Introduction: Impermanence and Death
(Kim Mosley & Sarah Webb)

K: I read the other day in Steve Hagen's Buddhism, Plain and Simple, "But how can you be truly happy when you have a death sentence on your head?" This is the theme of this issue of JustThis, Austin Zen Center's journal. What I find amazing is that a part of me believes it is the most important question and yet another part doesn't care about my death sentence. Do we hate a romantic interlude because it is going to end? Of course not. William Blake wrote, "...But he who kisses the joy as it flies/ Lives in eternity's sunrise."

I have known people so fearful of death that they are afraid to live. My grandpa said he didn't want any more dogs because it broke his heart when they died. (He lost his wife and true love after only a couple of years of marriage.) Perhaps there is a limit to how much one is willing to mourn.

So I asked my wife this question and she said that you just have to live in the moment. I wondered if this is a delusion, ignoring the elephant in the room. Is there another way? Can we revere the elephant and revere the moment at the same time? I don't want to forget that impermanence is keenly married to death.

S: As for the question you pose at the end, I'd say (right now in my thinking) that what happens in the moment is awareness and awareness comes from outside the self and does not die. Even if we color it with the self, which we do, it comes from outside (One may falsely believe that it is oneself that hears the bird sing in the spring and sees the leaves fall in the autumn. This is not so.—Dogen)

So right now it seems to me that many things about us die in our physical death but perhaps something—not a thing, hmmm...—continues. Not our individual self but the seeing, knowing, beyond the self. That formless which I reduce down into an it when I call it awareness. More mysterious than that but somehow connected to awareness.

And revering the elephant—yes we do die—and living in the moment—now, which never ends--is like form and formlessness. Kim in form worries about death, the you that is beyond form, equally true, doesn't need to.

P.S. Kim sent his teacher (in Chicago) the link to this issue. He responded, "I suspect Sengcan would say that if you have no preferences (you are as the blog calls itself: Just This), then the whole question of death and impermanence would never come up."


About Kim Mosley & Sarah Webb


Kim Mosley said...

Kim: I sent the link out for this new issue. Three people asked to be taken off the e-list. Death is the elephant in the room.

Sarah: Of course, they could have been leaving the sangha list anyway. But the elephant chased them the rest of the way out.

Kim: Oh, I'm sure that they were thinking of leaving the list. But it was interesting what straw broke the camel's back.

A Korean Buddhist posed this question to me, "You are on a boat that can carry 8 people. There are 9 people on the boat. What do you do." My teacher, without hesitation, said: "I'd jump in the water and save the others." I was impressed, though I argued with him, saying that he can do more good as a good teacher by staying alive. He seemed to think that was irrelevant to the problem at hand.

Kim Mosley said...

Welcome to the comment section. Nobody knows what you are thinking if you don't open your mouth.

Anonymous said...

What comes up for me now,from part of this post, is that it is immaterial if there is that continues after my particular death. Wanting something to continue on seems like just another filter to shield us from a hard truth.After all, what does "just this"mean if there is , just this, and then there is well, umm, that?