This is part 4 of the series on my understanding of how to engage in the ultimate perfection of each stage of the path.
Normally we call the next meditation on death. But once again, each stage of the path is a mental action, so an awareness of death itself is not the meditation, rather it is the mental conclusion we come to practice the Dharma purely right now without wasting a single moment that is the actual stage of the path. In the previous meditation we realized how we have a precious human life with which we can attain the highest spiritual goals. In this meditation, we first realize how we may lose our precious human life at any moment and as such we cannot afford to waste even a single moment of our opportunity. Since we may die at any time, we realize that the only thing we can take with us into our future lives is the karmic potentialities we have planted on our mind, so when we realize death we choose to use this present life for the sake of our countless future lives. This is what makes our practice of Dharma “pure.” Our practice is impure if we practice Dharma for the sake of this life alone. The perfection of the realization of death is the decision to practice Dharma right now without wasting a single moment with the aim of using this life to become a fully enlightened Buddha. The ultimate perfect of the realization of death is the perfection of the realization of death conjoined with an understanding of how our precious human life, our death, our practice and our future lives are all empty.
It has already been explained in the previous post how our precious human life is empty.
The emptiness of the death of our precious human life can be understood in a variety of different ways. First, if we recall from the previous meditation our human life becomes precious if we make the mental decision to use it for the purposes of attaining spiritual goals. If for whatever reason we abandon this decision and start to use our human life only for worldly purposes (meaning reasons concerning this life alone), then our “precious human life” has died even though our human life itself has not. This is a form of death that depends entirely upon our mind. It is quite similar in how we say ordained people disrobing is a form of spiritual suicide. From the point of view of emptiness, quite literally it is a form of spiritual suicide because the monk or nun known as Kelsang Whatever is no more – that person has died even though their human life continues.
A second way our precious human life can die is the karma giving rise to the appearance of the 8 freedoms or the 10 endowments might exhaust itself before our human life comes to an end. For example, imagine somebody moves to a country where there is no access to the Dharma and the person gradually loses interest and stops practicing. This is a death of the person’s precious human life even though they are still alive. This, sadly, occurs all of the time. Each of the freedoms and endowments are a karmically appearing condition of human life. As explained before, every phenomena is a mere karmic appearance of mind. Every karmic appearance has a certain duration to it. It is very similar to a DVD or a YouTube video. Depending upon the intensity of the original karmic cause giving rise to the appearance, different karmic seeds will have different karmic durations to them. Some appearances may last for many years, others may last for only a few moments. Right now, we may have the appearing conditions of all of the freedoms and endowments, but there is no guarantee that this karma might not exhaust itself at any moment. So it is not just an issue of we may get in some accident and die before we get old, the death of our precious human life can happen anytime through the simple exhaustion of the karmic appearances which enable our life to be precious.
A third way our precious human life can die is our human life itself dies. This can actually be understood as a specific instance of what was just described. Our human life is one of the freedoms. The appearance of this life is a karmic appearance, and this karma can exhaust itself at any point. When this happens, the appearance of this human life will cease completely. When we die, it is like the karmic movie of our present life story coming to an end. All of the appearances of this life gradually cease until we enter the clear light of death. This is our very subtle mind which goes with us from life to life and never dies. As will be explained in the next meditation, the quality of the mind we have at the time of our death determines the quality of the karmic potentiality that ripens at the time of our death. This potentiality will then ripen in the form of the appearances of our next life. It is like we put in a new DVD which will have its own duration. We leave all of the appearances from our previous life behind, and the only thing we carry forward with us into our future lives are the karmic potentialities (each of which will eventually ripen as a different karmic YouTube video) we have placed on our mind during our life. So if we think deeply about this, we will realize that the only thing that has any real value is the karmic causes we create – only this matters. What appears does not matter at all. The only thing that matters is what karma we create in response to what appears.
It is fairly straightforward to understand how our decision to not waste a moment of our precious human life is empty. It is exactly the same as our decision to seize the opportunity afforded us by our precious human life. Additionally, what does it mean to not waste a moment of our human life? It means to use every moment of our life to train our mind in the Dharma. To train our mind in the Dharma is to choose to engage in certain mental actions, such as choosing to abandon our attachment to what other people think or choosing to consider the happiness and well being of others to be something that is important. These are mental actions, and thus depend entirely upon our mind.
In summary, understanding that our precious human life is nothing more than a mere karmic appearance of mind which can exhaust itself at any moment, we choose to use every moment of our life to train in engaging in the mental actions of the stages of the path so that we may plant on our mind the karmic potentialities that we can carry forward with us into our future lives and which will eventually ripen in the form of the appearance of ourselves as Heruka or Vajrayogini in our pure land liberating all living beings.