Who Dies?

Buddhism is famous for its so-called ‘non-self’ (anatta) doctrine; ‘Emptiness’ – you read it everywhere. So, who’s ‘experiencing’ are we exploring? Who gets awakened? Let me say that this writer assumes you are a person, and that all this talk about growth, development, death, sickness, old age and awakening pertains to you as an individual. Enlightenment is a change in a person. I’ve translated the following ‘sutta’ to demonstrate that the Nikāya Buddha was clear about this.

The Burden (Samyutta Nikāya 22.22; PTS: S iii.25)
Translated by Christopher J. Ash

In Sāvatthi, the Flourishing One said: “Listen, Practitioners. I will point out the burden, the one who bears the burden, the taking up of the burden, and the laying down of the burden.” They were attentive.

“And, what, Practitioners, is the burden? It has to be said: the five sentient processes as clung-to. Which five? Form-process clung to, feeling-tone-process clung to, perception-process clung to, intentionality-process clung to, consciousness-process clung to. Just this, Practitioners, is called the burden.

“And who carries the burden? The person, it has to be said – the venerable one of such-and-such a name, and such-and-such a community. Practitioners, the person is called the carrier of the burden.

“And, what is: ‘taking up the burden’? Thirst, bringing renewed existence – accompanied by pleasure and lust; seeking pleasure all over the place. That is: thirst for sense pleasure, thirst for existence, and thirst for non-existence. This, Practitioners, is called ‘taking up the burden.’

“And, what is: ‘laying down the burden’? The complete fading away and cessation of that very thirst – giving it up, forsaking it – being free and unattached. This, Practitioners, is called ‘laying down the burden.’”

This is what the Flourishing One said. And, having spoken, the Well-Faring One further said:
“A burden, indeed, are the five sentient processes,
And, the burden-bearer is the person.
Taking up the burden in the world is stressful;
Laying the burden down is well-being.
Having laid this grave burden aside,
without having taken up any other –
Having pulled out craving at the root –
One is free from thirst, fully quenched.”

Later, I’ll have to explore how ‘the processes themselves’ could be thought of as a burden. It would seem obvious to us in a science-based culture that nature has given rise to these forms of knowing – the sensory dimensions – and to reject them cannot be sensible. So, instead we’ll look at the text as presenting something which contemplative experience can elucidate: that the senses don’t present reality.

Mindfulness with clear comprehension – that is, the way of contemplation – reveals that there is in present reality a way in which the noun phrase ‘senses’ doesn’t apply. To know this is to find a state of knowledge that is highly unusual; a valid state of absence of such a distinction, which will nevertheless not negate ordinary usage of the phrase. You would be forgiven if you responded with an “Huh?”

‘It is a state without ordinary perception and without disordered perception and without no perception and without any annihilation of perception. It is perception, consciousness, that is the source of all the basic obstacles.’
– Saddhatissa, H.. The Sutta-Nipata: A New Translation from the Pali Canon (p. 102). Taylor and Francis.

The teaching of the deathless makes sense only after we have seen that perception is not the primary fact of human experiencing; that perception is dependently arisen, and so derives from a deeper dimension.

But, for now, consider that it’s possible that there is a way in which mis-perceiving their nature is the condition for the burden. Suffering’s cause doesn’t just reside in the process of clinging alone, but in clinging as a significantly energetic point in a nexus of conditions. Why would we cling anyway, unless there was something we’ve projected into these processes? Have we seen them correctly, independently of our thirst and associated constructing tendencies?

And, for now, my point is that words like ‘a person,’ or ‘an individual,’ and so on, are a valid ways of speaking about our experiencing, referring to we who have been born and will die, and who are clarifying our place in things. ‘Non-self’ is a strategy for releasing us from clinging to experiences, releasing us into a greater comprehension; and is not meant to deny what you rightly know. We’ll come to all this later, when we unpack the Kalakārāma Sutta.

Learning in the Open

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki

If I examine my own use of the words ‘death’ and ‘dying,’ I notice that I can imagine ‘the later event,’ and I seem to believe it has some reality, in some way. How can this be? What can I believe about something which I haven’t experienced?

You can’t say that seeing others die tells me anything important about death – except that I will come to that event, at some time. One decade, one year, one month, one minute, one second – it’s certain, but it’s all later, and it’s from the outside of the event. So, seeing others die tells me very little to make me intimate with death, really.

