Death, Buddhist beliefs, and attachment

March 11, 2009

Tonight after work I stopped by the funeral home for the visitation of the man that passed away Monday morning. As I expected, the funeral home was very crowded, with many people from work, and many other people I don’t know.

I’m really struggling to deal with this. I just came back from seeing my mom, who is also having health issues, and after visiting with her and the family I was feeling better about her, that maybe she isn’t doing as bad as I expected, although they are certainly having problems balancing some medications she’s taking. So I was feeling a little better about her situation, and then Monday morning this man died very suddenly.

I thought some of my Buddhist beliefs — and many of my personal experiences — would help in situations like this, but there’s a big disconnect between all of this right now. I find myself very attached to the physical world and to appearances, and at this moment, I’m not sure this level of caring is such a bad thing.

Tonight I am taking some solace in some Zen/Buddhist writings though. Here’s a paragraph I’m trying to focus on right now:

“So you ask about death. What is your true self? These are your hands, your legs, and your body. Your body has life and death. But your true self has no life, no death. You think, ‘My body is me. This is what I am.’ But this is not correct. It is just a form, not truly ‘you.’ So to think ‘I’ or ‘passing through death’ — this is crazy; you must wake up!”

There is a longer story wrapped around this paragraph which I think is very good, and I highly recommend this book. The book is titled, “Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake”, by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

As mentioned, at some level I think I know this, but it just hasn’t sunken in yet, at least not when death happens to people (and animals) that I care deeply about.

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