The Impermanence of Beings
This is a continuation of excerpts from Patrul Rinpoche’s classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Words of My Perfect Teacher. We’re using the Yale University Press edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. You can get the book for yourself if you wish. We are not following any particular order in these excerpts. This one is in the chapter on The Impermanence of Life, and the section on The Impermanence of Beings Living in the Universe pp. 41-42 of the 2011 edition.
The Impermanence of Beings Living in the Universe
Have you ever, on earth or in the heavens,
Seen a being born who will not die?
Or heard that such a thing had happened?
Or even suspected that it might?
Everything that is born is bound to die. Nobeody has ever seen anyone or heard of anyone in any realm—even in the world of the gods — who was born but never died. In fact, it never even occurs to us to wonder whether a person will do or not. It is a certainty…
…Nagarjuna, too, says:
Life flickers in the flurries of a thousand ills,
More fragile than a bubble in a stream.
In sleep, each breath departs and is again drawn in;
How wondrous that we wake up living still!
Breathing gently, people enjoy their slumber. But between one breath and the next there is no guarantee that death will not slip in. To wake up in good health is an event which truly deserves to be considered miraculous, yet we take it completely for granted.
Although we know we are going to die one day, we do not really let our attitudes to life be affected by the ever-present possibility of dying. We still spend all our time hoping and worrying about our future livelihood, as if we wer going to live forever. We stay completely involved in our struggle for well-being, happiness and status — until, suddenly, we are confronted by Death wielding his black noose, gnashing ferociously at his lower lip and baring his fangs.
Then nothing can help us…
Death cannot be fought off by any warrior, ordered away by the powerful, or paid off by the rich. Death leaves nowhere to run to, no place to hide, no refuge, no defender or guide. Death resists any recourse to skill or compassion. Once our life has run out, even if the Medicine Buddha himself were to appear in person he would be unable to delay our death.
So, reflect sincerely and meditate on how important it is from this very moment onwards never to slip into laziness and procrastination, but to practice the true Dharma, the only thing you can be sure will help at the moment of death. (Emphasis added.)
See More Excerpts from The Words of My Perfect Teacher on YoWangdu:
The Words of My Perfect Teacher
By Patrul Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama
Our friend, a Buddhist Studies professor in the U.S., notes that this is “an English translation of a Tibetan text on the path to enlightenment. The translation is really good and many Tibetan Studies scholars use the book in their Tibetan Buddhism classes.”
Description: “A favorite of Tibetans and recommended by the Dalai Lama and other senior Buddhist teachers, this practical guide to inner transformation introduces the fundamental spiritual practices common to all Tibetan Buddhist traditions...Patrul Rinpoche makes the technicalities of his subject accessible through a wealth of stories, quotations, and references to everyday life….quintessential introduction to Tibetan Buddhist practice. ” (5 stars/24 reviews)
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