[“All of Us” – Guided Metta Meditation](https://clyp.it/kpi3myj1)
Guided Metta Meditation from 2017 Four Noble Truths Retreat
This is the First in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
This series is a fairly comprehensive treatise on Metta, both what the Buddha taught about it, and putting it into practice in ourlives. There are a variety of methods but only two practiced come close to what the Buddha taught. The method I wanted to describe today is one I use most often, it is part of my daily practice and connects with me most. What I am showing you here is my version of this practice, the great thing about metta is that you can play with it to find what works for you, you can make it your own.
(Just a quick word on translation of Metta.. it is most often translated as loving-kindness, which is an old translation and to myself and many others does not really encapsulate what is meant by metta. I personally prefer boundless or limitless goodwill, as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, which to me fits best, Goodwill being defined as – friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude. This is not about loving all beings, or even necessarily liking them, this is about good will. )
The Pali term that best describes the method I will be describing is metta-cetovimutti, Translated as the liberation of mind through limitless goodwill.This method was taught to me here at Bhavana as “exalted metta”. Here is the sutta reference, I’ve also attached the pictures here for visualization help.
“And what, householder, is the exalted deliverance of mind? Here a bhikkhu abides resolved upon an area the size of the root of one tree, pervading it as exalted: this is called the exalted deliverance of mind. 1181 Here a bhikkhu abides resolved upon an area the size of the roots of two or three trees, pervading it as exalted: this too is called the exalted deliverance of mind. Here a bhikkhu abides resolved upon an area the size of one village, pervading it as exalted…[ 147]… an area the size of two or three villages… an area the size of one major kingdom… an area the size of two or three major kingdoms… an area the size of the earth bounded by the ocean, pervading it as exalted: this too is called the exalted deliverance of mind. – MN 127
So first things first, as with all proper metta, you need to begin with yourself. You cannot possibly hope to have limitless goodwill for all beings if you do not have it for yourself first. I like to use the simile of the oxygen mask. If you’ve ever been on a plane and listened to the safety speech, you know that the attendant always says if you are traveling with children always put YOUR OWN mask on first before assisting other passengers, Metta is just like that.
So you begin by developing thoughts and feelings of goodwill towards yourself, building up a mind state of good will. You can use words, visualizations, self talk, whatever works for you. The important thing is not the words and visualizations, but the mental state itself, the words and visualizations help get you to that state. The more you practice the easier it is to find that mental state and that “feeling” of metta, even sometimes without needing the words and visuals to get you there.
Here is an example of a set of words I’ve developed for my own use:
May (I/we/all beings) find happines
May (I/we/all beings) find Peace
May (I/we/all beings) Live in friendship with(all beings/each other)
May (I/we/all beings) find release
(for self talk I’ll often say things to myself like “ it’s ok jay, you are doing the best you can, you are doing a good thing by doing your practice, etc. focusing on positive thoughts about yourself and giving yourself a little pep talk. This is something I use not just in metta but even when I’m struggling and during many other times.)
I also imagine the metta being a sort of energy that fills me up, it’s color is purple, not for any reason other then it’s the color I thought fit best. This energy created permeates me as I am giving metta to myself. Now however, once I have that feeling of metta for myself, it’s time to launch that metta ever outwards.
I visualize the metta exploding out from me in the shape of a sphere, almost like some magic spell might look. This sphere grows ever larger, with me at it’s center.
Now here is where it gets good. This sphere gradually gets larger so that it encompasses the whole of the building you are in(or if outside the general property), then larger to encompass all beings in your state, ever larger encompassing all beings in your country, then all beings on the planet. Sometimes I have visualizations where images of a large variety of beings flicker through my awareness, especially at the point where I’ve reached the level of earth.
At this point Earth is there, as in the image above, totally encompassed in that purple sphere of metta. I often take a pause here, before heading out into the universe, and so I will take a quick one and explain that you can use words for each level in addition or even instead of visualizations. This is said just like the word phrasing above, starting with “may all” for each group.
