Given by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa at Palpung Sherabling, December 2004.
Transcribed by Chang Chin & Changchub Saldon
Teaching Chapter 2 & 3 and Practice Chapter 2 & 3
Now once we have clear appreciation of the precious human life, and wish to practice Dharma, develop the compassion and devotion. Then it is important for us to contemplate on the second preliminary contemplation ~ that is Death Impermanent.
Death impermanent is inevitable, can not avoid. Now First , human life, individual human life is so fragile . And it's impermanence is so.... It's, how do you say, life span is so short. So it is necessary for us to think of something a little bit more substantial and more permanent in order to comprehend this death impermanent - the manifestation of the karmic condition of all sentient being of the past, and present and future . That is the universe. So those of our kind, who have our kind of eye, who have our kind of body, who have our kind of five senses . So for us, by us, the whole universe manifests. And that universe is countless . And the space is endless . The universe is countless. And that is the manifestation of the karmic cause and condition of our type. Our type of human, our type of Gods, our type of Asuras, our type of animals, our type of hells, our type of ghosts . For our type, with one aspect of manifestation that we can see as Sun, Moon, star, etc, etc. So Buddha described one cloister of system is as third-thousand, third-thousand, it means 100 million solar system functions together as one unit. Practically means 100 million star cloister functions together. Planets are not stars. Moon is not a star, because it doesn't have lights of its own. Light shines on it. The light of star shines on it, so you can see. Just l ike us, I can see you soon as there are sunlight. But if there's no sunlight , I don't see you. So, you're not Sun. So 100 million stars system function together . And these types are countless. Some of them are bigger. Some of them are smaller. And ours one is pretty big, a hundred million. Even this is impermanent. Several billion centuries ago, it doesn't exist. Several billion centuries after, it won't be here. Even right now, it is changing.
How many species of trees, animals, plants perish , right on this planet , this earth ? They are no more. I don't mean they die; totally disappeared. No more. Unlike human, you know, one kind, s o that kind. There is animal of some kind. There is tree of some kind . There is plant of some kind . There is micro-organism of some kind . They disappear everyday. Not just one or two, everyday by hundreds disappeared, totally disappeared. And one day this earth will be gone. Don't worry about it. It will be after thousand Buddha. Very superficially speaking, very roughly speaking, in between each Buddha is about two million years. So out of the thousand Buddha, thousand prophesized Buddha, our Buddha Sakyamuni is number four. It will be a long, long, long time before this earth disappears. So don't worry about it. But this earth is also impermanent.
You remember I say "our kind" perceive? So if you die, and your body and your senses totally different in your next life. You might be born right here but you won't see any of these. Even the 100 million suns, you won't see. Something else, if all different . Not by bad karma . Not by good karma. If your karma is that, it would be different. You wouldn't see these, totally different. Reality is also limitless. This reality is one of the limitless realit y . It doesn't mean bad or good, if we are born and manifest everything totally different. It doesn't mean bad, it doesn't mean good, same as this, although it is totally different. You imagine your mind becomes somebody's mind, somebody who sits right next to you. And how that person hear, how that person smell , how that person see , how that person think , how that person feel, you will be amazed that totally different from you , similar but different.
I give you very simple example. Some people are allergic to this but not to that . Some people are allergic to that but not to this. Some people have no allergy at all. Some people have allergy to everything. And some people have allergy to some people. Some people have allergy to other people, positively and negatively. And some people have no allergy to any people at all. This way you can see . Some people like to put lots of chili into their food . And some people like to eat very plain. Some people like to eat everything fried. And some people like sweet. Some people like sour. This is very clear; everybody is unique master piece . So that way it is impermanent, even the perception.
Now, the main subject - Death Impermanent. So when you see that, then you can see death impermanent more clearly . Do you know anybody who did not die in the past? All the dead ones. Do you know any dead one who did not die? So I can guarantee all of us who are living today will die one day. And anybody who is not born yet, they will die too. Maybe they are long life, maybe they are short life, but they will die. And just like a butter lamp put outside in the wind, it can die anytime. For us, anything can cause our death. Eat our favorite food, because we like it so much, we eat it too quickly so blocked our wind-pipe and die. And we can't get guaranteed by anybody that tonight when you go to bad as a live person, and tomorrow morning a dead body is found there. No body can guarantee you it wouldn't happen, only. No body can guarantee. It didn't happen to us in this life; therefore, we think that it wouldn't happen. Did it happen to you in this life? Obviously not. So therefore we think it wouldn't happen, but no body can be sure. We know, we know each one of us does not know too many people, but we know this happens to somebody. Somebody went into the bathroom, does not come out, and everybody is waiting and finally start to knock the door, and then call the police and break the door and found dead. Somebody's bedroom is locked and won't open , did not show up for the breakfast. And then you knock the door. No response. And finally, you know, it's very important, you call the police, so call the police and break the door and found dead. Each one of us knows this happens to somebody. So why wouldn't that happen to us? Of course that shouldn't happen to us, but it might. But certainly, 100 percent, one day we will die. It can be one year from now; it can be ten years from now, it can be fifteen years from now. Or it can be even thirty or forty years from now. It will happen.
