The Impermanence of the Body

Last week Michael A. discussed  the significance of the Buddha’s last steps, last words, and lasting legacy. Part of that legacy is the importance of holding close the impermanence of all things, including the body itself. This week, Jeffrey presented one aspect of the Buddha’s Mindfulness of the Body, one of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. 

Jeffrey read some writings and poems on death followed by the Corpse Meditation that is part of the Mindfulness on the Body reflection from the Pali canon.

“When the Buddha talks about the importance of the present moment, he often portrays it as a place where work has to be done: the work of improving your skills in how to construct it. And the motivation for doing the work is provided by contemplation of death—the message being that if you don’t do the work needed to get your mind under control, you have no idea where the mind will take you at death, and the work won’t get done unless you do it right now.”

Thanissaro Bikku

Maraṇa sati (mindfulness of death, death awareness) is a practice of keeping close the thought that death can strike at anytime, and we should practice with urgency in every moment, even in the time it takes to draw one breath.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Genesis 3:19

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespeare, MacBeth, upon learning of the death of Lady MacBeth

He also read When Death Comes by Mary Oliver and Antidotes to Fear of Death by Rebecca Elson.

Finally, some fun facts:

Teeth are the hardest part of animal bodies.

Oldest dinosaur teeth are 230 million years old. The oldest hominid teeth are 7 million years old, and only survive under very special conditions. Mine won’t be so lucky.

Looking forward. All life ceases on Earth in 2.8 billion years, due to increased luminosity of the sun.

If that doesn’t do it, in 7.8 billion years… Earth swallowed by the Sun

The sun is on its own trajectory from dust to dust. It will take trillions of years to completely cool off.