May (all beings/all of us) in/on ( this state/country/planet/universe etc):
-Live in friendship with(all beings/each other)
So now It’s time to branch out. I begin the visualization of the purple metta sphere expanding ever outwards as the earth gets smaller and smaller and then disappears as stars turn into the milky way. You can pause at this point to visualize the whole milky way, with it’s hundred billion stars, encompassed in the metta sphere, you can say the words if you wish.
It’s time to move on again, the milky way gets ever smaller and other galaxies come into view which are also getting smaller millions, billions, hundreds of billions, soon you are looking at the universe(the purple web is essentially a “picture” of the universe put forth by astronomy). At the pause you are with the universe, encompassing all of it whole with your limitless goodwill, all beings everywhere in the universe, in any form of existence, you can say the words once more.
But wait.. we aren’t done here just yet. Being an astronomy buff I take it to the next level. The visualization continues to expand with the metta sphere as the universe itself begins to grow smaller… suddenly it’s encompased in a sphere, and as you expand out you see others, dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of universes. You are now in the multiverse. it is here where that release of mind reaches it’s peak. You are expanding the metta spehere, expanding your limitless good will, beyond the limits of our current experience. You are now encompassing all beings in any form of existence, in any universe or plane of existence, anywhere, and everywhere.
Every single living being that exists, you offer your goodwill, your friendship, your feelings of camaraderie, for all fellow beings who share existence with you… ALL of US, come into existence, live for a time, then pass away, all of us who have physical forms are children of the stars, ie we are made up of material that came from the heart of an exploding star. I’m not talking about a sort of “universal mind” or “universal one-ness”, the Buddha never taught that, but a camaraderie born of siblingship, of being in the same boat(samsara) as it were.
That is basic exalted metta as taught at Bhavana and personalized by me. I do this process while reciting the metta sutta, while looking up at the stars, when I wake up, and when I go to bed. Remember the words ands visualizations are not set in stone, you find what works best for you to develop the feeling of metta. I often describe the feeling as that feeling you get sitting around the table with close family and friends, a feeling of safety, acceptance, friendship, with no emnity or fear.
Metta is not about whether others like you or hate you or care about you. There is nothing magical about metta, you are not sending healing or peaceful waves at people expecting them to “get” the positive thoughts etc. Metta is about developing your own mind to be free of ill-will and negativity, and that is always worth it.
“Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred. Dhp 15”
To close, I think this Metta practice is perfectly captured in one of my favorite poems “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham:
“He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!”
I will be returning to Buddhist Insights June 16-18 to lead a weekend retreat on cultivating a mindfulness of death. When the links are available I will post them in the future. Here is the introduction:
“Do you ever take the time to think about death? Yours and your loved ones? Most people would emphatically say no, and so they live in fear and dread throughout their lives, seeking to avoid any thought or encounter with death and its close companions, old age and sickness.
Cultivating and living with a mindfulness of death does the opposite of what one might expect. Instead fear and sadness, it cultivates peace, acceptance, compassion, and a drive to live your life in a way that is the most beneficial to you and others, for as long as you have left.
The Buddha said that mindfulness of death is of great benefit, come spend the weekend with Bhante J facing your fears, because beyond those fears is freedom.”
So we come to the final article for this series. The final piece where we put it all together. Now we will put everything we’ve learned so far, and a few new things, into one coherent practice that can be done in 10 minutes or less.
You can do this anywhere, on the cushion or off. I began this practice a few years ago by standing in front of the skeleton by the meditation hall here at Bhavana, which I still do today. So let us begin:
We start out with a simple recollection. We remind ourselves “I may die today, I may die tomorrow, I may die at any time”. Bhante Seelananda here at Bhavana teaches at the mindfulness of death retreat to start from a future time period, 10 years for example, and to count down at intervals from “I may die in 10 years” to “I may die, in 1 second”. It may be helpful for some but I find compressing it to the statement above works better for me.
