Inspired by an ancient Buddhist meditation on death, Nityaprem contemplates the one certainty of our lives and asks some searching questions.
While I was studying Buddhism I came across this short meditation by the tenth century teacher Atisha, called the “nine point contemplation on death” which has stayed with me and provided an important piece of life direction:
1. All of us will die eventually
2. Your life span is decreasing continuously
3. Death will come whether you are prepared or not
4. Your life span is not fixed, death can come at any moment
5. Death has many causes
6. Your body is fragile and vulnerable
7. Your loved ones cannot keep you from death
8. Your material possessions cannot help you when death comes
9. Your body cannot help you when death comes
Atisha ends this contemplation by saying that there is nothing you can take with you, except what you have achieved on the spiritual path. To me, this was a wake up call, because what I had been doing with my life was just focused on having fun and material things. Nothing like a bit of death to give you a jolt, eh?
It reaffirmed for me that I was doing the right thing by pursuing a spiritual path, dropping for a good long while the ideas of career, goals, fun and games. Of course, just because it feels right doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn out as you wish.
Atisha’s contemplation leaves you with the question what you can actually achieve in this life that you can take with you. Osho wasn’t very forthcoming about this or about the afterlife, he once said he purposely didn’t talk about that topic because he wanted you to focus on the here and now.
A quote from Osho…
“First know life; do not ask what death is. Know life, and by knowing life you will come to know death also. What you are transcends both. You are neither life nor death. You have been living, you will be dying – your being transcends both. Do not identify yourself with life. If you identify yourself with life then you will think of death as your enemy. Know life and then you know that you are beyond – unidentified, someone who has come to life. And you will know death too – as a door going back, returning to the source. Life comes, death comes, but the source remains beyond both.”
(Osho, ‘The Eternal Quest’)
But we are tempted, dear Osho. There is one source of information which has potential to give us a peek, there have been a number of people exploring near-death experiences or NDEs. Some famous books on this subject range from Raymond Moody’s ‘Life After Life’ (1975) to Eben Alexander’s ‘Proof of Heaven’ (2012).
From those sources it seems to me very likely that there is some sort of afterlife, but also that the mind and spirit are probably altered in the process. Without the anchor of a body and a brain, who knows what might survive from our instincts, drives and thoughts? At the very least you will want to feel happy about how you spent your time on Earth, and that is about resolving blockages, traumas and karmic imprints, the stuff that follows you.
If you think of all the events that bring up negative emotions in you, the times when people wronged you, didn’t give you your due, falsely accused you. Those moments which mattered to you. Are there any that you wouldn’t want to forgive?
More to the point, do you think your spirituality has brought you something worthwhile that you can take with you into the beyond? Or do you think Osho’s love, life and laughter has brought you a more beautiful life, and that was enough? Or have you left Osho behind and are you now struggling on your own with the questions of life and death?