I use the words ‘death,’ and ‘dying’ and apart from seeing the bodies of others – that is, seeing the so-called ‘dying,’ and ‘death,’ of others – I still don’t have the faintest idea of what that is like, inside. If I don’t know what death feels like, if I don’t know what it’s like from the inside, then what meaning has the word in relation to myself? Very little, really. It remains an enigma. Seeing the death of others, mostly only brings this ‘later’ concept, not intimate knowledge.

I’ll stop breathing; my blood will stop flowing; my body will go cold; my senses will cease functioning; I will stop thinking and having emotions. I can think things like that, from the outside. I’ve seen that happen to others, so it’s clear. But, what’s that like as an experience?

I have witnessed a dying person having their ‘inside’ angle on the event – ‘an experience of dying.’ Can I know the essence of that, now, while living? Is there death at all, from the ‘inside’ angle? Is there any way that, while living in all kinds of conditions (sick or ill, happy or sad, and so on; and while not missing out on a fully-lived, vibrant, real life), that I can know something about the dissolving of life?

What do the earliest teachings, the Nikāyas – which are the classical pattern of the Buddhist teachings, the teachings closest to the historical Buddha – what do they say about this real-life challenge? This is not reality TV – a pathetic spectacle that depends on being displayed to the world, on others seeing it. One is, in an important sense, alone in this.

That’s where mindfulness comes in – because I can explore the very heart or essence of dying, in my own experience. It turns out that these early teaching have a lot to say about the challenge, and that they offer a pristine ‘present-moment awareness’ approach to death and dying. Their approach is very simple, and very applicable to life now – not just about the ‘later’ event, which I will certainly encounter.

It’s clear that the Nikāya Buddha sees a kind of three-tiered process happening. (These ‘layers’ needn’t be sequential; they can be seen as three levels that are always present, and with which we can familiarise ourselves.

I begin by examining how I am treating myself and others. I clean up my act. And, going deeper, being assured, I approach experience very differently – contemplatively. I listen and examine the teachings (the core of which are about consciousness, or citta.) I hold them up against my own experience, seeing if they work.

And, then in the last phase: I become the dharma, in a sense. Or, putting it differently, as I go deeper, seeing the nature of what is, I acknowledge that the dharma is not, has never been, separate to my life.

In this last, I’m reminded of a verse from a later Buddhist Gompopa who said:
May my mind become one with the dharma;
May the dharma progress along the path;
May the path clarify confusion;
May confusion dawn as wisdom.
(Looking at this, I wonder if it was meant to reflect the four noble truths teaching).

So, I’m saying, here, how there is a valid perspective, from which our learning can be said to have stages or levels – a development. (The test of its validity is that it works to bring more life). All of this development is a re-organisation of how we experience ‘time,’ ‘space’ and knowing. (I’ll expand these categories more clearly).

The Nikāyas say that as a result of re-aligning one’s pre-teaching, topsy-turvy perceptions with how things actually are (which you discover, as you inquire with an open heart), one knows the deathless – the unborn.

Who will master this earth,
the world of death and devas?
Who shall select a well-taught teaching
like an expert selects a flower?
A learner shall master this earth,
the world of death and devas.
A learner selects the well-taught teaching,
as an expert selects a flower.
– The Nikāya Buddha, Dhammapada, verse 44-45. Translated by Christopher J. Ash

There is Death-Dukkha

I need to explain how I see the central point about human discord. How do we translate ‘dukkha’? While it is true that ‘dukkha’ has a number of meanings, depending on its context (and that it’s so that the use of the translation ‘suffering’ has a flattening effect on the term), when it comes to thinking about the deepest layers of its meanings, we can find an experience-near meaning, after all; one which helps clarify the personality’s functioning in relation to dying and death.

The interpretation which I prefer is that one based on the etymology found in the Pāli English Dictionary. I like it because it makes the most sense of the family of uses that the word has, across all its contexts.

The PED says that the word is made up of ‘duḥ’ plus ‘kha.’ Those mean: ‘bad’ and ‘space.’ Some think that this refers to the space at the hub of a cart-wheel. Whatever the case, we can take it to mean: a bad space. And, if you like the wheel image, it means a badly functioning centre. It’s a space that doesn’t work well. That’s helpful, I find, for understanding the Nikāya Buddha’s use of ‘dukkha.’ There is death-dukkha because we are operating from the wrong kind of space.

