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Creating a Pure Land

This morning our guided meditation was contemplating the death of a loved one.  It has been my habit to use the meditations offered in the Blooming of A Lotus each day: the first edition of the book contains 34 guided meditations, and each month I start with the first and proceed until I reach 28, 30 or 31 on the last day of the month.  Today, being July 12, was the turn of the twelfth exercise:

Aware of my beloved alive and
healthy, I breathe in
Smiling to my beloved alive and healthy, I breathe out

Seeing the dead body of my
beloved, I breathe in
Smiling to the dead body of my beloved, I breathe out

Seeing the dead body of my beloved infested with worms and flies, I breathe in
Smiling to the dead body of my beloved infested with worms and flies, I breathe
out

Seeing my beloved’s body as a number of dried bone, I breathe in
Smiling to my beloved’s body as a number of dried bone, I breathe in

Seeing my beloved’s remains being mixed with the earth, I breathe in
Smiling to my beloved’s remains being mixed with the earth, I breathe in

I have practiced this meditation for years, looking at my mother, my cats, my friends, some of them as they are alive in order to recognize their impermanence and at times after their death, as a way of coming to full acceptance that my beloved’s death and their impermanence does, in fact, reinforce life.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) suggests to us that when we with our beloved we might want to contemplate “darling where shall we both be in 300 years?”  The answer is that obviously we shall be long gone, this body I am attached to (or attracted to) will be way beyond festering with worms, and yet I can see that in 300 years, the qualities I love
about you will still be there, manifesting in so many other people, and this allows me to connect not just with you, the one I love, but to now connect with all people, with all species at all times.

Today, a similar insight arose, one that we all know in theory, but when we see it clearly in our hearts it changes us.  The insight that arose in me was that, yes, the remains of my beloved’s are mixed with the earth, and that means that the earth is in fact simply the remains of all the beloveds of all generations, of all species.  We are walking on, amongst, with, the remains of all generations.

When I walk with all those loved ones’ remains, my sense of appreciation of life is very different: I do not take life for granted, I do not take my loved ones for granted, I do not take the flower, or the tree, or the garbage for granted…  This is when I transform my consciousness from “oh this is the regular old world we are used to” to being present fully and dwelling in the ultimate.

This evening, we are having a talk on the Energy of Mindfulness.  Mindfulness must be mindfulness of something, we usually start with the breath.  This allows us to stop and
calm (Shamata – the first component of Buddhist meditation).  When we fully stop and fully calm the mind, insight (Vipassana – the second component) arises naturally.  With peace and calmness and with correct insight we can liberate ourselves from suffering: I free myself from carvings and from wrong perceptions, and dwell in the “ultimate” being connected to all ancestors.

The energy of mindfulness is a true miracle.  First and foremost it allows us to be there.  Not to be with our worries or projections, but to be with what is really here and
now.  It allows us to recognise what is there (including what we often ignore).  Then we get nourishment and we can heal.  We can embrace our pain and sorrow, look deeply at the source of suffering and see what feeds it.  Thus mindfulness allows us to connect with what is there, to gain insight of our suffering and to liberate ourselves from it.

With mindfulness, insight arises naturally, that is why mindfulness is our central practice.  As I become aware, that here are all ancestors, right here with me, in this earth, in this apple, I naturally understand Emptiness, that I am not separate, that I am made of “non-self” elements, I understand Signlessness, and am not caught in any one manifestation, and I understand Aimlessness, that I am already what I want to become (awake).

These are the three doors of Liberation: emptiness, signlessness, and aimlessness.  The miracle of mindfulness is that by simply being with what is and with our conscious breathing, we are led naturally, without discourse, to these wonderful doors of liberation.  And as we maintain our mindfulness in a steady manner, so is our liberation, and our dwelling in the ultimate is maintained more steadily, our Buddha nature is revealed more and more, and our part-time being a Buddha, becomes more deeply rooted, slowly making us full-time Buddhas.

Please join us in the mornings to sit and walk and practice mindfulness, dwelling in the present moment, and creating a Pure land together.

July 2010