Buddha teaching Kisa Gotami how to bear the death of her child. Image Source: Inspirations & Lessons In Life.
The Tech Revolution, combined with the ageing of much of the world's population in the West, China and Japan, leads us to a uneasy and pressured relationship with time, a globalized trade in youthful beauty, a troubling obsession with anti-ageing, and a collective compulsion to avoid the realities of hardship, illness and death. When I see Website after Website breathlessly anticipating the end of the world, I wonder if we have collectively lost the plot. The People of the Book and the Muslims are obsessed with end times. It's a death culture, jostling up against a seniors' youth culture.
Meanwhile, alarming events deepen our sense of unease. A dire news report of a meltdown in the Japanese Fukushima plant stated that the dreaded China Syndrome has occurred in Reactor #1. Last week, a worker died there; and the Japanese have widened the evacuation zone around the plant. If Armageddon does arrive, we will face it popping vitamins, buying the most expensive anti-wrinkle creams in the history of humankind, injecting Botox, dieting, going under the knife - and eating potassium iodide.
In this atmosphere, it's rare to see a meditation on death that is compassionate, brave and honest. Charles Wong's excellent Inspirations & Lessons In Life blog recently posted a poignant and personal comment that relates the vanities of advanced societies to the growing awareness of mortality, because the more we have, the more we have to lose - and we will always lose:
"Buddha said being human will sure have sufferings from birth, old age, sickness and dying. This is because we all have craving, therefore we exist in this cycle of rebirth. Death comes to everybody ... . Once The Buddha asked this woman if she wants to have 10 children in her village and she said yes that would make me very happy. The Buddha then said if the 10 children died, you would suffer 10 times ... the more we want, the more we suffer."
Image Source: Outernationalist.
From the story of Kisa Gotami: "Even as it is with these flames, so also is it with living beings in this world: Some flare up, while others flicker out; only those who have attained Nibbana are no longer seen."
From the script of "Out of Africa": "Do you remember how it was ... on safari? In the afternoons I would send you ahead to look for a camp ... and you would wait for me."
"You can see the fire ... and come to this place."
"Yes. Well, it will be like that. Only this time I will go ahead and wait for you."
"It is far, where you are going?"
"You must make this fire very big ... so I can find you."
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