Once we have set the stage and reminded ourselves of our impending death, we continue to the next statement “because life is uncertain, but death is certain”, another phrase taught here at Bhavana. We can never be certain about anything in life, but the death of this body is always a certainty, even for awakened beings.
Now we come back to familiar territory, the 5 remembrances/subjects for contemplation from part 2. “I who may die at any time am subject to ageing and decay, I am not exempt from ageing and decay. I am subject to illness and disease, I am not exempt from illness and disease. I am subject to death, I am not exempt from death. All that is dear to me I will one day be separated from. I am the owner and heir of my actions.
Now you need to be careful when repeating this contemplation, for you may have a sneaky delusional mind like myself that wants to deny to the end that one day this being will die. In times of waning mindfulness I have actually heard my mind repeat “I am exempt from death” instead of “I am not exempt from death”, which brought my awareness back with a laugh at this poor deluded fellow.
Next we segue into 32 parts of the body contemplation(asubha). ”I am subject to these five remembrances because I have this body. This body which I find to be pleasant on the outside, but not so pleasant when viewed from inside. Other bodies are also pleasant to look upon from the outside, but not pleasant when viewed from the inside. When seen with equanimity, free of like and dislike, we see this body is a mere biological machine made up of various parts created with numerous (scientific) elements that were born in the heart of a dying star.
”This body is made up of head hair, body, hair, nails, teeth, skin( the five parts that can be seen on the outside). Fat , tissue, bones, bone marrow, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, various organs, various systems(circulatory, neurological etc), various liquids, and miscellaneous parts. It helps me also to visualize all of this as I go through, like making an examination of the body. Downloading an anatomy app on a phone/tablet may be helpful for this.
This is the point where it helps to be in front of a skeleton. I often times will feel the various parts of the skeleton with one hand and the same part on my own body with the other. The cheek bone of the skeleton, my cheek bone. The collar bone of the skeleton, my collar bone. The pelvis of the skeleton, my pelvis. This practice really punches home the fact that you have this skeleton inside of you, as well as all the parts you have gone though. It helps to break through the fog we keep ourselves in and show us the reality.
From there we segue into corpse contemplation. “all these parts of the body are subject to decay, to illness, to death. One day this body will lie devoid of life, useless as a dead tree stump, and will decay according to it’s nature.”
Now we go through the various stages of decay from part three, with an added visualization. I was told about this visualization some years ago by someone who claimed they learned this from Bhikkhu Thanissaro, but I can’t confirm that, regardless it has been very helpful. I visualize a copy of myself in front of me, but it IS myself, like looking in a mirror. This copy then begins to rapidly age until it falls back, dies, and then begins the 9 stages of corpse decay from corpse contemplation. I was surprised the first time I did this as the visualized me “smiled” as he died, a smile of acceptance and being “ok” with death.
I don’t really often use words during this part as I go through the various stages of corpse decay, but if you wish you can verbalize it to go along with the visualization of the stages ”a corpse 3 days dead… skeleton with flesh and blood.. scattered and bleached bones” etc
This is the end of the mindfulness of death practice, but there is one final segue after this. ”Because I am subject to decay, illness, and death, so too are all other beings. Knowing this I should develop metta(limitless good-will) and karuna(compassion) for myself and all beings….(segue into metta practice) may all of us find happiness, may all of us find peace, may all of us live in friendship with each other, may all of us find release”.
So we end our mindfulness of death practice with the realization that we are all in the same boat, subject to the same nature, and when death is rolling from all directions like four mountains as tall as the sky, all there is to do is to practice dhamma, hence why I feel it appropriate to do metta practice right after mindfulness of death, a tandem pair as it were.
I will close with one final recommendation. There is a wonderful video, a dhamma talk, on death spoken by a monk who was dealing with cancer at the time. I’m not sure if he is still alive or not but I still watch this regularly as it is poignant and profound: “The Ultimate Test” – https://youtu.be/oBIMRCRh_Xs
I wish you all peace, happiness, and that your practice blossoms. Until next time friends.
