SPLIT TOPIC: So, What Happens When Folks Die?

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  • Jinyo
    Member
    • Jan 2012
    • 1957

    SPLIT TOPIC: So, What Happens When Folks Die?

    'We die, and we do not die. This is right understanding. Some people may say that our mind or soul exists forever, and it is only our physical body which dies. But this is not exactly right, because both mind and body have their end. But it is also true that they exist eternally.'

    Hi Jundo (trying to take the wise advice to rest a little - things are improving this end) but the bit [from Suzuki Roshi] I've highlighted above continues to confuse me re, the Zen take on death. Is there anywhere I can look on Tree Leaf for further clarification as I'm sure it must have been discussed many times.

    Gassho

    Willow

    Note from Jundo: I have split the topic, and also added in parenthesis to make clear that the above quote is from Suzuki Shunryu Roshi.
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-05-2012, 01:39 AM.
  • Taigu
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
    • Aug 2008
    • 2710

    #2
    Dear Willow,

    A chapter of shobogenzo called Shoiji, life-death, goes like this:

    "Because a buddha is in birth and death, there is no birth and death."

    It is also said, "Because a buddha is not in birth and death, a buddha is not deluded by birth and death."

    These statements are the essence of the words of the two Zen masters Jiashan and Dingshan. You should certainly not neglect them, because they are the words of those who attained the way.

    Those who want to be free from birth and death should understand the meaning of these words. If you search for a buddha outside birth and death, it will be like trying to go to the southern country of Yue with our spear heading towards the north, or like trying to see the Big Dipper while you are facing south; you will cause yourself to remain all the more in birth and death and lose the way of emancipation.

    Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death.


    It is a mistake to suppose that birth turns into death. Birth is a phase that is an entire period of itself, with its own past and future.

    For this reason, in buddha-dharma birth is understood as no-birth.*

    Death is a phase that is an entire period of itself, with its own past

    and future. For this reason, death is understood as no-death.*

    In birth there is nothing but birth and in death there is nothing but death. Accordinly, when birth comes, face and actualize birth, and when death comes, face and actualize death. Do not avoid them or desire them.

    Birth and death as the experience of nirvana.


    This birth and death is the life of buddha. If you try to exclude it you will lose the life of buddha. If you cling to it, trying to remain in it, you will also lose the life of buddha, and what remains will be the mere form of buddha. Only when you don’t dislike birth and death or long for them, do you enter buddha’s mind.

    However, do not analyze or speak about it. Just set aside your body and mind, forget about them, and throw them into the house of buddha; then all is done by buddha. When you follow this, you are free from birth and death and become a buddha without effort or calculation. Who then continues to think?



    There is a simple way to become buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.

    We don't have answers, ready made stories or ways to think about how it is going to be, why, where to...

    You see, Willow, we are staying with "I don't know", and allow other people what they want to think-believe-make.

    We are involved in undoing the self, not sustaining it, projecting it. Rather than eternal( a beautiful word by the way), we go for "timeless". Rather than "soul" we are looking at "suchness".

    But it is ok. Everything is ok. And you don't have to do something special or believe into...

    Just be, Willow is perfect as Willow, Willow is complete. And yet, just like any of us, Willow will wither and go. The action of going is not separated from life itself.

    it is life doing-undoing-yet-doing

    wood doesn 't turn into ashes...it took ages to my dull mind to get it, my heart knew it from day one.

    take care and sorry for being not able to really help


    gassho


    Taigu
    Last edited by Taigu; 10-04-2012, 02:33 PM.

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39441

      #3
      Originally posted by willow
      'We die, and we do not die. This is right understanding. Some people may say that our mind or soul exists forever,amd it is only our physical body which dies. But this is not exactly right, because both mind and body have their end. But it is also true that they exist eternally.'

      Hi Jundo (trying to take the wise advice to rest a little - things are improving this end) but the bit I've highlighted above continues to confuse me re, the Zen take on death. Is there anywhere I can look on Tree Leaf for further clarification as I'm sure it must have been discussed many times.

