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Thread: when faced with the ultimate reality

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  1. #1

    when faced with the ultimate reality

    This question was recently posted on the Dogen Sangha Blog:

    What advice would you give regarding zazen practice for someone facing a life-threatening illness? Accepting impermanence is easy to do when one is healthy. But when faced with the ultimate reality, our confidence deserts us and we lose faith in the words that gave us strength. (But they were just words, anyway.)
    As far as questions go, it's right up there with the best of them.
    I thought I'd bring it here to Treeleaf for us all to consider

    gassho,
    Keishin[/b]

  2. #2
    Senior Member Oheso's Avatar
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    thank you Keishin for your question and thanks to Jundo and all contributors to this thread.

    one's and my own mortality is a sobering companion. I'm currently reading "A year to live" by Stephen Levine. has anyone else?

    gassho,

    Robt
    only saps buy vowels

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Oheso View Post
    thank you Keishin for your question and thanks to Jundo and all contributors to this thread.

    one's and my own mortality is a sobering companion. I'm currently reading "A year to live" by Stephen Levine. has anyone else?

    gassho,

    Robt
    And Robt,

    You really found this old thread from 2007!

    Nice to see if what I wrote still holds water.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-14-2013 at 12:25 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    Not a bad thread to dig up. I'm not sure what I would do if I found out I were terminally ill. I'd hope that I would just keep sitting, making bad jokes, and playing with my son. No need to make things more difficult than necessary.
    Try not to be a jerk-- one of the Buddhas

  5. #5
    Thank you for the question you bring Keishin.

    I read it as, is there anything different we might say about practice if giving advice to someone with a terminal illness? Jundo answered well and I agree with his words.

    If I might just add - what you wrote about the possibility that what we interpret as confidence may just be 'good health' rather than a faith and confidence that is firmly grounded - no matter what - raises an interesting question.

    I think in a 'normal' lifespan we will be tested many times over on this - if not with ill health then with other situations. We all have to come to terms with loss and grief. The imminence of loss is always with us.

    I 'lost' my health is quite a dramatic way over 20 years ago. After a period of adjustment I gradually (over many years) was able to loosen the hold of a fixed attachment to a view that life has to be a certain way.

    I still have fleeting moments of anger, envy, fear and despair but I now experience these emotions as less overwhelming. I do feel that practicing zazen - as taught here - has considerably deepened my ability to go with the flow of whatever life brings.

    Will my confidence and faith in this practice hold if I am ever faced with terminal illness? I can't answer that - none of us can. We can only have faith that it might be so.

    Gassho

    Willow
    Last edited by willow; 11-14-2013 at 04:38 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Oheso's Avatar
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    I'm not sure how close my few medical "emergencies" have brought me to death, really. my health so far has been pretty darn good. deep bows to all concerned for this tremendous gift. I've never been anywhere near a bright light tunnel or anything like that. but of course one doesnt get to be 60, experiencing the deaths of those near to us, without the opportunity of feeling the breeze of Mr.D's close passing on one's cheeks. certainly the last few years have been like this for me. next 1 or 2 will be too.

    death poem of Master Sheng Yen:

    Busy with nothing, growing old.
    Within emptiness, weeping, laughing.
    Intrinsically, there is no "I."
    Life and death, thus cast aside.

    (thank you Jundo for once posting this for me to find)

    at least part of what I strive for in my no-striving practice is to attain the mind that will be capable of similar sentiment and utterance in the hour of my death, amen. a tenacious christian perspective on my part perhaps.

    gassho,

    Robert

    ps. I'm currently reading "A year to live" by Stephen Levine. has anyone else?
    Last edited by Oheso; 11-15-2013 at 04:27 PM.
    only saps buy vowels

  7. #7
    Robert,

    I haven't read that book; is it good?

    Gassho,

    Risho

  8. #8
    What advice would you give regarding zazen practice for someone facing a life-threatening illness? Accepting impermanence is easy to do when one is healthy. But when faced with the ultimate reality, our confidence deserts us and we lose faith in the words that gave us strength. (But they were just words, anyway.)
    Just this.


    It's been my experience that reality is completely indifferent to my degree of acceptance, confidence, or faith. My level of understanding or enlightenment is not considered; my permission, agreement, or acquiescence is neither required nor solicited. When my delusions, fixed views, cherished paradigms, entrenched dogmas, fondest wishes, fervent prayers, attachments and aversions are stripped away (or blown away in one of life's explosions), all I am left with is just this...just as it is. Not how I want it to be, not how I wish it were; just this.