This is the Fifth in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
[“Let Go, Let Be, Laying Down the Burden” -Basic Mindfulness of Breathing Guided Meditation](https://clyp.it/pfdiduxj)
This is a recording from the most recent retreat (4NT) at Bhavana with added intro and end bell for upload to insight timer.
So we come to the fourth article for this series. I’ve decided to make this a five part series like metta or else this article would have been too long, so next week will be the final piece. Before that final piece I wanted to discuss two suttas from the Aṇguttara Nikāya 6.19 & 6.20, Maranassati Sutta: Mindfulness of Death (1 & 2). I want to put these in here to emphasize the importance the Buddha put on this practice.
“The Blessed One said, “Mindfulness of death, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit & great benefit. It gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its final end. Therefore you should develop mindfulness of death.”
- When this was said, a certain monk addressed the Blessed One, “I already develop mindfulness of death.And how do you develop mindfulness of death?”
- “I think, ‘O, that I might live for a day & night, that I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal.’ This is how I develop mindfulness of death.”
- Then another monk addressed the Blessed One, “I, too, already develop mindfulness of death……“I think, ‘O, that I might live for a day…..
- Then another monk addressed the Blessed One…..“I think, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to eat a meal…..
- Then another monk addressed the Blessed One……”I think, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up four morsels of food……
- Then another monk addressed the Blessed One, “…… “I think, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food…..
- Then another monk addressed the Blessed One, “…… “I think, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal.’ This is how I develop mindfulness of death.”
- When this was said, the Blessed One addressed the monks. “Whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, ‘O, that I might live for a day & night… for a day… for the interval that it takes to eat a meal… for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up four morsels of food, that I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal’ — they are said to dwell heedlessly.
- “But whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food… for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal’ — they are said to dwell heedfully. They develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents.
- “Therefore you should train yourselves: ‘We will dwell heedfully. We will develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents.’ That is how you should train yourselves.”
So the Buddha called even those who dwell in mindfulness of death for the length of time it takes to chew some morsels “heedless”, now that’s rough! Having mindfulness of death in every breath is a lofty goal but one we can work towards. The breath is a wonderful tool because it shows us the life cycle. The breath comes in, it arises, is born. It fills the lungs and comes to a climax, a point where you cannot get any higher, the lungs are full to capacity. This is like a person who is born and then is in the prime of life. That’s not the end though is it, all things being impermanent. From that high peak there begins a decline, a decay, the breath slowly exits the body until it is no more, that is where we can see death, until the arising of new life with the intake of yet another breath, and the cycle continues on and on. This cycle can be seen in the very small (cells) and the very large (galaxies), it permeates existence.
When we are heedful, then we are fully aware of this cycle, of birth, life, and death, and its sway over us begins to lessen. Mindfulness of death helps us move towards equanimity of our situation, a situation that we are utterly powerless to change, no matter how hard we try.
There are those in the scientific community who are currently working on ways to stop the aging process. Even if we became near immortal beings who expanded into the cosmos, one day trillions of years from now the universe itself will be a dead empty hulk, unable to support life, or it will collapse in on itself, either way we will die with it. With a cycle that not even the universe itself can escape, I don’t hold out any hopes that humanity can succeed in its quest, nor frankly would I want to live forever, better to live mindful and heedful here for as long as we have, this is the way of peace. Moving on to the next Sutta:
“Monks, mindfulness of death — when developed & pursued — is of great fruit & great benefit. It gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its final end. And how is mindfulness of death developed & pursued so that it is of great fruit & great benefit, gains a footing in the Deathless, and has the Deathless as its final end?