      Gassho

      Willow
      Hi Willow,

      Well, the traditional Buddhist (including Zen Buddhist) idea was, and still is, rebirth. Technically, it is not "reincarnation" for the reasons discussed at the following link:

      The reason that this is said to be a system of "rebirth", and not "reincarnation", is based primarily on the very fine distinction that the Buddha denied an eternal "self" or "soul" that would pass on from life to life. Buddhist philosophers have struggled for generations, often bending over backwards, thus to explain how there can be a "you" which is reborn when there is no "you" ...
      I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LENGTH OF THE FOLLOWING ... IT MAY TAKE SEVERAL LIFETIMES TO READ! [monk] Hi Ho, It's been a couple of weeks since our last "BIG Questions". But now fate has led us to the next which, though seemingly some of the trickiest, I find not so tricky at all ... What about KARMA? Mr. D asked ... In
      However, the Buddhists still traditionally have believed that "you" nonetheless might come back as a human, an animal, a spirit, a deity and such, in heavens or hells, based on your good and back volitional actions (Karma) in this and past lives. Although it is nice to think of being reborn, rebirth was --not-- generally thought of as a good thing by Buddhists, and the whole plan was to escape the cycle of rebirth via Nirvana.

      I personally am a skeptical, but open minded, agnostic on literal, mechanical models of rebirth. It is not vital to my practice. As I often say ...

      If there are future lives, heavens and hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.

      And if there are no future lives, no heavens or hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.


      Thus I do not much care if, in the next life, that "gentle way, avoiding harm" will buy me a ticket to heaven and keep me out of hell ... but I know for a fact that it will go far to do so in this life, today, where I see people create all manner of "heavens and hells" for themselves and those around them by their harmful words, thoughts and acts in this life.
      HOWEVER, even if doubting literal rebirth, me and many other modern Zen Teachers will affirm that the whole dichotomy of "birth/life" and "death" is rather an illusion, a fiction, which can be dropped away. So, death is not a problem because we were never born in the first place, and thus never die.

      I mean, birth/death, start/finish, this/that are divisions that the mind judges ... and when the mind stops judging and dividing, they rather vanish. The simplest analogy to give some image of this is the old "wave" on an ocean's surface.

      The wave (representing you or me) rises up from the ocean, and eventually merges back into the ocean, but really there was nothing there all along but the ocean. When the water rippled up, we say "there is a wave", and when the water falls back down we say "the wave is gone" ... but it was just the water, which was there before ... and is still there after, as wet as ever, going on and on.
      Well, you and I and everyone are waves momentarily rising and disappearing ... but we cannot so easily see that we are also the ocean all along. Since we are the ocean, in a sense we are also every wave on the ocean too (I am you and you are the other guy ... and every mountain, star and blade of grass too) ... even though we think we are just one small part of it. As being discussed on another thread today, you and I and everyone are the "True Self/small self, True Face, Dharmakhaya, Relative/Absolute, Mu, Emptiness, Shobogenzo, Big 'B' Buddha, Mirror Mind, Capital "M" Mind etc. " all along, although it is hard to see ourselves as such (without Practice!).

      In Mahayana Buddhism, Buddha often taught that, when you get "enlightened" you escape from the cycle of rebirth. How? Well, one interpretation that has been around for a long time is that you "escape" from it because ... it was never there, except as a creation of your own mind. I guess the simplest analogy is an ordinary dream when you are sleeping, in which you are convinced that you are going from life to life. But when the alarm rings and you 'wake up' ... you realize the dream was a dream all along (real in being a real dream, but not real). When you are dreaming, you think you are a wave. But then, when you wake up, you see you are just the sea! Something like that.

      That is my too simple explanation.

      Two more long winded threads on the subject here (one already linked to above) ...
      I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LENGTH OF THE FOLLOWING ... IT MAY TAKE SEVERAL LIFETIMES TO READ! [monk] Hi Ho, It's been a couple of weeks since our last "BIG Questions". But now fate has led us to the next which, though seemingly some of the trickiest, I find not so tricky at all ... What about KARMA? Mr. D asked ... In

      Hi, Today's questions in our "BIG Questions" series are a matter of life and death: I don't know for sure (although I have some darn good suspicions arising from this practice). Frankly, I do not think that even those other folks claiming to "know for sure" truly "know for sure" that they


      Gassho, J

      PS -

      A famous Koan ... (here's a clue: Alive and dead are human judgments and standards. Is the wave "dead" if the ocean all along, and the ocean goes on and on?)

      One day Master Zengen went with his teacher Master Dogo to visit a house where someone had recently died to express their condolences. When they were alone, Master Zengen patted the coffin and said to Master Dogo, “Is he alive or dead?”

      Master Dogo said, “I will not say alive or dead.”

      Master Zengen said, “Why won’t you say?”

      Master Dogo said, “I will never say. I will never say.”


      Another famous Zen story, not a Koan but something to it ...

      A young man asked Gasan what happened after death.
      “I do not know,” said Gasan.
      “But you are a Zen Master!” exclaimed the young man.
      “Yes,” replied Gasan, “but I am not a dead Zen master”.

      Last edited by Jundo; 10-05-2012, 01:45 AM.
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39441

        #4
        Yes, the section of Shoji (Birth & Death) that Taigu points too is powerful, and I have offered a couple of talks over the years ...

        Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death.

        It is a mistake to suppose that birth turns into death. Birth is a phase that is an entire period of itself, with its own past and future. For this reason, in buddha-dharma birth is understood as no-birth. Death is a phase that is an entire period of itself, with its own past and future. For this reason, death is understood as no-death. In birth there is nothing but birth and in death there is nothing but death. Accordinly, when birth comes, face and actualize birth, and when death comes, face and actualize death. Do not avoid them or desire them. Birth and death as the experience of nirvana.

        And he wrote in Shobogenzo Genjo Koan ...

        Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.

        I might offer these as something like ...

        "When living, all is living, live fully cause your life depends on it ... when dying, die fully, die with all your heart ... pushing neither away ... Each is complete in itself, each and both are the whole of life".

        Something like that.
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • RichardH
          Member
          • Nov 2011
          • 2800

          #5
          Originally posted by Jundo
          Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death. t.
          Hi Jundo. Once when I was really struggling to find stillness, a friend said "just move completely, 100%". Is this comparable to what you are saying here?

          Gassho.

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39441

            #6
            I also gave a silly butterfly analogy recently rather like the "wave/ocean" ... but I think it flies ...

            --------------------

            [I]magine that all time and space, each atom and galaxy, is held as a single, flapping monarch butterfly that is everything, fluttering its wings amid empty space. Nothing else. Oh, sure, I may primarily see myself here as a hair on the left wing, and you there as a bump on the back of the tail ... but left right back or front, just butterfly all around, butterfly through and through. ... Yes, it is all of us individually working to keep our butterfly afloat, from flapping wings and guiding tail to all of it. Yet, simultaneously, sometimes we can see ourselves as 100% butterfly in the most radical sense. When we truly see ourselves, you are just the butterfly and I am just the butterfly, and there is just butterfly looking at butterfly. For a moment, forget your little self ... do not think of yourself as just part of the wing or leg or tail ... and be the Whole Butterfly! Not simply parts of butterfly, but Buddha-Butterfly through and through ... "you" are butterfly as much as "butterfly" is butterfly ... There is nothing else but butterfly (what else can there be in this butterfly-only world?), and every inch of butterfly is butterfly. Before you were "born", there was butterfly ... after you "die" there will be butterfly flying on ... and since the butterfly is you, there is [after "you" die] simply flying flying on.

            So, what to do, Buddha-Butterfly?

            Flutter flutter flutter. Flap flap flap.

            Where is it flying to? To where a monarch butterfly flies on great migration.

            Buddhism is really not so complicated as people sometimes make it.
            Last edited by Jundo; 10-05-2012, 01:47 AM.
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39441

              #7
              Originally posted by Kojip
              Hi Jundo. Once when I was really struggling to find stillness, a friend said "just move completely, 100%". Is this comparable to what you are saying here?

              Gassho.
              You mean what Dogen was saying? Sure!

              But we are always "100%", even when we don't feel like it! When we are living, we are always living 100% ... when we are dying, we are always dying 100% ... and we are always beyond life/death 100%. We are always 100% Stillness-Moving, whether moving or sitting still!

              It is only our ignorant choices and self-appraisals which make it seem less, make it seem 1/2 or 20%.

              I mean, some folks never are satisfied, never feel they have enough, never feel that they quite "measure up", never feel they got where they're going, never feel at home and living fully. But that's just there own self-judgment.

              Some folks are never satisfied even if they have checked off every box on the "bucket list" ... others are satisfied just by breathing and seeing a flower.

              Some folks can breath and view a flower as if each contains all time and space, nothing left out or lacking. Others might feel that something is lacking if they were made a present of all time and space! (which, by the way, we have been! )

              (It is in order to Practice living as the former, by the way, that we sit Shikantaza as expressing all time and space, nothing left out or lacking to achieve, in the sitting of Stillness-Moving).

              Gassho, J
              Last edited by Jundo; 10-05-2012, 04:37 AM.
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Kyonin
                Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                • Oct 2010
                • 6742

                #8
                I don't know what happens when we die. I guess one day I'll get to know first hand.

                In the meantime I'll just go with I don't know... but I think it's wise to not hold on to finding an academic answer.

                All that matters is to live and do good. Sit.

                For life is precious and we only get one shot to get it right and be happy.

                Thank you for this thread.

                Gassho,

                Kyonin
                Hondō Kyōnin
                奔道 協忍

                Comment

                • mr.Lou
                  Member
                  • Apr 2012
                  • 61

                  #9
                  "What happens when folks die?"

