Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Nothing to hold on to


We continue with our discussion of generating regret.  As a reminder, regret is the mind which says, ‘I did X, so if I don’t purify, I will experience Y in the future.  Therefore, I need to purify to avoid these consequences.’  The next few verses talk about how the realization of death informs our regret.

(2.33) Since the untrustworthy Lord of Death
Will not wait while I purify my evils,
Regardless of whether I am sick or not,
This momentary life is unreliable.

We have enormous arrogance thinking that we have time to purify because we will die later.  But there is a great danger that we may die before we have purified.  If this takes place, it is almost certain that we will fall.  This is especially true given the fact that we are doing almost nothing to purify right now.  We could very easily see our entire life slip away without ever getting down to serious purification.  Negative karma is like time bombs within our mind that can go off at any time and throw us into the lower realms where we will remain for aeons.  Allowing such negative karma to remain is simply too big of a risk.  Even if we don’t die, we could have a big delusion ripen which opens the door to us losing everything through abandoning the path or even committing suicide.

The point is this:  by some miracle, right now we have found the Dharma and have an interest in practicing it.  But we don’t know when we are going to die.  We quite literally may die today, tomorrow or in a week’s time.  Venerable Tharchin once said if we can’t get a feeling for “I may die today,” then think, “I will die sometime around the end of next week.”  We live our life as if that was the case.  What would we be doing differently?  If we make it to the end of next week, then maybe it will be at the end of the week after that.  But if we don’t make it, then at least we won’t have wasted it.  At some point, it will be true; in the meantime we live our life informed by wisdom.

(2.34) I shall have to leave everything and depart alone
But, through failing to understand this,
I have committed many kinds of evil action
With respect to my friends and others.

(2.35) And yet my friends will become nothing
And others will also become nothing.
Even I shall become nothing;
Likewise, everything will become nothing.

We commit negative actions against our enemies or for our friends thinking that what happens in this life matters.  The meditation on death helps us realize that the only thing that matters are the causes we create for ourselves.  What happens in this life is very temporary and ultimately makes little to no difference, whereas the causes we create have the potential to affect our eternity.  They are much more important.

There is no safety to be found anywhere in samsara.  There is nothing to hold on to that can protect us.  We are in karmic quick sand.  Our friends cannot help us, our family cannot help us, our wealth, position and reputation cannot help us.  Everything we have worked for in this life will have to be left behind.  We are merely a traveler passing through this world.  Some people stay in one place their whole life wishing they could get out; others are constantly on the move and wish they could plant their roots somewhere.  But in the end, both equally die.

If we have enough merit and enough worldly wisdom, we may be able to create a comfortable life for ourselves, but if we grow attached to it, when death comes it will feel as if everything is being ripped away from us.  We will then grasp more tightly, respond negatively and fall into the lower realms.  We need to stop seeking our stability and security in the things of this life, and instead focus all of our efforts on closing the door to the lower realms by engaging in sincere purification.

When we die, our family, friends, home, wealth, job, reputation, everything will simply vanish.  They were actually never there to begin with.  There is no point in trying to hold onto these things or relying upon them for our stability because they will all be for naught in the end.  This does not mean we abandon them or become indifferent to them, rather it means we don’t seek refuge in them.  When death comes, the only thing that can protect us is our faith in the three jewels, the purification we have already done and the merit we have stored on our mind.

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