Author Topic: Death and Mourning - seeking advice  (Read 1828 times)

Offline Xandra

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Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« on: May 24, 2016, 02:47:04 pm »
Hello everyone,

I am writing in this forum to seek some advice about my specific situation, and would be grateful if anyone can help. 

I was born and raised Christian I am surrounded by both practitioners and not practitioners but in both cases with a strong Christian tradition concerning death, funerals and mourning.

I find myself in a very difficult situation as I just had a loss: my grandma has died. I had the honor to spend the last week with her alone sometimes, keeping her companionship at the hospital, giving her positive thoughts and hoping for her liberating from sufferance. My troubles started to come during her very last hours of life, where I absorbed a lot of negativity from others and also there was not enough time for mourning in front of her with a positive atmosphere.

Do you have a specific meditation to suggest for death and mourning? How can I protect myself from the sufferance related to it?

Thank you so much for reading.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2016, 05:36:44 am »
This is a difficult one. Coming to terms with life and death is advanced stuff, which is best tackled when we are not in the process of grieving. We meditate about things during 'normal' times in the hope that it will see us through the bad episodes when we might not have the time for meditation, or might be with people who would be upset to see someone meditating.

Having said that, when my mother died the meditation which helped me most was the one where you think of this life as the aberration, where we, for the fleeting years we are here, think that we are separate beings. We are not, of course. My mother is still with me, not in body or spirit, but in the sense that nothing is ultimately separate.

Hope that helps.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2016, 05:30:00 am »
There is no more effective lesson regarding Buddha's teaching in The Four Noble Truths, than a death of a family member to whom we have become attached and are in the process of mourning their loss.

 The word "love" takes on a whole new meaning in this context.  It is the ultimate meaning of "attachment", which Buddha explained is the true cause of suffering.  Love is not the problem, it is the attachment to something or someone that we love, which is the problem.  The word "clinging" is perhaps more meaningful in this regard.

Buddha elucidates this truth more thoroughly in his explanation of dependent arising and impermanence in that all people, places and things are but temporary formations, which are themselves arisen from and dependent upon for their very existence upon impermanent, temporary formations.  All of these things are but a house of cards, balancing precariously in a condition we loosely call existence and life.  Each arises, dwells for but a time and then inevitably must pass away, corrupt, and be reassumed as constituents of the universe.  There is nothing of which we can conceive, or experience which is not so.

Realizing these truths, we can then understand the futility of clinging to that which will ultimately fail, collapse, and be dispersed beyond the reach of our grasping hands and minds.  The idea that can own something, or possess, or have, is the ultimate delusion of self.  The best that we can do is to "experience" these people, places and things, observe them fail, and then reflect upon the reality that the same process awaits us in this samsaric realm in which we dwell as sentient beings.

Hope this helps.

_/\_Ron
« Last Edit: May 28, 2016, 05:33:23 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2016, 07:30:19 am »
Attachment is just another "temporary formation."  So why not embrace your life? Isn't it all you have?

Don't be a coward who is afraid of suffering. Love and suffering are part of life. Why kill your life, it will die very quickly enough on it's own.

In my, not-so-humble-opinion, love is the ultimate, highest enlightenment. The realization that there is only one being is the source of the “Golden Rule,” found in all religion. Love all beings as thyself, because that is who they really are -- and not just other beings but the entire creation. That is dependent arising. Appreciate it. It is love. Don't turn away.

Cherish the memory of your Grandma. She loves you, even now.
 
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline nirmal

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2016, 01:22:11 pm »
My mother died in January last year followed by the death of my father in November. Having accepted the word of the Lord, I did not mourn nor did I cry.With a lot of practice, we learn how to accept death in a more meaningful way as we become aware that they don't really die.We are neither male nor female, we are just souls in transmigration caught in the cycle of samsara. After my mother's death, I managed to trace her to the gates of heaven.She was lining up in a long queue of Punjabi ladies all dressed in white.When I called out to her, she looked shocked and covered her face with her veil.I returned to earth feeling sad just wondering why my mother refused to speak to me. On the following day, I managed to trace her again in the holy light of my meditation.I found her at almost at the same spot, on a gravel road that wound around a huge mountain with its peak disappearing into the clouds.This time,she came towards me when I called out to her. We spoke briefly and she told me that she had made it and there was nothing that she needed at that moment.Being a nut, I thought that she was waiting her turn to take rebirth. I spoke to my Guru about the whole episode and he clarified that she was not waiting to take rebirth but was waiting in line to enter the gates of heaven.We performed a  puja to help her jump queue so that her wait would not be too long.It was probably her good Karma that I had picked up Buddhism. It was just last month that I finally managed to trace my father. He did not make it. His soul is still hiding in my brother's house in Penang. He told me that he was very hungry and asked for food.He said that he still had some unfinished business to handle and will leave once everything is settled.Earthbound spirit.So to be brief, crying, mourning and refusing to let go doesn't really do much good. It's better to let go and transfer merits onto the dead as that would help them.Practice on a regular basis and hard work can pay off for any of us who are on the path.I'm just sharing the possibilities that are within us to see the Truth of Buddhism. Just sharing.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2016, 04:50:47 am »
Hi, Nirmal.

