Everyone dies. We all know it, but most of us live our lives as if we were going to live forever. What’s wrong with that? You might ask. Nothing, except that you might waste your life and, for sure, you’ll miss a great deal of the beauty and joy that comes from truly appreciating life.
Contemplating on death is an important part of the Buddhist spiritual path. You might think that living in awareness of the fact that you could die at any moment would be a miserable mind state, but in fact, the opposite is true. When you’re aware of the inevitability of death, you don’t take anything, or anyone, for granted. You don’t miss the beauty and joy in a single moment, and you don’t let sadness and pain get you down because you know it won’t last.
Contemplating on the fact that you could die at any moment – accidents happen and the people they happen to never thought it I would happen to them either – also helps sort out your priorities. When you ask what will be important at the moment of your death, you realise that how much money and material goods you have is completely irrelevant, as is how many books you’ve sold or whatever other markers you have for your success. The only things that will be important are the state of your mind and whether or not you’ve lived your life so that you have no regrets.
A peaceful mind at the moment of death will ensure a smooth journey to the afterlife – and in the right direction – for those who believe in it, and an easier death for those who don’t. We cannot control the time or means of our death, whether it is in pain, or not, and we may not even have total control over our mind, but if we have lived our life with a peaceful mind, then habit will make it most likely that we will die in peace, regardless of the situation. And if we have treated everyone with kindness and respect, we will look back at our life with satisfaction and have no regrets to disturb our peace of mind.
How do we foster a peaceful mind? The answer is simple: practice letting go of your thoughts and emotions because it is they that disturb your natural peace. This is what we practice in meditation. So spend time every day in whatever form of mediation, contemplation or prayer suits you and remember that you will die; it could happen at any time.
How does being aware that your loved ones will die change the way you relate to them?