“There is the case where a monk, as day departs and night returns, reflects: ‘Many are the [possible] causes of my death. A snake might bite me, a scorpion might sting me, a centipede might bite me. That would be how my death would come about. That would be an obstruction for me. Stumbling, I might fall; my food, digested, might trouble me; my bile might be provoked, my phlegm… piercing wind forces [in the body] might be provoked. That would be how my death would come about. That would be an obstruction for me.’ Then the monk should investigate: ‘Are there any evil, unskillful mental qualities unabandoned by me that would be an obstruction for me were I to die in the night?’ If, on reflecting, he realizes that there are evil, unskillful mental qualities unabandoned by him that would be an obstruction for him were he to die in the night, then he should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities. Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head, in the same way the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities. But if, on reflecting, he realizes that there are no evil, unskillful mental qualities unabandoned by him that would be an obstruction for him were he to die in the night, then for that very reason he should dwell in joy & rapture, training himself day & night in skillful qualities.
“Further, there is the case where a monk, as night departs and day returns, reflects: ……
“This, monks, is how mindfulness of death is developed & pursued so that it is of great fruit & great benefit, gains a footing in the Deathless, and has the Deathless as its final end.”
That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One’s words.
The Buddha implores us twice a day, when the night comes, and when the morning comes, to be aware that you can die at any time for a variety of reasons. Because of this he implores us to look at our mind and see our unskillful, harmful qualities, and then to abandon them like your head is on fire! We don’t have enough time in this life to bother with a negative and aversive mind-states, it will do nothing but keep us mired in ill-will and hatred.
In the words of a famous internet meme a few years back “ain’t nobody got time for that”. As the sutta from part two tells us, aging and death are rolling in like mountains on all four sides, this human life is short and precious, don’t waste it.
The final article will return in two weeks, as next week I will be busy preparing for my ordination on 10-31-15. We will wrap it up and put it all together into a practice you can do in less than 10 minutes that will help your general practice and your life in the long run.
This is the Fourth in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
So we now tread into some deeper territory with regards to mindfulness of death. These practices are often mistakenly put aside as “for monastics/not for lay persons” but I hesitate to agree with such statements. It is a matter of if you are ready to accept this teaching and practice, not the clothing you wear and vows you follow. I practiced these contemplations as a lay person and know the benefit they can bring.
That being said these practices are not necessarily right for everyone “at this moment”, which is why for some it may be best to stick to daily practice of the 5 subjects of contemplation for now. You will know if these practices are right for you by analyzing your mind and body while doing the practice.
What does the picture above illicit in you? Is it an uncomfortable, queasy feeling? Or a feeling so strong it creates much anxiety and repulsion and in the end is just not beneficial, but possibly harmful to you, causing much physical distress? If it is the latter, no worries, continue your practice and come back to it later.
While the practice requires grit and toughness to stick with uncomfortable experiences, there is a balance to that. The Noble Eightfold Path is called “The Middle Way” for a reason. We are not trying to be self-mortifying and abusive to our mind and body. This is not an iron man contest, in fact it’s not a contest at all, it’s your path of practice towards freedom and a happiness not conditioned by external forces. Do not fall into judging yourself, it will only spiral into aversion.
Now let us get into the practice. We will be covering two practices in this article, Charnel-Ground contemplation(corpse decomposition) and 32 Parts of the Body. For both of these we go to Digha Nikaya #22 Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta: The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness(http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html) under mindfulness of body.
THE NINE CHARNEL-GROUND CONTEMPLATIONS
The picture above gives a good graphic of this practice. The charnel ground was a place where bodies were left out to decompose or to be cremated. It was a place where monks during the Buddha’s time would go to contemplate death and meditate. It was also a practice to take the patches of cloth from long decomposed corpses and sew them together to make a robe to wear.
The Buddha in this practice is imploring us to compare our body to the various stages of a decomposed body, as one day these bodies that we attach to and hold dear, will be strewn upon the ground, devoid of life. This is not to make us feel scared or disgusted, but to slowly come to equanimity with regards to the impermanence of this body, to break our illusions.