I am with you regarding all your personal references save this one:

Quote
We are neither male nor female, we are just souls in transmigration caught in the cycle of samsara.


In all my years of reading and studying Buddha's teachings ( I will turn 72 in a two months.) I have never read anything which says that he supports the idea of any kind of a permanent self, ego or soul.  To the contrary, see his teachings regarding "Anatta" (not self, or no self) which sees soul as the ultimate delusion of self.

source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/various/wheel202.html

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2016, 11:18:56 am »
I agree with Ron, no permanent self, although reincarnation is a central tenant in most all of Buddhism, particularly Theravada. How that is resolved is complicated and I haven't got time today to ruminate on it, but I don't think such dualistic terms as "permanent" or "separate" are even applicable in that realm.

I'm curious nirmal -- who is your Guru."
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2016, 03:46:41 pm »
Quote
... although reincarnation is a central tenant in most all of Buddhism, particularly Theravada.


The preferred term is "rebirth", since "reincarnation" implies that something permanent moves on after death, which is not part of Buddha's teaching.  Buddha taught that only the karmic effect resulting from the mind of the being dying moves on to affect a new fetus:

Quote
  Hence has it been said in the Visuddhi Magga:

 "There is no doer but the deed
 There is no experiencer but the experience.
 Constituent parts alone roll on.
 This is the true and correct view."




The following may be helpful regarding this topic:

Buddhist Reflections on Death:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratna/wheel102.html



« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 03:56:54 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2016, 09:40:29 pm »
Thank you for the link to Gunaratna. I haven’t had time to read all of it but I’ll try to get to it soon. It looks very interesting, although I think I’m already familiar with much of it. At least it is more accessible then the Vissuddi Magga, which I’ve been plowing through for some time now.

You’re right “rebirth” is the preferred term in Buddhism. However, as a practical matter, it is not much different than the usual view of reincarnation, except in it’s avoidance of the concept of an individual soul. Karma is the determining factor instead of a deity. Life is seen as a “…painful and souless nature of existence,” and if one behaves oneself according to the principles outlined, “…upon the dissolution of death he is bound for a happy destiny,” or even better, “…a voyage that ended in the glory of  Buddhahood and the bliss of Nirvana.”

In other words this life sucks, so do as we suggest and there will be an afterlife for you that is much better or even total bliss. IMO, this is not that much different than other religions selling an afterlife, such as Vedanta, Christianity and Islam.

Rather than “rebirth,” in another womb, I think “reoccurrence” is a better term, since it emphasizes this present existence and the view that time is a factor of consciousness that has no actual reality other than in our mind. It also allows for the possibility of parallel universes with similar versions of the same life reoccurring in different time frames, which modern physics is toying with. However, I think it’s difficult, if not impossible, to conceptualize intellectually.

I prefer to concentrate on this present life, what it is, moment to moment. From that vantage, the concept of an after-life looks like naive wishful thinking and a rejection of the only life we have, here and now.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Peter Vredeveld

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2016, 10:32:18 pm »
Is it fine to practice the meditation practice for death and mourning?
I think we take and practice meditation one step at a time.
It is just my thoughts?
What do you think?

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2016, 08:17:41 am »
I like the idea of the difference between knots in a string (the string being the soul and knots being lives) and a pile of coins (no continuous 'soul' but each 'coin' being dependent on the others). The pile of coins being the Buddhist 'take' on rebirth.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Death and Mourning - seeking advice
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2016, 11:16:36 am »
Is it fine to practice the meditation practice for death and mourning?
I think we take and practice meditation one step at a time.
It is just my thoughts?
What do you think?


Focused meditation regarding death as a process is beneficial.  Buddha and his monks used to do so at the charnel grounds, a place where bodies were taken to decompose.  Clothing was given to those in need.  Large animals came to feed on the flesh and bones.  The corrupters (insects, worms, mold, fungi, and bacterium ) break down the remaining constituents and distribute them to adjacent life forms.

reference for futher study:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khantipalo/wheel271.html

Quote
Repulsiveness, Material Components, and Cemetery Meditations 

The last of the body meditations are designed to overcome one's narcissistic infatuation for one's own body, to abandon unrealistic desires for immortality, and to destroy sensual lust. To achieve these ends two principles are employed. First is vividly and repeatedly impressing upon one's mind the temporary, changing, and compounded nature of the body. Secondly one establishes and persistently reinforces a series of negative associations to the usually sensual features of the body. This latter process employs the same principles as behavior therapy and Pavlovian conditioning. However, Satipatthana differs from Pavlovian and behavior therapy in that the conditioning is established by the meditator himself instead of an external agent.

