Awareness of Death

1 of 3

Meditation — death is definite, but the time is uncertain

To generate compassion, it is essential to know, to feel, how fragile others' lives are, how they are beset by suffering no matter who they are. And to know this, first it is necessary to realize how fragile your own life is—to stare your own suffering in the face. The fundamental suffering is death; being aware of it puts everything else into perspective.

It is definite that we are going to die. At the time of death and beyond, our mental predispositions are carried from this lifetime to the next. Everything else is of little help. I can't take my nice home in Virginia with me, or my money, or my friends, or even my body. I will cast off my body or, from another point of view, it will cast me off. That which I took care of for so long, as if it were going to last a thousand years, will ditch me.

It is definite that we are going to die, but it is not certain when. The actuarial tables say that males as a whole will live so many years, and females as a whole will live so many more years, but such figures are irrelevant with respect to any specific individual; if you're going to die next week, chances are a hundred percent you're going to die then.

In order to cherish the time we have, reflect on the certainty of death and the uncertainty of when death will be. Such reflection puts a premium on the present, on the time we have.

In meditation, contemplate: "I will definitely die—as will all of us."

"I will die, but I don't know when I'm going to die. It could be at any time!"