‘Again, a monk, as if he were to (1) see a corpse thrown aside in a charnel-ground, one, two or three days dead, bloated, discoloured, festering, compares this body with that, thinking: “This body is of the same nature, it will become like that, it is not exempt from that fate.” ‘So he abides contemplating body as body internally, externally, and both internally and externally. And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. And that, monks, is how a monk abides contemplating body as body.
8. ‘Again, a monk, as if he were to (2) see a corpse in a charnel-ground, thrown aside, eaten by crows, hawks or vultures, by dogs or jackals, or various other creatures, compares this body with that, thinking: “This body is of the same nature, it will become like that, it is not exempt from that fate.”
9. ‘Again, a monk, as if he were to (3) see a corpse in a charnel-ground, thrown aside, a skeleton with flesh and blood, connected by sinews,… (4) a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, connected by sinews,… (5) a skeleton detached from the flesh and blood, connected by sinews,… (6) randomly connected bones, scattered in all directions, a hand-bone here, a foot-bone there, a shin-bone here, a thigh-bone there, a hip-bone here, a spine here, a skull there, compares this body with that… ‘Again, a monk, as if he were to (7) see a corpse in a charnel-ground, thrown aside, the bones whitened, looking like shells … , _(8) the bones piled up, a year old…(9) the bones rotted away to a powder**, compares this body with that, thinking : “This body is of the same nature, will become like that, is not exempt from that fate.“
REFLECTION ON THE REPULSIVE: PARTS OF THE BODY
This reflection is most often prescribed as a counter to a mind infested by lustful thoughts. If you find yourself overcome with attraction towards a person you are to contemplate the parts of that body that we seem to be infatuated with. It can also be a good practice to go along with corpse contemplation in developing equanimity towards your body and other’s bodies.
A word on this practice and the translation “repulsiveness”. The pali word “Asubha” is the negation of the word Subha, which means beautiful. So “not beautiful” would be a valid and better translation. This practice is not meant to bring you into the depths of aversion, disgust, and hatred for the body.
To repulse is to push back or resist. We do this practice to push back the illusions we uphold and to resist being overcome by them. There is the rather amusing and interesting story in the Vinaya, the book of rules for monastics, where the Buddha taught a group of monks this practice then went into seclusion. When he came out of seclusion a month later he was told that dozens of monks had become so averse to their bodies they either killed themselves or had others kill them.
So remember this, there is nothing to be attracted to or repelled by with the human body. It is simply a biological machine that does what it does. We add on the extra layer, our attachments and aversions, our likes and dislikes. This practice goes a long way in moving us towards that equanimity, away from our attachments and aversions, to see the body as it really is, not as we wish it to be.
‘Again, a monk reviews this very body from the soles of the feet upwards and from the scalp downwards, enclosed by the skin and full of manifold impurities: “In this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, mesentery, bowels, stomach, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, tallow, saliva, snot, synovic fluid, urine.′
Just as if there were a bag, open at both ends, full of various kinds of grain such as hill-rice, paddy, green gram, kidney-beans, sesame, husked rice, and a man with good eyesight were to open the bag and examine them, saying: “This is hill-rice, this is paddy, this is green gram, these are kidney-beans, this is sesame, this is husked rice”, so too a monk reviews this very body: “In this body there are head-hairs,… urine.” ‘So he abides contemplating body as body internally, externally, and both internally and externally… And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. And that, monks, is how a monk abides contemplating body as body.’
As you can see in the simile to go along with the teaching, we are to know the parts as they are, without attachment or aversion. As this pile of rice has such and such different types, this body has such and such different parts, all of which are impermanent, subject to illness and decay.
Both of these practices are given by the Buddha in a pretty straight forward manner. You can practice these directly as the Buddha taught. I use both of these in my daily practice that I will explain in the final part of this series. I’ll be back next week for part 4, which may or may not be the final part, I haven’t decided just yet.
