[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