If we aren’t aware of the space from which we know the deathless, then our understanding of the events which we name will be skewed.  Birth, ageing, illness, death, getting what you don’t want, not getting what you do want; separation from what is delightful, and the fluctuations of the five sentient processes (of form, feeling-tones, perceptions, intentionality, and consciousness) – all these can be seen in perspective, when seen from a completely satisfactory space, a non-dukkha space.
With the realisation of the deathless, we see through all these life events as not what we took them to be. So, I take the Pāli ‘maranam dukkham’ to mean: “There is death-dukkha.” Without the vision of the deathless, there can only be a distorted relationship.

There is no suggestion, as far as I know, in the texts, that the Nikāya Buddha was experiencing dukkha when he had bodily pains, or when he was dying. Dukkha is created by our wrong relationship, our reactivity. With our everyday-variety narcissism comes birth-dukkha, illness-dukkha, death-dukkha, association-with-the-unpleasing-dukkha, separation-from-the-pleasing-dukkha, not-getting-what-one-wants-dukkha, and the dukkha of clinging to our five sentient processes.

This clinging, this is worth escaping – by recognising it, entering it with mindfulness and clear comprehension, comprehending its cessation, and establishing ourselves in the way of liberated understanding. The result is more energy for life.

The Wherefrom of Wise Attention

“Practitioners, one does not enjoy the deathless who doesn’t enjoy mindfulness directed to the body. One enjoys the deathless who enjoys mindfulness directed to the body. The deathless has been enjoyed, by those who have enjoyed mindfulness directed to the body.” – the Nikāya Buddha, from the Anguttara Nikāya; from the Book of the Ones, Translated by Christopher J.Ash.

Yoniso manasikāra” is an important term in the early Buddhist texts (the Nikāyas). It indicates an important quality of attention. Nevertheless, when I first encountered the term decades ago, it didn’t catch me, and on reflection, I believe that is because it wasn’t an obviously experience-near term. I was always looking for terms I could apply to my actual experience. If I am going to think about death, I want a way to think freshly, openly; a way of discovery.

The conventional translation of the term yoniso manasikāra is: skilful attention. Other translations are ‘proper,’ ‘appropriate,’ or ‘wise’ attention. (All of which should be understood as having liberation as the background. That is, it’s attention that is methodical for that purpose.) ‘But, what exactly did ‘skilful’ mean?’ I wondered.

Furthermore, over the years I felt a little disquiet, at one time or another, at the very flat, prosaic sound of these translations. They made the principle sound too logical, too methodical; as though one were imposing a system onto one’s experience, from the outside (which is a not uncommon use of the Buddhadharma, of course).

‘Manasikāra’ is attention, or pondering. The Pāli-English Dictionary (PED) entry suggests to me that it is guided thought, of a kind. But, what do we base our pondering upon, or guide it by? Upon already received categories? Upon prejudices? And, where does the direction forward come from? Mere belief in other people’s priorities, however noble?

In other words, when we enquire, are we only re-jigging the old thinking, making new arrangements of previously learned knowledge? And, applying old categories to present-moment experiences? If so, ‘manasikāra’ could be a name for a procedure guided, at best, by logic (re-arranging language units according to conventions or rules); and, at worst, by untested opinion.

Then, for me, there is the matter of how our thinking is guided after awakening. Traditional approaches may help awaken us to non-conceptuality. A certain kind of freedom arises – a liberation based on the deathless may be realised. However, we don’t usually learn to think from the liberation; or, to see the relationship between the non-conceptual and our need for on-going concept formation.

Indeed, to a large degree, awakened traditional teachers usually go on thinking about life in their culture’s old terms. They often interpret their new-found non-conceptual experience from the old cultural point of view. These old concepts don’t work to think freshly, radiantly from the no-mind experience. They tend to express the liberation experience in terms of the old frameworks, and not attribute the arising of thinking to the non-conceptual.

(Of course, there are exceptions. Dzogchen thinkers  – Nyingma and Bön – have taken steps in the direction of articulating an organic relationship between language and the deathless element; where language is the creative communication of the deathless element.)

Then, there is ‘yoni.’ According to the PED, ‘yoni,’ in the word ‘yoniso,’ is a feminine noun of Vedic origin, which means: ‘womb.’ And, it’s also: ‘origin,’ way of birth, place of birth, realm of existence; nature, and matrix. It seemed to me that this hinted at something much more than imposing already-formed systems of thought, with their reason and logic. (Do we have, here, another patriarchal distortion of the meaning of a term?)

