Amitasuri explores what can happen when faced with well-being, illness, ageing and death, and looks at how the Dharma might influence our response. Amitasuri takes her Dharma practice to her work as a Buddhist Hospital Chaplain, where she supports health and well-being through pastoral, religious and spiritual care for staff, patients and their families in a number of hospitals in Greater Manchester.
According to Tibetan tradition, in the bardo, an ‘intermediate state’ in the endless round of birth and death, we are free for an instant from that round. The Tibetan book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol) describes six of these opportunities for escape from reactivity. Here Sangharakshita explores our resistance to facing death and the impact of the esoteric teachings of Padmasambhava.
Sangharakshita shares a story from Kalimpong about being woken up in the middle of the night to a very strange occurrence – he saw a dear friend who had passed several years earlier standing in a deep pit next to his bed. His response was to chant the Vajrasattva Mantra.
Here Sangharakshita recounts one of the stories from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, that of The Episode of Untimely Flowers. Reflections based around the Buddha’s Parinirvana (‘death’), stress the importance of impermanence.
The Buddha’s Parinirvana marks the final passing of the Buddha two and a half millennia ago. It is an opportunity not just to contemplate on impermanence, but also to rejoice in the example of the Buddha’s life and in the precious opportunity our own lives present us with.
The Maha Parinirvana Sutra contains a fairly detailed account of the Buddha’s last months of his earthly life. It follows him step by step – where he went, who he met, how he discoursed, what teaching he gave. By the time he embarked on his last journey he knew he was going to pass away. Being the Enlightened One, he remained calm, reflecting on his last words, his last teaching.
There is something profoundly natural and ordinary about death, and yet something quite mysterious. Where do we go? What actually happens? Who or what are we when alive? Nothing changed, from the Buddha’s point of view. Vimalavajri offers reflections on the ultimate unknown, the ultimate mystery, death, inspired by the glimpses of awakening depicted in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.