Reflecting on death with the Tibetan Buddhism meditation


People from different ages view death differently. Some do not accept death or think it will happen to them. Some try to prevent it from happening. Others recognize or fear death and do not know what to do about it. The nine-round death meditation in Tibetan Buddhism is a reflection on death. It includes three roots, three reasons for each root to a total of nine reasons, and three convictions.

There is death

There are kings, queens, and others who do not believe that death exists or applies to them. They think they will live forever since the thought of dying never occurs to them. That thinking is deceptive because no one can avoid or escape death. It is part of life. When birth exists, death also exists. Ven. Sarada Maha Thero quoted what the Buddha said in verse 148 in the Treasury of Truth:

All decrepit is this body,
diseases’ nest and frail;
this foul mass is broken up
for life does end in death.

This leads to the second reason to support the first root: the human life span is indefinite. Each second, day, month, or year shorten the lifecycle. In other words, death will come (the third reason), no matter how people try to extend their lives. Thus, it is time to practice the spiritual path and discard all negative thoughts and qualities. At the same time, develop positive attitudes and behaviors.

The time of death is not known

Ven Thubten Chodron stated in his article “Nine-Point Death Meditation” that the chance of dying is greater than living. This is true. The fourth and the fifth reasons clarify that people die at any moment from now regardless of their age and their view of death and health.

There are many causes and circumstances that cause lives, such as wartime, natural disaster, deadly viruses, and diseases. That is why the sixth reason confirms that the human body is fragile. A tiny, deadly virus can just stop all the organs in the body. For these reasons, it is necessary to develop inner strength and potential with procrastination.

Develop spirituality and mentality at the time of death since it is the only support

Buddha’s logic regarding the third root is that worldly possessions, loved ones, and bodies cannot help (the seventh, eighth and ninth reasons). People first come into the world with nothing. They do not have cars, money, and otherworldly possessions when they just got out of their mother’s womb. All they have is breath.

As they grow older and older, they start learning and possessing things. Some do not hold on to whatever they have while others do. They think their possessions will save them, but this is an illusory concept. All humans leave the world without bringing anything with them. The material things they accumulate will be left behind for others to use or have. Likewise, their bodies and their loved ones will not be able to go with them.

Hence, it is important to practice inner strength and potential without attaching to worldly possessions or matters. Those things are important, but they also cloud the mind and delay spiritual progress. Ven. Sarada Maha Thero quoted another Buddha’s wise saying in verse 11 in the Treasury of Truth:

Conceiving the real in unreality
while seeing unreal the truly real,
roaming fields of thoughts ill-formed:
never they at the real arrive.

Use this meditation to meditate on death. It is a method to reduce stress, face reality, and overcome fear or regret when death comes. Moreover, it helps people to prioritize what is important, because life is short.

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