Even after learning Pāli, I didn’t twig to a deeper way to see this facet of the way of enquiry; until I read Linda S. Blanchard’s perspicacious study Dependent Arising in Context: The Buddha’s Core Lesson in the Context of His Time, and Ours. I was moved, then, to discover the relevance of the phrase to my bodily-felt life. Let’s look at this.

In a note, Blanchard quoted British Buddhist scholar Richard Gombrich. He was in turn quoting someone else. In a note (What the Buddha Thought, p. 132), he quoted: “(L)iterally [yoniso manasikāra] means ‘making in the mind according to origin’

The penny dropped. The ‘womb’ meant, here, is bodily-felt experience. The body, in its present living, is the meeting place of everything – and here, the skilful attention of the four placements of mindfulness can bring the holistic felt sense of our situations into view, and with the right support for clear comprehension, can work to carry our lives forward (and therefore, to carry the big Dharma, the big life process, forward).

Where the King of Death Won’t See You

A very committed seeker called Mogharāja addressed the Nikāya Buddha:

“So, because of your insight into excellence, I have come to ask you about this. What is the best way for a person to regard the world so that the King of Death won’t see him?”

The Master replied:

“If you are always aware, Mogharāja, you will look at the world and see its emptiness. If you give up looking at yourself as a soul [as a fixed and special identity], then you will have given yourself a way to go beyond death. Look at the world like this and the King of Death will not see you.”

– Saddhatissa, H. (Trans): The Sutta-Nipāta: A New Translation from the Pali Canon, verses 1118-19, (p. 129).

I have been curious lately, about the power of mindfulness in relation to death. While the energy-centre meditations, and visualisations, and the dissolution of the elements meditation are inherited from later streams of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, there is nothing like this in the early teachings. Indications are that the historical Buddha taught much a much simpler method of defeating Mara, the king of death. In the above passage from the Sutta-Nipāta, it is mindfulness and insight into emptiness that enable one to bring about the death of death, in this very life. Here are a few more passages from Saddhatissa’s translation of The Sutta-Nipāta. It’s a fiercely simple path:

“Look at beings who are facing death, who are living out the results of their previous deeds; people are terrified when they see that they are trapped by death.”

– verse 587.

“Therefore, the monk, realizing this, should not grasp at anything, being mindful. He should see the beings that are creatures of attachment as tied to the power of death.”

verse 1104.

“An absence of wanting — questions and doubts disappear in knowledge and he plunges into the absence of death; this is what “brahmin” means.”

– verse 635.

“There is an island, an island which you cannot go beyond. It is a place of nothingness, a place of non-possession and of non-attachment. It is the total end of death and decay, and this is why I call it Nibbāna [the extinguished, the cool].

“There are people who, in mindfulness, have realized this and are completely cooled here and now. They do not become slaves working for Māra, for Death; they cannot fall into his power.

verses 1094-1095.

Process Never Arises, Never Ceases. The Deathless Never Stops Arising.

Whenever one thoroughly knows the birth and death of the five sentient processes
one finds joy and happiness.  For those who know this, that is deathlessness.

Dhammapada, verse 374. Translated Christopher J. Ash

avolakitesvaraThe five sentient processes, with which one becomes thoroughly familiar, in Buddhist meditation, are: form, feeling-tones, perceptions (or, recognitions), states of the psyche (or, attitudes), and consciousness (in the sense of basic awareness). Skilfully conducting these time-space-knowledge processes is the heart of the fourth placement of mindfulness, in the Mindfulness Sutta (the Satipaṭṭhānasutta). This is often named ‘mindfulness of mind-objects,’ but I prefer to think of this as mindfulness of the dynamics of phenomena. This is the territory that the Nikāya Buddha and Sakka were talking about, in our previous posts. In the Mindfulness Sutta the Nikāya Buddha points to the importance of comprehending the moment to moment birth and death of these five sentient processes.

They are not things, at all. And with development of subtle discernment, they are not found separately, at all, when freed of conceptualising. The root matter, then – the liberating matter, the redeeming matter – is the pure and total openness of the processes. Joy and happiness arise, and support one to stay appreciatively there in the openness; making it possible to intuit the profound quality of intelligence, which is greater than sentience, and yet not apart from the multiplicity. This is the Nameless, a source of big heart, and the recognition of the perfect harmony of this big life process.

