• A Recollection on Death (p. 1)
  • Five Subjects for Contemplation (p. 2)
  • A Letter to a Father Who Has Lost His Son (p. 3)

A Recollection on Death

Visiting a CemeteryLife is unpredictable and uncertain in this world. Life here is difficult, short and bound up with suffering. A being, once born, is going to die, and there is no way out of this. When old age arrives, or some other cause, then there is death. This is the way it is with living beings.

When fruits become ripe, they may fall in the early morning. In just the same way a being, once born, may die at any moment. Just as the clay pots made by the potter tend to end up being shattered, so is it with the life of mortals.

Both the young and the old, whether they are foolish or wise, are going to be trapped by death. All beings move towards death. They are overcome by death. They go to the other world. And then not even a father can save his son, or a family their relatives. Look: while relatives are watching, tearful and groaning, men are carried off one by one, like cattle being led to the slaughter. So death and ageing are endemic to the world. Therefore, the wise do not grieve seeing the nature of the world.

You cannot know his path as to where he has come from, or where he is going to. So it makes no sense to grieve for him. The man who grieves gains nothing. He is doing no more than a foolish man who is trying to hurt himself. If a wise man does it, it is the same for him.

Peace of mind cannot come from weeping and wailing. On the contrary, it will lead to more suffering and greater pain. The mourner will become pale and thin. He is doing violence to himself, and still he cannot keep the dead alive; his mourning is pointless. The man who cannot leave his sorrow behind him only travels further into pain. His mourning makes him a slave to sorrow.

Look at beings who are facing death, who are living out the results of their previous deeds; people are terrified when they see that they are trapped by death. What people expect to happen is always different from what actually happens. From this comes great disappointment; this is the way the world works.

A man may live for a hundred years, or even more, but in the end he is separated from his relatives, and he too leaves life in this world. So we can listen and learn from the noble man as he gives up his grief. When he sees that someone has passed away and lived out their life, he says “he will not be seen by me again”.

When a house is burning, the fire is put out by water. In the same way the wise man, skilful, learned and self-reliant, extinguishes sorrow as soon as it arises in him. It is like the wind blowing away a tuft of cotton. The person who is searching for his own happiness should pull out the dart that he has stuck in himself, the arrow-head of grieving, of desiring, of despair.

The man who has taken out the dart, who has no clinging, who has obtained peace of mind, passed beyond all grief, this man, free from grief, is still.

Source: This recollection is connected with The Salla Sutta – The Dart. Used with kind permission from Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni.