Death & Dying

Powerful end-of-life practices and compassionate care
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    Death Awareness Paid Member

    On each branch of the trees in my gardenHang clusters of fruit, swelling and ripe. In the end, not one piece will remain. My mind turns to thoughts of my death.—Seventh Dalai Lama Many meditations focus on something associated with beauty or joy or peace. Perhaps some of you may puzzle over why a contemplation would focus on death. Actually, in the teachings of the Buddha, it's a very important practice. It's part of the general importance given to impermanence, change—and death is a dramatic case of that. Reflections on anicca—that everything that arises passes away—is central to wisdom practice. More »
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    Death: As Common As Life Paid Member

    At least half the organic matter you see on a walk in the forest is dead: dead leaves, deadwood, dead weeds, insect carcasses, maybe even the stinking corpse of some higher animal if you're lucky. There are massive die-outs: suddenly the cicadas are silent, and the husks of their bodies litter the trail. Great plagues sweep across the vegetable kingdom: plagues of viruses, plagues of herbivores, plagues of invading plants, as the monastery's gardeners know only too well. And then all this carnage is brought to an abrupt halt by that biggest mass murderer of all, the first hard frost. The katydid's song grinds to a halt, the dainty jewelweed shrivels and collapses into putrid slime, the birds get out while the going's good. Autumn's splendid tragedy unfolds, and we have the beauty of a dying world. The spectacle makes us pensive: we think of our own demise, our approaching winter. More »
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    What Is Death? Paid Member

    In the popular imagination developed by a modern scientific education, death is most often supposed to be a terminal state, a nothingness, an oblivion, a void that destroys life, that swallows it up forever. It is aligned with sleep, darkness, and unconsciousness. It is feared by those who feel happy, or feel they should be happy. It is sought after by those who are in misery, filled with unbearable pain and anguish, as a blessed final anesthesia. But science should not neglect to question this picture. In fact, inner science begins with the analysis of nothingness. Nothing is after all just nothing. It cannot be a place that resembles an idea of nothingness. A place involves area, or extension. It is defined by coordinates and boundaries. It is not nothing. It is room. Nothing has no room, nor can anything be located within nothing. Nothing cannot have an inside or an outside. It cannot destroy, swallow, or terminate. As nothing, it can have no energy or effect. More »
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    Our Real Home Paid Member

    Even the Buddha himself, with his great store of accumulated virtue, could not avoid death. When he reached old age, he relinquished his body and let go of its heavy burden. Now you too must learn to be satisfied with the many years you have already depended on your body. You should feel that it's enough. More »
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    Houn Jiyu-Kennet Roshi Paid Member

    Roshi Jiyu-Kennett, founder of Shasta Abbey, died on November 6, at the age of seventy-two. In thirty-three years of teaching, she guided hundreds of students, and her books, including The Wild, White Goose (1977, 1978) and Selling Water by the River (1972),* are read widely by Western Zen practitioners. In her last years of life, however, Kennett Roshi increasingly isolated herself from other Zen lineages in the United States and Japan. More »
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    Lex Hixon Paid Member

    At the age of 22, Lex Hixon wrote a poem that includes the following lines: all I wantinscribed on the dancing flames of my pyre:the enigmatic phrase,all is light More »