    Yeah; it still pisses me off a little that the universe steadfastly refuses to recognize my importance by at least extending the minimal courtesy of at least acknowledging my opinions on the matter, but there it is; isn't it?
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Oheso's Avatar
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    it's a very thought provoking book Risho, thanks for asking. I like Levine's idea of completing one's birth being the the ultimate preparation for death. I think this is the being one with just this Piobair refers to.

    gassho,

    Robert
    Last edited by Oheso; 11-16-2013 at 03:53 PM.
    only saps buy vowels

  10. #10
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piobair View Post
    Just this.


    It's been my experience that reality is completely indifferent to my degree of acceptance, confidence, or faith. My level of understanding or enlightenment is not considered; my permission, agreement, or acquiescence is neither required nor solicited. When my delusions, fixed views, cherished paradigms, entrenched dogmas, fondest wishes, fervent prayers, attachments and aversions are stripped away (or blown away in one of life's explosions), all I am left with is just this...just as it is. Not how I want it to be, not how I wish it were; just this.

    Yeah; it still pisses me off a little that the universe steadfastly refuses to recognize my importance by at least extending the minimal courtesy of at least acknowledging my opinions on the matter, but there it is; isn't it?
    Thank you.

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  11. #11
    Member Cooperix's Avatar
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    Because I am in my late 60s I have lost many friends over the years.
    this is about two recent losses.
    George was diagnosed with a cancer that was terminal. He was given 2months to live. When his partner fell to the floor in despair at the diagnosis asking "how can we do this?" His reply was " one day at a time" as he helped her up off the floor. He was always upbeat, joyful almost in those months he had left. On a visit I asked him..."how can you do this with such grace" and his answer was "I am part of nature, death is part of nature, any other response would be disingenuous. I have total respect for nature."
    George was a forest ranger and had spent most of his adult life in the wilderness. He was present and lovely to the end. He lived 8 months after his diagnosis.

    John was given the startling diagnosis of 2 weeks to live. When I visited him on day 11 and asked him the ridiculous question of how he felt about the diagnosis, his answer surprised me. He said he had no fear, a small amount of anger but mostly curiosity. He had brain cancer and wondered how it would affect his mind. He also was full of humor. He laughed and called it "tumor humor"! His humor and gentle kindness never left, nor did his curiosity as his disease progressed. He lived 6 weeks.

    I am so grateful to have known these men, been present for their grace and gentleness in the dire face of their diagnosis. such equanimity and curiosity and humor...

    Anne
    Last edited by Cooperix; 12-19-2013 at 09:51 PM. Reason: Misspelling

  12. #12
    My mum was diagnosed with cancer about 2 months ago, she lives in the UK and I live in Spain. So a couple of weeks ago I visited, I went back to to spend a week with her, find out exactly what the prognosis is and make profound comments about life and death and suffering. (She is not buddhist)
    None of that happened, we just sat round chatting, watching television together, went out for a couple of meals with the family and just enjoyed our time together. This wasn't denial, it was my mum for the first time I can remember living in the now, all that cancer stuff was for the docs to manage, she was alive today with a lets make the best of it attitude.
    I still have no idea what the prognosis is but it was a lovely visit living in the now,

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Stev View Post
    My mum was diagnosed with cancer about 2 months ago, she lives in the UK and I live in Spain. So a couple of weeks ago I visited, I went back to to spend a week with her, find out exactly what the prognosis is and make profound comments about life and death and suffering. (She is not buddhist)
    None of that happened, we just sat round chatting, watching television together, went out for a couple of meals with the family and just enjoyed our time together. This wasn't denial, it was my mum for the first time I can remember living in the now, all that cancer stuff was for the docs to manage, she was alive today with a lets make the best of it attitude.
    I still have no idea what the prognosis is but it was a lovely visit living in the now,
    Hello Stev,

    I am sorry to hear about your mom's diagnoses, this must be hard on both of you. I can empathize with your situation as my mom is a breast cancer survivor of many years now. Knowing what I know now and wish I knew back then is to just be with everyone moment ... whether good or bad, each moment is precious. I hope all turns out well and sending much metta to you both. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    Death is just an illusion. A very persistent one, but an illusion none the less. At least that's what I tell people who are about to get in the car with me.
    Try not to be a jerk-- one of the Buddhas

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