This is the Third in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
A sutta discussion regarding the 5 Aggregates :
[The Buddha Center : Sutta Discussion : MN 109 – Mahapunnama Sutta](https://clyp.it/lndinykm)
link to written sutta for following along here – http://www.yellowrobe.com/component/content/article/120-majjhima-nikaya/315-mahpuama-sutta-the-greater-discourse-on-the-full-moon-night.html
With introductions done, let us jump into the practice. As promised today I’d like to speak about what I first heard called “The 5 Remembrances”, but are more often translated as “5 subjects for Contemplation” or “Themes” as translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
AN 5.57 Upajjhatthana Sutta: Themes
“Bhikkhus, there are these five themes that should often be reflected upon by a woman or a man, by a householder or one gone forth. What five?
(1) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age.’
(2) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’
(3) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’
(4) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect  thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’
(5) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.
Notice how three of these five facts correlate to three of the four “divine messengers” the Buddha had (old age, sickness, death) which spurred on his quest for freedom. Because we have this body, we cannot escape old age, sickness, and death. Because we cannot escape old age, sickness, and death, we cannot escape being separated from everyone and everything we hold dear, this is an inevitable fact of life. Finally we are the heirs of our actions, both in this very life and in future lives, whatever we do we will be subject to the results of those actions.
As I stated in the previous section we do everything we can in our power to try to hide from these, but there is no place to hide. I believe this wonderful simile from the suttas explains this well. When mountains come rolling in on you from all four sides.. what can you do?:
SN 3.25 Pabbatopama Sutta: The Simile of the Mountains
“What do you think, great king? Suppose a man, trustworthy and reliable, were to come to you from the east and on arrival would say: ‘If it please your majesty, you should know that I come from the east. There I saw a great mountain, as high as the clouds, coming this way, crushing all living beings [in its path]. Do whatever you think should be done.’ Then a second man were to come to you from the west… Then a third man were to come to you from the north… Then a fourth man were to come to you from the south and on arrival would say: ‘If it please your majesty, you should know that I come from the south. There I saw a great mountain, as high as the clouds, coming this way, crushing all living beings. Do whatever you think should be done.’ If, great king, such a great peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life — the human state being so hard to obtain — what should be done?”
“If, lord, such a great peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life — the human state being so hard to obtain — what else should be done but Dhamma-conduct, right conduct, skillful deeds, meritorious deeds?”
“I inform you, great king, I announce to you, great king: aging and death are rolling in on you. When aging and death are rolling in on you, great king, what should be done?”
“As aging and death are rolling in on me, lord, what else should be done but Dhamma-conduct, right conduct, skillful deeds, meritorious deeds?
I wanted to start with the five remembrances as it is a bit simpler and appropriate for those who are new to the practice or whom have severe anxiety with death. Jumping into the other methods right off may be too much for some. These five facts might also bring about lots of anxiety and fear let alone contemplation of a corpse. Notice how the Buddha states that these facts are to be reflected upon by both lay persons and ordained persons. This practice is not just for monastics but is beneficial for everyone.
You can begin by simply reciting these five facts and using them as a subject of contemplation at least once daily. Don’t just let this become rote, contemplate and be mindful of the words and their meaning. Explore what it means to age, to become ill, to die, look at the signs of these in your own body and remember times when you were separated from loved ones. Contemplate how your actions here and now affect both yourself and others.
This may bring up anxiety and fear at first, but that just means it is working and as time goes by you will slowly begin to grow accustomed and accepting to the fact that you will grow old, get sick, die, and be separated from everything you hold dear. This will bring freedom, peace, and happiness to your life, as well as a strong sense of gratitude. These are five undisputable facts will happen whether we accept them or not and it’s in our best interest to embrace them.
This is not just for beginners either. Until the day we die or become awakened, all practitioners should keep these facts always in mind. This helps keep up the desire to practice and reminds us not to delude ourselves that we are exempt from these facts. Even an awakened being like the Buddha still grew old and sick and experienced bodily pain.
Next week we will go deeper into Mindfulness of Death with further contemplations from the suttas. Begin this practice and make it a part of your life, stand your ground friends and do not run away, your courage will lead to freedom.
This is the Second in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts: