Mortality..

[Apologies for slow blogging / response of late. Those who know me will be aware of the reasons behind this. It may continue for some time, I fear. I will probably continue to tweet due twitter's brevity, but blog posts - and certainly responses - will be fewer/slower.]

Below is a quote from the Pabbatopama Sutta, found in the Samyutta Nikaya (of the Buddhist Pali Canon). I omit the second part- which offers post-death rewards to those who follow the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha, not because it’s irrelevant, but because it is not my primary concern here.

All religions (and quite a few things that claim not to be) seem to offer some rescue from death. I am tempted to see it as one of those features that distinguish religious phenomena from religion-like socio-political phenomena. What I do like, below, however, is the sense of inevitability- that it rolls over us all. It reminds me of Matthew 5.45 (For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ESV, 2001), and reminds us that irrespective of post-mortem claims, this world is indifferent to us.

While others may choose to focus on the consolations that faith offers post-death, I am much more interested in this indifference. It seems instructive. Post-death threats and promises have not promoted ethics, and many religious thinkers have also taken this view. I am sure that there are those who believe (and claim evidence, but this is another matter), to an extent, that death is survivable: but I am not interested in that. The evidence is sketchy (at very best), and this world is without us once we die. It is this world that interests me. A mortal being is what we are to this world. Even if we look beyond death, this world is a place where we are mortal. It is only effected by what we do before death. What happens beyond is irrelevant.

Like massive boulders

mountains pressing against the sky

moving in from all sides

crushing the four directions,

so aging and death

come rolling over living beings:

 

noble warriors, brahmans, merchants

workers, outcastes, & scavengers

They spare nothing

They trample everything.

 

Here elephant troops can hold no ground

nor can chariots or infantry

nor can a battle of wit

or wealth win out

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn03/sn03.025.than.html

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2 comments

  1. [...] own footsteps, nothing before him but a giant shadow; beside himself — nothing.And in a post at his Dispirited blog (book review forthcoming), Dave Webster had this to say:While others may choose to focus on the [...]

  2. The Naked Monk · · Reply

    I’ve been convinced for decades that some sort of emotional familiarity with death is profoundly healthy, but it’s been elusive nonetheless. It strikes me unawares, the only condition being that my mood is reflective. It’s at once exquisite and sad. What’s healthy about that? My deep appreciation for being here and for knowing it, for being awake in a life that tends to drowsiness …. for the fragile gift of consciousness.

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