Hey, you guys know the Dalai Lama, right? You’re fans, even? His Holiness? Nobel Peace Prize winner? Beacon of human rights and Tibetan Buddhism the world over?
I suspect you would probably trust His Holiness in matters of how to chill the hell out and be a good person. Well surprise, surprise. From the Dalai Lama himself we have word that such a journey involves daily meditation and thoughts about your own death.
His Holiness has called meditation on death and the impermanence of life an “eye-opener” and the practice best suited to “help you face whatever hardships may come your way.” It is also a way to fight off delusions and stimulate you to action. “Awareness of death is essential at every stage of your spiritual life.”
My favorite passage is from The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace where the Dalai Lama (Mr. Lama?) talks about the bad things that happen to humans who forget to think on death:
When you forget death, there is very little chance of your being inclined toward practice. Without awareness of death, your practice will become slack and ineffective. You will be predominantly occupied with the affairs of this life. There are people who receive vows and recite their prayers daily. But because their awareness of death is weak, they behave like ordinary people in times of crisis, becoming excessively angry, attached, or jealous.
There is a saying in Tibetan: “When you are well fed and enjoying the sunshine, you look like a practitioner. But when faced with a crisis you reveal your true nature.” Everyday experience tells us that most of us are like this.
Without awareness of death, you have the affairs of this life at the center of your heart. And because you are obsessed with wealth, status, and fame, you barely flinch when committing negative actions.
If you forget that you will die, you will think mainly about how to lead a prosperous life. Your most important concern will be to get a good place to stay, good clothes to wear, and good food to eat. You will not hesitate to deceive and threaten others if you get the chance. What is more, you might judge such negative activities as the marks of an efficient and capable person. This is a clear indication that you are not farsighted enough to think about the long future ahead.
Now get out there and contemplate your inevitable mortality.
Thanks to this site for sourcing the book online.