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Dependent Origination: Death

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2013-11-26
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



Birth and aging inevitably lead to dying and death. The Buddha suggests this pattern can be broken by waking up to the sequencing of Dependent Origination. We cannot prevent the body from dying but we can opt out from the paradigm in which “I” die along with it. When we live encased within the idea of “me,” with the “me” as real as the physical form we embody, then as the body ages we will fear our death. Interestingly enough, by eliminating everything that lives within the cycle of birth and death, we find our way out of death. Investigating what remains after death or what cannot be born or age can begin to move us away from dependency on form. We cannot rest our answer on the visible world because all we see will be taken away.  If _what_ we see dies, perhaps the invisible _seeing_ itself holds the deathless. What is it that sees out of our eyes? Again, not what we see, but the seeing or awareness itself. Awareness gives us the capacity to see, but awareness cannot be seen. Though awareness cannot be seen, it can be intimated through a felt-sense of the body.


The sequencing of Dependent Origination ends with death, but it is the denial of death and the refusal to look at the other links that brings the first link (ignorance) back around to repeat the sequencing over and over again. To dispel ignorance reflect upon both the death of the image of self and the death of the body. We have seen now that the sense-of-self is only an image and by being still the self-image is not promoted. Also notice the fragility of your heartbeat, the tenderness of each breath, the irreversible aging of the body. What false assumptions are you making about the continuance of your physical and egoic lives?  Are you certain there will be an in breath after this out breath? Are you certain that the thought refers to anyone thinking?  Feel the edge of fear as you allow the uncertainty of each moment to surface.  Off the cushion, start bringing death into your day-to-day observations by intentionally reading the obituaries in the newspaper, observing road kills, and noticing the dying process in nature.  Be sensitive to your fears of the subject.  If it is too much back away, if not, learn all you can about the immediate reality of death.


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