Lama Shenpen’s pertinent teaching on impermanence and how reflections on impermanence can help us to recognise the unchanging quality of the nature of Awareness, that goes beyond birth and death:
“Notice in daily life situations how the more you are aware of the dynamism of change, the more clear and awake you feel and that the clearer and more awake you feel, the more you notice the dynamic of change. In this way your awareness of change can strengthen your confidence in the path of Awakening.
It is often the very fact that an intense experience fades, that makes it so alive, tender and poignant. This poignancy is an expression of the fundamental quality of sensitivity. Notice that the intensity of the sensitivity increases our clarity and awareness. The clarity and sensitivity are inseparable.
We tend to think that death is far away: something that happens at the end of our life and something for which we cannot plan. It is a fact that any of us could die at any time. Every breath could be our last.
Yet the vastness of space will not change, the light and energy of awareness will not change and where these are there is always sensitivity and responsiveness. These three qualities – Openness, Clarity, Sensitivity – did not arise from anywhere or go anywhere. How could they end at death? In other words, whatever lies beyond this life is none other than what is present already.
We have no reason or evidence to show that awareness could begin or end. From this point of view there is no more reason to think there is a break at death any more than there is in sleep.
You do not have to believe that there is any entity that travels from life to life. You just have to reflect that awareness just is and things just appear in it and there is no reason to believe that awareness stops just because it loses connection with a particular time and place, body or world.
It is the fundamental quality of clarity or awareness that remains and if it is still unawakened it will find itself in another world just as when someone is asleep they keep finding themselves in other dreams. It is not that anything goes anywhere, it is simply that the pattern of illusion continues.
We can aspire to align ourselves with that unchanging quality of awareness. If we could do this there would be no sleep or death in the ordinary sense. This is how accomplished yogins who are well advanced on the path of awakening sleep and die.
When we die this time and place in which we live will be left behind, but not the space and awareness in which it appeared. In fact as the physical body dissolves away, the space and clarity of our being is momentarily released.
If you could have the confidence to trust the wisdom of your heart and recognise the vastness and brilliance of the light that manifests as the true nature of reality, you would realise the heart’s release.
For most of us, we are not ready to realise that and so we panic and the power of our reaction (avidya) is so strong that we enter another world or mandala which, through force of habit, we solidify and create into another home for ourselves.
Buddhism teaches that through force of habit and the power of our heart wish and connections, by practising awareness in one life, the process of awakening will continue in the next. Thus the process of awakening straddles the divide of life and death.
Reflect on the poignancy of impermanence and on the inevitability of death. Let the significance of that really strike to your heart and reflect on what is most important in life in the light of that fact.
Notice how this thought heightens your awareness and how it could be used to intensify your heart wish for clarity and confidence in relation to the path of awakening. Notice also how it shifts your sense of the relative importance of things.”
Lama Shenpen Hookham
From the Clarity book from Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training
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