One in whom a desire for the nameless has arisen – who would permeate his mind with the nameless,
whose heart is not bound to sense pleasure – is called: “One going home.

Dhammapada, verse 218. Translated Christopher J. Ash

The trick, though, is not to make a blankness out of the recognition of the deathlessness quality. It’s an undivided multiplicity. We usually swing back and forth between oneness or the ten thousand things; however, sentience itself is the nameless, and also the nameless is sentience. The many are the one, and the one is many. Hence Suzuki Roshi’s suggestion that we know ‘things as they is.’

“Anyway, it is rather difficult to see “things as it is,” because seeing “things as it is” is not just the activity of our sight or eyes. This is why we put emphasis on practice. To do something without thinking is the most important point in understanding ourselves.” – Suzuki Roshi, talk Friday, September 8, 1967.

So, pure sentience is not the same as the five separated processes. The separation into five is conceptually created. True sentience is not other than unselfconsciously raising a fork to your mouth; or, stepping over your child’s playthings, while making it to the fridge.

One day, the Tang Dynasty Ch’an Buddhist monk Yunyan Tansheng addressed his fellow monk Daowu about this quality of living.

Yunyan: How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion use so many eyes and hands?”Daowu: It’s as if someone at night reached behind him, trying to find his pillow.”Yunyan: I understand.Daowu:  How do you mean?Yunyan: The body is eyes and hands all over.Daowu: This says a lot, but only 8/10 of what there is to say.Yunyan: What do you say, older brother?Daowu: The whole body is eyes and hands.

Death is Simply Your Own Thoughts

I’m re-acquainting myself with Chogyam Trungpa’s little book Orderly Chaos. Not an easy read, unless you have some earlier introduction to the topic. It has helped me get a handle on the Nikaya Buddha’s ‘loka’ teaching. Anyhow, early on in the book Trungpa talks about the games of “the ego.” I can’t speak for him, but what I mean, by quoting his comments on ‘ego,’ is the deluded loka – that is, the whole system of false relationship with reality. We misperceive ourselves, and our experiencing becomes organised by our personalities. Trungpa is saying that the core game the deluded self plays, to maintain its illusory world, is the game of ‘this and that’:

There are infinite variations to the this-and-that game. Ego continuously uses these to maintain itself. Sometimes “this” is projected as overstuffed and hopeless and “that” as a roomy saving grace (as in, “Let’s get out of here!”). The primary example is regarding all of “this” as samsara and opposing it to nirvana, the salvational “that” or somewhere-else. In fear or anger one is so trapped in the solidity of “this” that all of “that” becomes a threat. In fear one seeks to avoid “that,” in anger to destroy it.”

That example tells us how we get attached to the ‘sacred.’

I think it’s important, too, to mention the place of the superego in this deceptive setup of thing-ing. The superego frightens us with the thought of death, opposing it to some limited ‘me-and-mine’ kind of life. We’re supposed to cling to ‘life’ as it sees it. The superego (also called the inner critic, or the inner judge) is crucial to keeping us from realizing our deathless dimension. It keeps a strict boundary on what you are allowed to experience. Here’s a note on this from A.H. Almaas (Work on the Super-Ego, p. 5):

The superego is that part of the person that maintains repression and fights any changes to the status quo. It is one of the main reasons why the ego defences are needed (defending against painful ego states and maintaining ego structures being the others); and hence it is responsible for the presence of prejudices, overt and covert.

So, I’m saying that the superego is responsible for our fear of death and our fear of the deathless. However, I only meant this to be introductory. It’s Trungpa’s next statement which captured my attention. He says:

From the ultimate point of view of ego, it does not matter how projections of this and that are shaped, weighted, and colored. All that matters is that the illusion of this and that is maintained any way at all.”