When that happened, then what happens? Our close relatives and friends will cry. Some countries, even they hire people to cry. Yes, they have professional mourners, they have. They have. And then there will be lots of flowers brought to our place , but not so many dare to touch us. So our dear ones will find some professional people to touch us. And they might put us in a very nice box and put under the ground. Or they might chop us into pieces and give it to the birds. That's what we do. Not here in India , no. And then, maybe they put it in the tower of silence and to be eaten by the birds . That is one particular religion called "Pakceses" . They do that. They put the dead ones on a tower of silence, so then slowly the birds will eat them and disappear. And then they might burn us, and make a handful of ashes . So that is what this precious body will become. All kinds of creams, all kinds of soaps, all kinds of clothes, and all kinds of cares that we take, all kinds of medicines, many times operations, change elbows, change knees, changes this, change that . And a t the end, it will become that.
Now, if you really boil down to everything, then it will come to one simple fact. We are not sure our next life will come first or tomorrow will come first. We don't know. Of course, we don't want next life to come first . We want tomorrow , and many tomorrow, many next years, many birthday cakes, you know. Many anniversaries we want. But we are not sure . Nobody is sure. When the next life comes, when we die, what will follow with us? None of our money, none of our fame, none of our position, nothing will follow us. We can't even take one page of diploma. We can't even take one coin of money . We can't even take one grain of rice with us, nothing. What follow with us is what our mind used our body, speech, mind for. That will follow. Our thoughts, our words, our actions, whatever we have done, that will follow with us. That will not stay with our dead body. So our money will stay with our dead body. Our diploma will sit with our dead body . All of our friends and relatives will sit with our dead bodies. And then after few days of crying and all of that, then they will divide everything we left. Sometimes they will fight over it. That is the nature of Samsara.
So therefore, what is more important for us to prepare for tomorrow? Or w hat is more important for us to prepare for the death? Which one is more important? So that way, of course, we have to prepare for tomorrow, of course. We all keep a fridge and we will keep food in there for tomorrow, r ight? And we all have a bank account and some money there for stormy days or rainy days. But very seriously, very seriously we have to prepare for what comes with us after our death . That is we have to think it very seriously. Of course, it's a little bit easier for me than for most of you, because you have little ones to be left behind. Little ones, you know, little ones. So you have to also prepare for their rainy days as well. You have to take those things seriously of course. But at the same time, you have to take very, very seriously, you know, next life. What you are right now is the result of what you have done in your past. What you will be in the future is depended on what you do now. So do it together. Prepare for tomorrow as well as prepare for next life together. Don't forget to prepare for next life, by being busy preparing for tomorrow which might not come. When our time for death happens, no one and nothing can stop it. It is like sunset. No one can stop it. So when our time for death approaches us and when we reach there, then it will happen. After our death, nobody can help us. Only thing that matters there is all the things that we have done when we were alive. It is moment of truth.
In life, if you dare, you can fool people. You can make good things look bad . And you can make bad things look good. But at that moment, in that situation, good is good, bad is bad. There are so many people talking about Great Day of Judgment. But Great Day of Judgment is when we die, because that is where our next life will begin. And who will judge us? No body. But our own karma will manifest. Therefore, that is the judgment. For example, when you plant rice, it will grow rice. Who decide to grow rice when you plant rice? Who decide? No body decides. But you decide it because you plant the rice. You plant rice and expect to grow potato, it won't happen. So if we plant good karma, good things will happen to us. If you plant bad karma, bad things will happen to us. So if we pretend the rice is potato, it will not happen. We put a big sign : W e are planting potato. We tell everybody that we are planting potato. Everybody believes us we are planting potato. Actually we planted rice. So after a couple of months, rice will show up. So in our lives, we can pretend all kinds of things. But whatever we are that will manifest in our next life. But between you and me, sometimes it also shows up in this life. So we don't have to wait for next life, sometimes it also happens in this life. If you lie once, you have to lie twice. If you lie twice, you have to lie four times. You cannot maintain lie by truth. If you tell the truth, you don't even have to remember anything, because it is true. And if you lie, you better remember what you say, because tomorrow you will say something else, because it is not true. So the karma is like that. And death is like that.
