On this current trip to Mysore, I have been doing a lot of reading of spiritual books.
I find that I can read and digest books here in a way that I cannot do so in other places. Partly it is because of the energy here and partly it is because there is so much free time here with little of no obligations that exist in our normal day-to-day lives.
The book that I am reading now is called "Words of My Perfect Teacher".
It was written by a revered Lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition by the name of Patrul Rimpoche. He wrote the book during his life in the 19th century. It is considered to be such a central and valuable text in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that the Dalai Lama is often cited as recommending it. The book covers all the basic tenets of Tibetan Buddhism in a way that most anyone can understand it. It actually was written in a fashion such that the common people of Tibet could read and understand it well.
The first section that I read was on the importance of building a distinct awareness of death and the impermanence of life. This particular kind of daily awareness is actually one of the most important aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. In general, without this awareness of death and impermanence, it is easy to fall into unconscious and destructive habits of mind and body.
The source of all our suffering in this life is rooted firmly in the mind. The beliefs that we create in our minds often prevent us from seeing the world (us included) as we really are. We believe that we know many things about our lives without ever stopping to closely examine if those particular beliefs are actually true or not.
One of the most significant beliefs that most of us hold is that we don't think that we are actually subject to the unpredictability of death. Even though there is ample evidence that people die suddenly and unpredictably all the time, most of us do not believe that the same can happen to us. Most of us live as we have lots of time to do whatever we want with no regard to the fact that our lives could end suddenly. The biggest cost of this way of thinking is that we often lose sight of just how precious this life truly is. We spend our time doing things and acting in ways that we would never do if we truly appreciated how precious and how special this life is.
Many people when actually confronted by the reality of and the possibility of their own death suddenly realize how much time they have wasted on activities and thoughts that have little significance. They realize how they have wasted moments on things that would have been much more positively utilized on matters of real depth such as spending time with loved ones or doing things that stirred strong passion in them.
Many of us run around in our lives expending tremendous amounts of energy accumulating wealth, possessions and status, never fully realizing that these worldly activities amount to little actual meaning in the face of one's own imminent death. The only aspects of this life, which hold any real meaning or depth are those parts of ourselves that are spiritual in nature. They are matters of the heart and soul; they are matters that cannot be seen with the eyes.
By meditating on the very real possibility of our death in any moment, we can create a genuine clarity of what is important and what is not.
Of course, this does not mean that we should abandon our worldly responsibilities. It just means that we should make sure that we have the proper perspective as much as possible about what truly matters in this life and what is only relatively important.
Along with an intense awareness of the possibility of our own death, we should also develop an constant awareness of the vast impermanence of the things of this world. Those parts of life that are worldly, that can be seen or felt with the physical senses, that can be perceived with the mind are all parts of the world that have no real constancy. These parts of life are in a state of constant flux and change. You can never depend on these parts of life except in a very transitory way.
Our suffering in this life comes from the confusion and ignorance that stems from not seeing that these parts of our lives are never constant, never permanent. When you project solidness onto what essentially is not solid, you will automatically become confused and your general state of ignorance about subtle matters will increase. You will automatically become more fearful and less open to hearing any kind of real wisdom.
That is why this teaching on death and impermanence from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is so central to their overall teachings. Naturally, it has power and application not just for Buddhists. It is such a deep truth that it can be utilized by anyone from any tradition or background that is open to it.
By meditating on death and impermanence in a deep and consistent way, you can produce great states of mental and emotional clarity in yourself. It will be much more difficult to fall into states of confusion and depression.
One quote from the book by Geshe Potowa says this:
"Thing about death and impermanence for a long time. Once you are certain that you are going to die, you will no longer find it hard to put aside harmful actions, nor difficult to do what is right.
After that, meditate for a long time on love and compassion. Once love fills your heart, you will no longer find it hard to act for the benefit of others.
Then meditate for a long time on emptiness, the natural state of all phenomena. Once you full understand emptiness, you will no longer find it hard to dispel all your delusions."
I am extremely grateful and feel greatly blessed by the wealth of spiritual literature that is available in the world today. I am amazed that there is so much in so many places at such reasonable prices.
Let us all utilize these great resources, not only for the betterment of ourselves, but for the benefit of the whole world.