Archive for October, 2009

This must be a record for me: two posts in the same month. Great! This post will be a little odd, because I’m going to ask a favour from my readers.
Last night, I sat for the first time in a long time. It was lovely. It cleared my head up, for a while, and relaxed me nicely to get a good nights sleep. I also watched a film last night. It was Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, a film following the life of HH Dalai Lama. It’s a very good film, showing the stuffle between the Tibetan and the newly formed Peoples Republic of China. It gives a wonderful look into the Tibetan world before it was invaded by the Chinese. It always makes me want to meditate and keep my practice going.
The sad fact is that I have become very lax in my practice. I try and keep to the precepts as best I can, but I’m not always able to. I know meditation is not the only way of following the path, but it is a good start. And I like to meditate; it helps me to concentrate, it clears my head, and it’s good for my health (which is a good point at the moment). The problem is, my meditation is very random. Sometimes I sit for several nights at a time, sometimes I won’t sit for months at a time. And it bugs me. What I need is a little prodding. Keeping this blog up to date would be a start. So what I’d like is people who notice I haven’t posted for a while to prod me by leaving a comment, and remind me to keep on track with my practice. I know it’s a long shot, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.


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This may sound morbid, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. There are several reasons for this, chief amongst which is the fact that I’ve been (and technically still am) ill recently. In the last two and a half weeks, I’ve blacked out twice. I don’t know if that’s serious or not, but the fact that the room regularly spins doesn’t help matters. I went to see the Hospital up in London, for a normal, routine check up on my heart (I was born with a congenital heart defect). When I told the Doctor about this, she became concerned. Anyway, they’re running up all sorts of tests on me, and I look forward to the results.
The second reason I’ve been thinking about death recently, is because my wife and I watched a program on the BBC recently all about death, and people’s attitude toward it. I think it’s fair to say that death is somewhat of a taboo in England, if not the western world. People don’t talk about it, and you’re seen as a bit odd if you do. In my line of work, there is always the distinct possibility that I will come up against death, whether it’s my own or someone else’s. Fortunately, I haven’t yet, the closest I have come is a lady in a body bag, but I’ve always wanted to know what my reaction would be should I come across one. It is said that death is the ultimate teacher, the final challenge, or even just the beginning. But people don’t like to think about death in my experience. If people start to talk about death, the subject is often quickly changed.
But is this the right attitude to have? Often, death comes as a bit of a surprise, so to not plan for the death of a loved one, or your own, seems like a bit of a wasted effort. I know that if I was to die tomorrow, my wife would only have a vague idea of what my wishes were. And the same if the opposite happened.
In Buddhism, we are taught that death is not to be feared or ignored, but to be used as motivation to practice. If we were to lead a life of ignorance, where we do not live our lives to our best, it is a waste, and we will be born in samsara (suffering). The following is attributed to the great Tibetan Buddhist Scholar, Je Tsong Khapa:

This life is as impermanent as a water bubble;
Remember how quickly it decays and death comes.
After death, just like a shadow follows the body,
The results of black and white karma ensue.

Finding firm and definite conviction in this,
Please bless me always to be careful
To abandon even the slightest of negativities
And to accomplish only virtuous deeds.

This simple verse, or prayer, highlights the main teachings of Buddhism in 8 lines. Life is short, and death is the only certainty. There is nothing after death but the result of our Karma (actions), good and bad. We should always make the most of this moment. Living our lives as best we can, without performing any negative actions. Obviously, this is a very simplified version, but one I try to keep to at all times.

I must be honest though, up until now, I haven’t been very diligent in my practice. I could blame this on my matt, my back hurting, or even not having enough time, but the simple truth is that I’m just lazy. Although I am young, death is an ever present threat, and my practice could be cut short at any time, with all this negative Karma un-purified. If this ‘scare’ has taught me anything, it’s that I should get my self sorted and sit when I can. The advantage is that concentrating on something has helped me when the room is spinning. If my sergeant will accept this for the reason I’m sitting crossed legged in the middle of the squad room is another matter. Another thing it has taught me is that I need to write out a death plan, detailing what my wishes are after I pass on. It’s a plan that we should all follow, even if it’s just to make us think about our inevitable fate.

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