Death Meditation (Help)

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Death Meditation (Help)

Postby jollybean » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:16 am

Hi friends,

How does one do meditation on death?

Are there any instructions on this in the suttas?

What have you found to be most effective regarding meditation on death?

I ask these questions because I'm looking to start spending more time on this again. I remember many years ago when I first learned about buddhism, I started reflecting on death (under no particular instruction) and it had a profound effect on me. This is something I want to explore again, and I seek your help.

Cheers.
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby daverupa » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:50 pm

Reflect on the fact of it daily, not in the abstract but in a personal way: this very body will die. When it's useful, in my experience, is when this effort shepherds motivation into play, both for perpetual presence of mind as well as for renunciation of sensuality. These become preferable, basically.

It's an applied seeing of anicca, but in this case - as in every case - it's important and useful to balance the contemplation: calm observation, not just observation and not just calm.

I have gained by keying death-mindfulness to feelings of boredom; one can snap out of a mental fog in short order, this way. It's also a great way to pass the time on public transit instead of trying to ray-gun metta into everyone, which can eventually dovetail into a more emanating (exuding? effervescent?) metta practice which enforces equanimity about where metta can land, as it were.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby santa100 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:04 pm

Various sutta references on this subject of contemplation: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#death

Also ven. Gunaratna's great essay on this topic: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el102.html
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby bodom » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:59 pm

jollybean wrote:Hi friends,

How does one do meditation on death?

Are there any instructions on this in the suttas?

What have you found to be most effective regarding meditation on death?

I ask these questions because I'm looking to start spending more time on this again. I remember many years ago when I first learned about buddhism, I started reflecting on death (under no particular instruction) and it had a profound effect on me. This is something I want to explore again, and I seek your help.

Cheers.


This sort of meditation is best practiced under the guidance of a qualified teacher. I recommend seeking one out if at all possible.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby seeker242 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:05 pm

One of the best ways to engage in this kind of contemplation (without a teacher guiding you) IMO is to volunteer at a hospice center. If you really want to see death, you will definitely see it there! And, you also get to help other people in the process. :smile:
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby manas » Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:38 am

jollybean wrote:Hi friends,

How does one do meditation on death?

Are there any instructions on this in the suttas?

What have you found to be most effective regarding meditation on death?

I ask these questions because I'm looking to start spending more time on this again. I remember many years ago when I first learned about buddhism, I started reflecting on death (under no particular instruction) and it had a profound effect on me. This is something I want to explore again, and I seek your help.

Cheers.


Hi jollybean

I just realized that 'death' rhymes with 'breath', and that the two are actually quite intimately related...because when breath ceases, death arrives.

With each breath we take, we cannot *guarantee* that we will be drawing in another one.

:anjali:
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby Kamran » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:14 am

Ven analayo describes the Death Meditation that he teaches in his Tranquility and Insight course which is available online below(lecture 10 or 11?). He uses the breath, and says to imagine that each out breath were your last breath. He does not recommend visualizing the body rotting or looking at pictures of dead bodies as there is a type of enjoyment that can come with this; just to use the breath for a 1/2 hour gets to the point better.

I have been trying this out breath as my last breath meditation, as well as taking walks in a cemetery near my house, and visualizing what it will be like when family members pass away in the not too distant future. So far it has been beneficial. I get a strong sense of inconstancy and impermanence, and it breeds a certain amount of detachment.

http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... es2013.htm
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby jollybean » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:51 am

Thank you all for sharing your insights into this...

daverupa wrote:Reflect on the fact of it daily, not in the abstract but in a personal way: this very body will die. When it's useful, in my experience, is when this effort shepherds motivation into play, both for perpetual presence of mind as well as for renunciation of sensuality. These become preferable, basically.

It's an applied seeing of anicca, but in this case - as in every case - it's important and useful to balance the contemplation: calm observation, not just observation and not just calm.

I have gained by keying death-mindfulness to feelings of boredom; one can snap out of a mental fog in short order, this way. It's also a great way to pass the time on public transit instead of trying to ray-gun metta into everyone, which can eventually dovetail into a more emanating (exuding? effervescent?) metta practice which enforces equanimity about where metta can land, as it were.


lol at "ray-gun metta"... I actually do that sometimes when I'm in public too, and I find it's most effective when the mind is calm and undistracted, then ray-gun metta has a much stronger blast :tongue:

santa100 wrote:Various sutta references on this subject of contemplation: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#death

Also ven. Gunaratna's great essay on this topic: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el102.html


Thanks santa, that looks to be extremely helpful list of resource. Bookmarked.

There's something the Buddha has supposedly said in the Anguttara Nikaya that resonates with quite deeply with me (based on an experience I've had before), and that is this:

"Oh monks, there are ten ideas , which if made to grow, made much of, are of great fruit, of great profit for plunging into Nibbana, for ending up in Nibbana." Of these ten, one is death.
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby jollybean » Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:08 am

This sort of meditation is best practiced under the guidance of a qualified teacher. I recommend seeking one out if at all possible.

:anjali:


I wish I had found one, who I find myself completely trusting of, but the time is not yet I guess, or I'm just not trying hard enough :sage:

Kamran wrote:Ven analayo describes the Death Meditation that he teaches in his Tranquility and Insight course which is available online below(lecture 10 or 11?). He uses the breath, and says to imagine that each out breath were your last breath. He does not recommend visualizing the body rotting or looking at pictures of dead bodies as there is a type of enjoyment that can come with this; just to use the breath for a 1/2 hour gets to the point better.

I have been trying this out breath as my last breath meditation, as well as taking walks in a cemetery near my house, and visualizing what it will be like when family members pass away in the not too distant future. So far it has been beneficial. I get a strong sense of inconstancy and impermanence, and it breeds a certain amount of detachment.

http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... es2013.htm


Thanks Kamran, I'll definitely explore this out breath is the last breath technique. Also, glad to hear you've found reflection on death that's beneficial to you.

It's also interesting when you say Ven Analayo doesn't recommend visualizing the body rotting or looking at pictures of dead bodies. As far as I know, meditation masters like Ajahn Maha Boowa and Ajahn Mun encourages this (visualizing the body, or parts of the body decaying) in an effort to see the body as it is.

Perhaps as Bodom has mentioned, it's best to seek an experienced meditation teacher so one knows the pitfalls to avoid whichever type of meditation one does.
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Re: Death Meditation (Help)

Postby daverupa » Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:30 pm

jollybean wrote:lol at "ray-gun metta"... I actually do that sometimes when I'm in public too, and I find it's most effective when the mind is calm and undistracted, then ray-gun metta has a much stronger blast


You might try seeing if you notice a difference between this aiming approach, and an approach which is more like a soft lightbulb; this ...glowing approach becomes a little bit like a metta-light for a room (the mind...) that occasionally has a person, or people, in it (...which is perceiving a being or beings).

Put another way, rather than it being a case of generating a charge for each and every individual, one or many people become present for a sense gate that already has metta-wallpaper, as it were - it's present there as a feature such that when beings become present there, good-will and/or equanimity is present for them already.

It's useful to recall that harmlessness and non-ill-will are parts of right intention, and thus worth integrating everywhere.

This informs mindfulness of death as well. At the individual level it can support renunciation and a motivation to engage satipatthana while also generating harmlessness and facilitating a lack of ill-will for others, who are after all stuck in the same mess, etc.

Using every breath can be very useful, as mentioned in an earlier post. Anapanasati is already set up this way...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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