                  The answer to that question seems like it will only need to be considered the moment after one dies. Till then, what value is there in pondering it?.
                  thank you
                  -Lou Sat Today

                  Comment

                  • pinoybuddhist
                    Member
                    • Jun 2010
                    • 462

                    #10
                    I too often use the imagery of the ocean and the waves because it's just such an easy tool for me to use - our country is made up of over 7000 islands so the ocean analogy is something generally easy to get. I remember the last time my wife and I had a discussion on life and death and I shared this image with her. I said something like, "if you think the wave reaches the shore and disappears, that is wrong. If you think no wave reaches the shore and disappears, that is also wrong. If you think the wave went back to the ocean that is also wrong. If you think there is no wave that went back to the ocean that is also wrong."

                    Did the wave disappear? If all waves are just the ocean moving, then there is no individual wave to either appear or disappear, and nothing that reaches the shore and returns to the ocean (that would imply that the wave and the ocean were separated and now they will be reunited). So to say the wave disappears upon reaching the shore, or to say that it returns to the ocean, are both wrong. But it is also wrong to say that there is no wave that appears and disappears, no wave that reaches the shore and returns to the ocean. The waves and the ocean are just -^-^-^-^-^-^ (I can't exactly present you the ocean here so my illustration will have to do ).

                    Something like that.

                    These days, I might say something like "what happens to my fist when I open my hand?". (As an aside, I can't remember exactly where I read that one). Or simply, life and death are like our hands in gassho. More intimate than we think: not two, not one.


                    Raf



                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    [SIZE=1]A famous Koan ... (here's a clue: Alive and dead are human judgments and standards. Is the wave "dead" if the ocean all along, and the ocean goes on and on?)

                    Comment

                    • Saijun
                      Member
                      • Jul 2010
                      • 667

                      #11
                      Originally posted by pinoybuddhist
                      These days, I might say something like "what happens to my fist when I open my hand?". (As an aside, I can't remember exactly where I read that one). Or simply, life and death are like our hands in gassho. More intimate than we think: not two, not one.
                      Hello Rafael,

                      I think that the fist/hand line is one of Rev. Fugen's. I've been stuck on that one for a while. I get it, but I haven't yet got it, y'know?

                      In Gassho,

                      Saijun
                      To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. --RBB

                      Comment

                      • pinoybuddhist
                        Member
                        • Jun 2010
                        • 462

                        #12
                        I think it does fly. Interesting, I never would have thought of using that analogy.


                        Raf

                        Originally posted by Jundo
                        I also gave a silly butterfly analogy recently rather like the "wave/ocean" ... but I think it flies ...

                        --------------------

                        [I]magine that all time and space, each atom and galaxy, is held as a single, flapping monarch butterfly that is everything, fluttering its wings amid empty space. Nothing else. Oh, sure, I may sometimes see myself here as a hair on the left wing, and you there as a bump on the back of the tail ... but left right back or front, just butterfly all around, butterfly through and through. ... Yes, it is all of us individually working to keep our butterfly afloat, from flapping wings and guiding tail to all of it. Yet, simultaneously, sometimes we can see ourselves as 100% butterfly in the most radical sense. When we truly see ourselves, you are just the butterfly and I am just the butterfly, and there is just butterfly looking at butterfly. For a moment, forget your little self ... do not think of yourself as just part of the wing or leg or tail ... and be the Whole Butterfly! Not simply parts of butterfly, but Buddha-Butterfly through and through ... "you" are butterfly as much as "butterfly" is butterfly ... There is nothing else but butterfly (what else can there be in this butterfly-only world?), and every inch of butterfly is butterfly. Before you were "born", there was butterfly ... after you "die" there will be butterfly flying on ... and since the butterfly is you, there is [after "you" die] simply flying flying on.

                        So, what to do, Buddha-Butterfly?

                        Flutter flutter flutter. Flap flap flap.

                        Where is it flying to? To where a monarch butterfly flies on great migration.

                        Buddhism is really not so complicated as people sometimes make it.

                        Comment

                        • pinoybuddhist
                          Member
                          • Jun 2010
                          • 462

                          #13
                          Well, I can't really say that I have it soaked down to the marrow of my bones and the nuclei of my cells either. But that's why we call it practice.



                          Raf
                          Originally posted by Saijun
                          Hello Rafael,

                          I think that the fist/hand line is one of Rev. Fugen's. I've been stuck on that one for a while. I get it, but I haven't yet got it, y'know?

