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can’t imagine your own death?

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The day after my recent arrival at the monastery, Hogen asked me to come and have tea. As we sat on the floor of his office, he gave me a choice of Japanese tea … or Turkish coffee. Bringing water to a boil, adding extra-finely ground dark beans and sugar, he asked what I’d been doing. Aware of the preciousness of alone-time with a senior teacher, I skipped the chit-chat. “I have been pondering the difficulty of imagining my own death,” I said. “There are fleeting moments when I sense no distinction between one and the others — during meditation, say, or sexual abandon — but for 99.98% of my waking hours the ego seems incapable of imagining its own demise.”

I can offer you two kinds of chocolate, Hogen gestured towards a stash of sweets, one with bacon flavour, the other with Mexican peppers. All organic. And in the next breath, he addressed my dilemma: The Daishin of ten years ago is not the one sitting in front of me. You’ve changed so much. Not just on the cellular level — but look at your mind state, your equanimous ways. Yes, the old Peter is dead, I realized. “Thank you for the coffee.” Bows.


4 responses »

  1. yes, and dead again. and dead again. and so it goes. gone beyond.

  2. yes, as we are all dead and reviving a new self every moment. mmmm, chocolate and coffee. to die for. how wonderful!

  3. Well, get really, really sick, and it’s not so hard!^-^
    I think a lot of what practice is, is trying to take what we learn about ourselves during those few very hard moments/experiences, and trying to bring it back to our dailly lives. At that moment when the end seemed near, what really mattered? What was worthwhile, and what wasn’t?

    There’s a number of interesting quotes by Jesus in the Koran, one of them goes like this, “The world is a bridge; cross over it, but do not build your house upon it.”

  4. i have to share this one more thing – John O’Donohue speaking at the Greenbelt festival recounts a story: at the deathbed of a ‘bandito’ he asks of the wild, old man “what would you say about life, now that you are about to leave it?’ On his deathbed, the man replies “by jesus, i knocked a hell of a squeeze out of it!’ A reminder to me when that moment that we can’t imagine does arrive we are full with joy at what we squeezed from life!


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