Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are You Afraid of Death?

Now, about 10 p.m., I was sitting with my back to the fire. I don't know what it was, but there came a sound of shuffling from the fire behind me.

Had the coffin just collapsed? Or maybe a dog was getting the corpse? But no, it sounded more like a buffalo walking steadily around.

"Oh, never mind..."

But then it started walking towards me, just like a person!

It walked up behind me, the footsteps heavy, like a buffalo's, and yet not...The leaves crunched under the footsteps as it made its way round to the front. Well, I could only prepare for the worst, where else was there to go?

But it didn't really come up to me, it just circled around in front and then went off in the direction of the pa-kow. Then all was quiet. I don't know what it was, but my fear made me think of many possibilities.

It must have been about half-an-hour later, I think, when the footsteps started coming back from the direction of the pa-kow. Just like a person! It came right up to me, this time, heading for me as if to run me over! I closed my eyes and refused to open them.

"I'll die with my eyes closed."

It got closer and closer until it stopped dead in front of me and just stood stock still. I felt as if it were waving burnt hands back and forth in front of my closed eyes. Oh! This was really it! I threw out everything, forgot all about Buddho, Dhammo and Sangho. I forgot everything else, there was only the fear in me, stacked in full to the brim.

My thoughts couldn't go anywhere else, there was only fear. From the day I was born I had never experienced such fear. Buddho and Dhammo had disappeared, I don't know where. There was only fear welling up inside my chest until it felt like a tightly-stretched drumskin.

"Well, I'll just leave it as it is, there's nothing else to do."

I sat as if I wasn't even touching the ground and simply noted what was going on. The fear was so great that it filled me, like a jar completely filled with water. If you pour water until the jar is completely full, and then pour some more, the jar will overflow. Likewise, the fear built up so much within me that it reached its peak and began to overflow.

"What am I so afraid of anyway?" a voice inside me asked.

"I'm afraid of death," another voice answered.

"Well, then, where is this thing 'death'? Why all the panic? Look where death abides. Where is death?"

"Why, death is within me!"

"If death is within you, then where are you going to run to escape it? If you run away you die, if you stay here you die. Wherever you go it goes with you because death lies within you, there's nowhere you can run to. Whether you are afraid or not you die just the same, there's nowhere to escape death."

As soon as I had thought this, my perception seemed to change right around. All the fear completely disappeared as easily as turning over one's own hand.

It was truly amazing. So much fear and yet it could disappear just like that! Non-fear arose in its place. Now my mind rose higher and higher until I felt as if I was in the clouds.


Extracted from: In the Death of Night, by Venerable Ajahn Chah

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