This is at the root of the craziness that we bring forth in this world. I have heard the important question, often: “How come? We say we love nature, and yet we destroy our beautiful world. Why’s that?” I think we have to look into how the ego, based in a false estimation of its value in the person, will do anything to maintain its dominion – even kill the person, or the person’s support system. The illusion of ‘this and that’ must be maintained at all cost. I was reading R.D. Liang’s old book, Knots, and the following would be an example of ego’s distorted modes:

“How can she be happy
when the man she loves is unhappy

He feels she is blackmailing him
by making him feel guilty
because she is unhappy that he is unhappy

She feels he is trying to destroy her love for him
by accusing her of being selfish
when the trouble is
that she can’t be so selfish as to be happy
when the man she loves is unhappy”

The ‘this and that’ here is ‘me and him,’ or ‘me and her’; and, ‘happy’ versus ‘unhappy’; and ‘selfish’ versus ‘unselfish.’ When you realise that under such knots in relationship lies the fear of losing ‘this and that’-thinking, then you can look on others’ self-deceptions with more understanding. It’s fear of ego-death that makes us cling to our stances, as in Liang’s example. Our relationship with nature – including with death – is subject to such self-centred distortions. And, there’s a voice inside us that frightens us with the thought that we will die if we don’t maintain our ‘this-and-that’ world (our habitual loka).

What does this mean in the case of the particular event we call bodily death? If death is the ‘this,’ then what is the ‘that’? Which part of your life is the opposite of death? The whole of it, one might think. Well.. maybe so, if you think that you can conceive of the whole. And, we tend to try to live by a conception of ‘life,’ which is somehow meant to represent the whole – true. Then the conception becomes the object of grasping. But, another approach is to consider that, to the untrained and unawakened mind, the self-image is the opposite of death? By affirming my self image, I avoid death. Death affronts my self-image. (It’s ironic, of course, that Narcissus fades away to actual death, for love of his self-image). The antidote is a contemplative approach. Says Rohit Mehta, in The Secret of Transformation:

And meditation is looking at the self-image in the mirror of life, the mirror of relationships, the mirror of daily actions… If we can see ourselves as others see us, much of the self-image would get shattered. But to see the self-image for oneself in the mirror of life is to see its destruction. An exposure of the self-image is its death. Another self-image may come into existence, but there is the interval between the death of the old and the birth of the new. It is this interval which is the moment of meditation.”

It is in the opening up of this gap which reveals the sanity of knowing the deathless.

“Soon you will inevitably die, and nothing will be of any assistance. The experience of death is simply your own thoughts. Don’t concoct illusions, but let them all dissolve into the vast awareness of consciousness itself.” – 17th-century Drukpa Kargyu contemplative Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, quoted in Timothy Freke’s Wisdom of the Tibetan Lamas.

Comment on ‘The Bony Fact of Time’

The point, to me, of the poem in my last post is in those two words at the end: “We wonder.” We wondered together. The young man was in a hospice. And, he was dying – of that, there was no doubt. And yet, even then, it is still a matter of not knowing exactly when, and there is always the question of what it will be like. He couldn’t sleep at night for fear of it.

I was merely a few years older than he was – I think I was thirty-nine – but, I knew these questions were mine, too. I was healthy, but I had begun to contemplate the inevitability of death. It wasn’t a matter of only one of us having the illness.

What will it be like? Sometimes I’m plain curious, almost excited, like Mary Oliver says in her poem When Death Comes:

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

Now, twenty-six years later, now that I’m old enough to die naturally, and after my cancer last year, I have been thinking more about this. ‘What will it be like?” The practice of dissolution of the elements is a wonderful one, and I have no doubt at all about its helpfulness – not only because it nurtures a joyous, wakeful life; but because it goes a tiny, tiny bit of the way in responding to the unanswerable.

However, the event will be unique. I sense its inscrutability regularly. “What’s it going to be like?” This question is a wake-up. I was healthy back then, but his question prodded at my sleep, rousing me from the slumber that is there in the trance of youth, in the trance of health, and in the trance of one’s life appearing not to be threatened.

There are, practitioners, these three kinds of intoxication. What three? Intoxication with youth, intoxication with health, and intoxication with life.” – The Buddha, quoted in the Anguttara Nikaya.

But, here’s the more impelling point: When I realise that death is not readable, I feel the presence of my life in Nowness equally as mysterious – just as immeasurable. No clock-time can be brought to this moment. It’s just as unfindable as death. We are just as unable to ‘measure it out in coffee spoons.’ The breeze in the curtain, the sun-splashed wall, these are not findable, not objects thrown over there.*

This is the true wonder – the real doorway to the infinite. Death will be this moment.


* My OED tells me that ‘object’ means “lit. thing thrown before or presented to (the mind or thought)”

(The story about my name is a long one, and I’ll come back to that, in a month or so.)

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