From our birth until our death, somehow we will continue superficially in one form. But still there is a big difference between what is right and what is wrong. Even you pretend to do right if you are doing wrong it will show somewhere, somehow. Little bit abnormal, something is there. I can't quite tell, but something is there, something is going on. Somehow, we will be secured until we die. But that security is totally, totally gone. The gate that you can lock; The window that you can put bars on; Safe that you can fix the number, all gone. Everything is gone. And you are totally what you are. Everything that you pretended is gone. If you are thrown out of airplane , fifty thousand feet and only thing that you will do is scream. That is the truth. But if somebody shows you a virtual reality that you are thrown off fifty thousand feet, you might not scream. You might enjoy it. You might pay money and go back again. When it really happens, one big scream all the way from up there to down there. But there will be difference between who is screaming. Somebody who have nothing to fear, who have done his or her best in life, that person will scream, but scream will be together with laughter. Scream and laugh. Scream and laugh. But somebody who has done lots of terrible things in life, or who haven't done their best in life; it will be nothing but horrifying scream. There is nothing funny. So that is the reality of death. I can't say I am not afraid to die . But I am more concerned about how I die than the death itself. I don't want to die, thrown off a plane, fifty thousand feet . And also , I don't want to die on a bed with lots of mucus in my throat. I hate that. It is okay how long it takes, but I want to die clean. That is my choice . That is my wish. I don't want too many tubes here and there; I don't want life-supporting machine . But I don't need mercy killing either. Just leave me alone, and I will die. So, that is my choice.
Now, after you truly feel the impermanence of life, then you should apply that to everything else in life. You should make money. You should do business. You should save something for your children or your parents. And you should plan for next year and year after and so on and so forth, and also retirement. You should plan. But, you should never become neurotic about it. You should take very seriously, planning for next life. So you can do that together ; you can do that together, plan this life and next life together. You can plan it together. You can do it together by doing the right thing in everything. Not doing the wrong thing in everything. There is countless ways to make money. Choose the best, most positive, most beneficial ways to make money. There is countless ways to plan your future. I meant this life's future and plan your children's future. Countless ways. So you choose the most positive, most beneficial, most correct way. So that way, then your this life's effort also can become a very good investment for your next life. The biggest bank is your conscience. What is in your conscience ? That always is there. Even if you do something that looks good but with bad intention, that goes into the bad account. Even you might look bad , but you are really doing good thing, then that goes into the good account. Of course, you should look good, and do good. So now this way, and then on top of that, you do Dharma practice. So for next five or six or seven years, you spend twenty-two hours for preparing for this life and two hours for next life. But that twenty-two hours should be blessed by these two hours. So it also becomes positive thing.
So now, as a practice, also you should imagine you are surrounded by your relatives and friends and you die. And then what happen ? You know what happen. So you think of it one after another. Then your mind is totally under the control of your karma. According to your karma, your mind will manifest. Then after your death, what happens to all your family and all your property, all your things . You imagine. You visualize. So that way, you have a very, very clear idea of what death impermanent is all about. Otherwise even we know death impermanent will happen . But somehow, you know that, you know, we are going to die. It is not a new thing, but somehow we don't have the clear understanding and clear respect for death impermanent . Now the end of the teaching and practice chapter number three. It is very clearly mentioned here . When you summarize everything about death impermanent, summarize : There is nothing left after birth except death, because after birth then we have to die. One day after, or 100 years after, then that is what would happen . And when that happens, the second thing is: when that happens, is uncertain. After death, everything that you have done is what will determine, what will make you manifest in the future. Body will be dealt with just many ways. And come to your mind will be fly around just like a feather in a storm. That storm is the storm of karma. So now this way, I think we know what is death impermanent and why Dharma is so important. And Dharma by definition is we have the Dharma. We have the Dharma. People who don't have the Buddha Dharma, then their future will be depended, will be influenced by whatever kind of good intention and bad intention that they have. They do good things, good things will happen to them . They do bad things, bad things will happen to them. So now with this I think we talked about death impermanent. And I want to conclude by saying may all of you have a very, very long, good, healthy life. For me, talking about my death is very auspicious thing . But for many people, talking about death is kind of a little bit bad thing. There is some kind of superstition . It is very funny. People don't want to talk about death. But for me, it is very important, because I have to remind myself. I am a very happy fellow. So if I don't remind myself, I will become too happy. So remind myself, then it helps me to be happy but to be reasonably happy. My happiness has taste. I appreciate my happiness much better. Even sadness is happiness for me . As I told you this morning, it is opportunity for me to learn about suffering. So I try to have a good balance.