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A friend remarked on the “lightness” with which I’m responding to the latest accident. Another wondered about a “message” hidden within recent bouts of neuropathic pain, soft-tissue damage, and fractures. These comments bounced around my brain all day until they hit upon lines from a sūtra which we used to chant at the monastery.

The Sanskrit term sūtra literally means a thread or line that holds things together: how appropriate. The chant in question is the “Vow for Awakening” by Dai-e, a 12th Century Zen master from China. Here’s the stanza that came into my head:

… Our further prayer is not to be extremely ill or to be suffering at the time of death, to know its arrival seven days ahead so that we can quiet the mind to abandon the body and be unattached to all things at the last moment. …

How cool is that! Looking at my experience in this way and interpreting it broadly, points to profound teachings. They reinforce my vow to awaken, to serve, and to end suffering–my own and that of all sentient beings. Reading the “seven days” death notice symbolically, I’m urged to continue focussing on what’s truly important in this life. “Do not waste your time by night or day” goes the last line in another sūtra.

image: Death and the Old Man: Totentanz (death dance) by Hans Holbein (1538).

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