered around Say Love, Say Sorry, Say Thanks and Say Good Bye. Keep focusing on these and keep uncovering issues that have been buried for decades which are inevitably preventing the dying one from finally letting go.’
‘Pregnant with her second child, she was returning to her parents’ home, along with her husband and small firstborn child, to give birth. Along the way, a great storm blew up, and she asked her husband to provide shelter for the family. As he was cutting grass and sticks to build a shelter, a snake bit him and he died of the poison. Unsheltered, and wondering at her husband’s long absence, Patacara gave birth and had to spend the night sheltering both her children against the rain and wind with nothing more than her body. The next morning, she found her husband dead. Distraught, she decided to return to her parents’ home. However, a river — swollen from the rain of the previous night — ran across her way. Unable to carry both children across the river, she left her first-born on the near bank and waded through the raging current carrying her baby. Placing the baby on the far bank, she turned back to fetch her first-born. A hawk, seeing the baby, took it for a piece of flesh, and swooped down on it. Seeing this, Patacara raised her hands and tried to chase it away, but to no avail: The hawk picked up the baby and carried it off. Meanwhile, her first-born — seeing his mother raising her hands — took it for a signal to cross the river. As he jumped into the raging current, he was carried off to his death. Overwhelmed with grief, Patacara returned to her parents’ home, only to learn that it had burned down from a lightning strike in the previous night’s storm. Her parents and brother were at that moment being cremated on a single pyre. At this point, she went mad and began wandering around half-naked. Only on coming into the Buddha’s presence did she recover her senses. He taught her the Dhamma, and eventually she ordained and became an arahant.’via https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thig/thig.10.01.than.html
- Kisa Gotami and The Parable of the Mustard Seed:
THERE was a rich man who found his gold suddenly transformed into ashes; and he took to his bed and refused all food. A friend, hearing of his sickness, visited the rich man and learned the cause of his grief. And the friend said: “Thou didst not make good use of thy wealth. When thou didst hoard it up it was not better than ashes. Now heed my advice. Spread mats in the bazaar; pile up these ashes, and pretend to trade with them.” The rich man did as his friend had told him, and when his neighbors asked him, “Why sellest thou ashes?” he said: “I offer my goods for sale.”
After some time a young girl, named Kisa Gotami, an orphan and very poor, passed by, and seeing the rich man in the bazaar, said: “My lord, why pilest thou thus up gold and silver for sale?” And the rich man said: “Wilt thou please hand me that gold and silver?” And Kisa Gotami took up a handful of ashes, and lo! they changed back into gold. Considering that Kisa Gotami had the mental eye of spiritual knowledge and saw the real worth of things, the rich man gave her in marriage to his son, and he said: “With many, gold is no better than ashes, but with Kisa Gotami ashes become pure gold.”
And Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: “She has lost her senses. The boy is dead. At length Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request: “I cannot give thee medicine for thy child, but I know a physician who can.” The girl said: “Pray tell me, sir; who is it?” And the man replied: “Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha.”
Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried: “Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.” The Buddha answered: “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend.” Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said: “Here is mustard-seed; take it!” But when she asked Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?” They answered her: “Alas the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief.” And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.
Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless, and sat down at the wayside, watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished. And she thought to herself: “How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness.”
Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Kisa Gotami had the dead body buried in the forest. Returning to the Buddha, she took refuge in him and found comfort in the Dharma, which is a balm that will soothe all the pains of our troubled hearts.
The Buddha said: “The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings. As ripe fruits are early in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of death. As all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so is the life of mortals. Both young and adult, both those who are fools and those who are wise, all fall into the power of death; all are subject to death.
“Of those who, overcome by death, depart from life, a father cannot save his son, nor kinsmen their relations. Mark I while relatives are looking on and lamenting deeply, one by one mortals are carried off, like an ox that is led to the slaughter. So the world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world. In whatever manner people think a thing will come to pass, it is often different when it happens, and great is the disappointment; see, such are the terms of the world.
“Not from weeping nor from grieving will any one obtain peace of mind; on the contrary, his pain will be the greater and his body will suffer. He will make himself sick and pale, yet the dead are not saved by his lamentation. People pass away, and their fate after death will be according to their deeds. If a man live a hundred years, or even more, he will at last be separated from the company of his relatives, and leave the life of this world. He who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, and complaint, and grief. He who has drawn out the arrow and has become composed will obtain peace of mind; he who has overcome all sorrow will become free from sorrow, and be blessed.”via https://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm
“But as to the mendicants who develop mindfulness of death by wishing
to live as long as it takes to chew and swallow a single mouthful …
or to live as long as it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out—these are called mendicants who live diligently. They keenly develop mindfulness of death for the ending of defilements.
So you should train like this:Excerpt from:
‘We will live diligently. We will keenly develop mindfulness of death for the ending of defilements.’
That’s how you should train.”
Numbered Discourses 6
19. Mindfulness of Death (1st)
Meditation on Death (heavily inspired by the Bhikkhu Analayo meditation below)
Letting go of:
- Name & Identifications
- Loved ones
Losing control of Body:
- Feels heavy — earth element
- Leaking water, thirsty — water element
- Cold feet and hands; coldness creeping to heart — fire element
- Labored breathing — air element
Body starts decomposing:
- Insects, animals, worms
- Bones falling apart
(Reading of:) The Nine Cemetery Contemplations from the mindfulness of the body portion in the Satipatthana Sutta — Four Foundations of Mindfulness:
(1) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body dead one, two, or three days; swollen, blue and festering, thrown in the charnel ground, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: “Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it.”
Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-factors in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-factors in the body. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: “The body exists,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.
(2) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals or by different kinds of worms, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: “Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it.”
Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body…
(3) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton with some flesh and blood attached to it, held together by the tendons…
(4) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton blood-besmeared and without flesh, held together by the tendons…
(5) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton without flesh and blood, held together by the tendons…
(6) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to disconnected bones, scattered in all directions_here a bone of the hand, there a bone of the foot, a shin bone, a thigh bone, the pelvis, spine and skull…
(7) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, reduced to bleached bones of conchlike color…
(8) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground reduced to bones, more than a year-old, lying in a heap…
(9) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, reduced to bones gone rotten and become dust, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: “Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it.”
Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in the body. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: “The body exists,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.via https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanasatta/wheel019.html
- this very skeleton, the one subject to the last stages of decomposition, is in the body now
- could be last breath, if not one breath closer to death
- (option to maintain) full body awareness and can continue meditation
Audio: Death Contemplation And Meditation
I received permission to post the following comment about this podcast sent to me (with minor editing tweaks since it was likely created via speech-to-text):
I like the way you put the disclaimer in the front because sometimes when people read the title of a message like this it could cause triggering and the concept of death everybody has a little bit of a different spin on it so it was good that you did that I think.
I agree with you that you mentioned it there was probably a time when people maybe in a higher frequency range with a more etheric body could perhaps come and go without having to be born.
in the story about Emil and Friends it is mentioned that Emil’s mom learned to come and go and take her body with her. I got the impression that meant she could materialize and come and visit and dematerialize and go back to the other side of the veil without a lot of rigmarole.
and I believe there are some people like them that are probably still on Earth they can do these things of course they’re going to be on the down low I would suspect.
as I just think about it, if you had all the abilities to do things like this you wouldn’t get any peace at all, everybody would want you to solve their problems like the stories you heard about in the Bible with Jesus; anyway I digress.
and you mentioned Denny. I feel that it was a burden to care for his father and it was stressful to see his father deteriorate as we would be with anybody who has a sickness that brings them to death. I experienced this with my second wife.
I also feel that because of the world we’re born into we have been conditioned to look at death as something that’s not good.
also when you consider what happens a person dies [when] they stop breathing you can tell the life is out of them they start to decay yeah so there’s some things that could be triggering to people when they think about death. but as you mentioned earlier and I agree with that death wasn’t always viewed that way.
I suspect because we’ve vibrated at a very low level and we’re thick as a brick so to speak the process of transitioning from the side of the veil to the other has some what some may consider negative characteristics associated with it like rotting, decomposing. at a higher vibrational level one could just possibly turn into dust and blow away into the wind and it could be that simple.
I’m like near the end of your meditation portion of the video now you’re right it can be very triggering.
it’s like when I see a broken car with transmission fluid and the oil leaking out and it’s all beat up and nuts and bolts and pieces yeah I can look at that from a detached perspective. but when it’s another human with flesh and blood those details do affect me my feelings are more intense I guess that’s because that’s what I am (or perceive that’s what I am). although ultimately the broken down car and the rotting human are pretty much one of the same in a sense.
there’s an author named Michael Newton. he’s a bit like Dolores Cannon. he was a hypnotherapist and he would regress people back, not only to pass lives, but before they incarnated on the other side of the veil, he would go back that far.
and his book is basically a lot of case studies that he did with people as he was regressing them. some of the feelings exhibited by these people during the moment of their death are as follows:
back in the cowboy and Indian days a woman was shot in the neck with the arrow and she remembers blood coming out of her throat all over her new dress her husband holding her and then she says I’m getting the hell out of here and and was above the body looking down all this she didn’t actually feel any pain though.
another account of a young man 35 years old and he died suddenly and he had a wife and two kids and he was really angry because he wasn’t prepared; he felt that he was going to neglect his family and those were his feelings.
there was one woman who was burned at the stake and she said to herself before they burned her I’m going to show them I’m not going to scream or anything but then when the fire started she left the body before she felt the heat and the body was screaming and crying and having a fit and she’s looking above the body looking at herself going through all this.
and last week I heard an account from a channel that was describing a death of somebody, a world war II fighter pilot and when he was shot down he just remembered seeing a flash then he was on a runway then he saw two (pilots) of the people he knew who were dead earlier so he knew he wasn’t alive anymore. and he would think where he wanted to be and people he wanted to see and he was just there and that was one of the things he mentioned that he thought was interesting.
I’ve also heard accounts for people didn’t even know they were dead like in the movie The Sixth Sense where the kid says I see dead people.
this meditation that you did was deep and there might be some courageous souls who would take it to that level after they die or before I guess this is before you die. I just am not able to wrap my head around it yet or to have thoughts about it.
but thank you for taking the time to go there and to contemplate these things.
. . . [*]Just a correction on what I stated about the woman who got shot in the neck with an arrow.
She felt a lot of pain. I’m reading the book for a fourth time.
As a matter of fact some of the people who experienced pain when they died when they reincarnated into the next life that pain followed him go figure.
6 thoughts on “Death Contemplation And Meditation”