                          In Gassho,

                          Saijun

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39441

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Kyonin
                            I don't know what happens when we die. I guess one day I'll get to know first hand.

                            In the meantime I'll just go with I don't know... but I think it's wise to not hold on to finding an academic answer.

                            All that matters is to live and do good. Sit.
                            Originally posted by mr.Lou
                            "What happens when folks die?"

                            The answer to that question seems like it will only need to be considered the moment after one dies. Till then, what value is there in pondering it?.
                            Hi Guys,

                            Well, I agree with you here ... what matters most is how we live in this life, in this moment.

                            I also agree that we propably cannot know the real details ... and need not know the details ... of what (if anything) happens upon death, whether we are reborn in a "Buddhaland", meet St. Peter or the flames of hell, nothing, or something totally beyond our conception. It does not matter so long as we live our life in this moment.

                            But I also disagree with you ... because if one does not transcend this whole matter of "life and death" ... if one fails to see through the "little self" and encounter one's True Face Before Even One's Mother & Father Were Born as the "True Self/small self, True Nature, Dharmakhaya, Relative/Absolute, Mu, Emptiness, Shobogenzo, Big 'B' Buddha, Mirror Mind, Capital "M" Mind etc. " ... then one is simply missing one of the central points (perhaps THE Central Point among the many good points) of all Mahayana Buddhist Practice, including Zen Buddhism. (This is being discussed on another thread too today http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...Eat-My-Zafu%21 ). One is simply coming to the "Non-Birthday Party" and leaving without eating any Non-Birthday Cake!

                            The old adage that "Zen" is about "Becoming One With The Universe" is really not so far off the mark!

                            What is more, I propose to you that this is really not so hard to see or understand (even for us with a modern, skeptical mind), although 'tis hard to really sink in and truly see (that is one reason for all this Sitting and Practice). And once seen, it is known as having always been there. In this way, such is very much like the old optical illusion of the young lady and the old crone. Can you see both? (Post here if you can't, and I will give a clue) ...



                            Is it an old lady? Is it a young lady? Both at once? Yes, depends on being able to see things each way.

                            Thus, for me ... a great skeptic, agnostic, "show me the evidence" guy who doubts UFO's, Big Foot and the Lock Ness Monster ... and who is skeptical of literal, mechanical rebirth as a rat or a ghost ... I can still sink my teeth into this view of "Non-Birth", that we were never quite born ... thus we never quite die. It is easy to see and pierce (through Practice), it is easy to grasp intellectually too. My own "Kensho" moments are much like actually having seen the world inside out and rightside up, without self/other separation, the all encompassing interpenetration of all things, where the young lady now is witnessed clearly as the crone through and through, without a drop of separation ... neither displacing or replacing the other. Through this Zen Practice, the hard borders between "my self" and "all the rest" soften, and sometimes fully drop away.

                            Simply put, it is easy to understand: If you are you ... but you are also simultaneously just the "universe" or (better said) the reality underlying everything ... then, when "you" die you don't really quite die so long as that "reality" is still going, keeping it real. Same for being "born".

                            Yes, it is a bit hard to fully fathom. But also as simple as child's play.

                            For you and me and the other folks are simply star dust, made of the same stuff as all the planets, trees and bees. We are like these individual finger puppets, stuck in their unique and separate identities ... who cannot see (without Practice) that they are each simultaneously also just the whole hand, and maybe even the little child behind it.



                            (What the hand or child is up to, if anything at all? Well, that's a whole 'nother question. Whatever, best to just play along! )

                            Basic Mahayana Buddhism, Zen Buddhism 101.

                            As is written on the wooden block calling folks to Zazen, and chanted each night in about every Zen monastery anywhere ...

                            Let me respectfully remind you
                            Life and death are of supreme importance, the Great Matter.
                            Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost.
                            Let us awaken ...
                            Awaken!
                            Do not squander this life.


                            Gassho, Jundo
                            Last edited by Jundo; 10-05-2012, 04:44 AM.
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • Seiryu
                              Member
                              • Sep 2010
                              • 620

                              #15
                              "What happens when folks die?"
                              we tend to think of death as an experience of ever lasting non-existence. And, at least for me, that idea is scary. To experience my non-existence forever. But I don't think that is something that anyone can actually experience. And one of the things I find ever more interesting, is not that we will die, but why were we even born to begin with. In a sense, if one holds the view that death is just light outs, that's it. end of story period. Then essentially that's exactly how it was before we even came into being in the first place.

                              We people die, other people are born.


                              ramblings...don't know if I even had a point to this...and if I did...I forgot....
                              Humbly,
                              清竜 Seiryu

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