Thus the Satipatthana Sutta continues:

 And further, monks, a monk reflects on this very body enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head hair down, thinking thus: "There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine."
Just as if there were a double-mouthed provision bag full of various kinds of grain such as hill paddy, paddy, green gram, cow-peas, sesamum, and husked rice, and a man with sound eyes, having opened that bag, were to take stock of the contents thus: "This is hill paddy, this is paddy, this is green gram, this is cow-pea, this is sesamum, this is husked rice." Just so, monks, a monk reflects on this very body, enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head hair down, thinking thus: "There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine."

And further, monks, a monk reflects on this very body however it be placed or disposed, by way of the material elements: "There are in this body the element of earth, the element of water, the element of fire (caloricity), the element of air."

Just as if, monks, a clever cow-butcher or his apprentice, having slaughtered a cow and divided it into portions, should be sitting at the junction of four high roads, in the same way, a monk reflects on this very body, as it is placed or disposed, by way of the material elements: "There are in this body the elements of earth, water, fire and air."

This last paragraph is explained in the Visuddhimagga:

 Just as the butcher, while feeding the cow, bringing it to the shambles, keeping it tied up after bringing it there, slaughtering it, and seeing it slaughtered and dead, does not lose the perception "cow" so long as he has not carved it up and divided it into parts; but when he has divided it up and is sitting there he loses the perception "cow" and the perception "meat" occurs; he does not think "I am selling cow" or "They are carrying cow away," but rather he thinks "I am selling meat" or "They are carrying meat away"; so too this monk, while still a foolish ordinary person — both formerly as a layman and as one gone forth into homelessness — , does not lose the perception "living being" or "man" or "person" so long as he does not, by resolution of the compact into elements, review this body, however placed, however disposed, as consisting of elements. But when he does review it as consisting of elements, he loses the perception "living being" and his mind establishes itself upon elements.[26]
The last of the body meditations are the nine cemetery meditations. Numbers 1, 2, 5, and 9 respectively are quoted here. The remaining five are similar and deal with intermediate stages of decomposition:

 And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body dead, one, two or three days, swollen, blue and festering, thrown in the charnel ground, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it."
And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals or by different kinds of worms, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it."

And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton without flesh and blood, held together by the tendons...

And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to bones, gone rotten and become dust, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it."

Similar meditations on the digestion and decomposition of food are listed in other sections of the Pali scriptures for the purpose of freeing the practitioner from undue cravings for food:

 When a monk devotes himself to this perception of repulsiveness in nutriment, his mind retreats, retracts and recoils from craving for flavors. He nourishes himself with nutriment without vanity...[27]
While these meditations are intended to eliminate passion and craving they carry the risk of making one morbid and depressed. Therefore the Buddha recommended:

 If in the contemplation of the body, bodily agitation, or mental lassitude or distraction should arise in the meditator, then he should turn his mind to a gladdening subject. Having done so, joy will arise in him.[28]
A cartoon in an American medical magazine shows four senior medical students standing together. Three are engaged in active conversation. Only the remaining one turns his head to take notice of a pretty nurse. The caption beneath the cartoon reads: "Guess which one has not done twelve pelvic examinations today." It is doubtful that many persons outside of the medical profession will appreciate the meaning, but to medical students and interns it speaks a reality. During his months of training in obstetrics and gynecology the medical trainee must spend many hours engaged in examining and handling the most repulsive aspects of female genitals. As a result he finds the female body becoming less attractive and his sexual urges diminishing. During my own years as a medical student and intern, this observation was repeatedly confirmed by the comments of my co-workers, both married and single. As we have seen, the same principle is utilized in the sections of the Discourse on repulsiveness and the cemetery meditations.

Other aspects of scientific and medical training can produce results similar to those sought in the latter three body meditations. Chemistry, biochemistry, and histology foster an objective way of viewing the body which is virtually identical to the contemplation of elements. Anatomy, of course, is similar to the contemplation of repulsiveness. And in hospital training the persistent encounter with old age, debilitation, and death continuously reinforces the words of the cemetery meditations: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it." Similarly, in order to acquire a vivid mental image of the cemetery meditations, Buddhist monks occasionally visit graveyards to behold corpses in various stages of decay.[29] However, such experiences bear fruit only if one takes advantage of them and avoids the temptation to ignore and forget.


source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/burns/wheel088.html
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

 


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