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Grand Master's Books > Grand Master Lu's Book > 163_Crossing the Ocean of Life and Death

Chapter 06: Death Is Just Around the Corner

06. Death Is Just Around the Corner
Written by Sheng-yen Lu
Translated and edited by True Buddha Foundation Translation Team

Why must I give guidance to the True Buddha disciples on how to face death? The 21st verse in Chapter 24 of the Dharmapada Sutra states:

The gift of Truth exceeds all other gifts.

The flavor of Truth exceeds all other flavors.

The pleasure in Truth exceeds all other pleasures.

Having destroyed craving, he overcomes all sorrow.

Please contemplate upon this verse, and recognize the fact that the Buddhadharma is the most precious treasure. Is there anything on earth that can measure up to the Buddhadharma?

Death is straightforward, and is most readily engaged. It is real, and is the very reality that confronts a person when his life comes to an end. I want to say that life and death are impermanent, and that death is just around the corner. Don`t wait until you are old before you set out to learn the Way, for the majority of the buried died when they were young.

Suddenly comes an airplane crash, depicting a death scenario.

Suddenly comes a car crash, depicting a death scenario.

Suddenly comes a fire with no chance of escape, depicting a death scenario.

Suddenly comes a terrorist attack using bombs, depicting a death scenario

Suddenly comes a shipwreck, depicting a death scenario.

Suddenly comes an earthquake, depicting a death scenario.

Suddenly comes a tornado, depicting a death scenario.

Let me remind you that there are those who were killed by execution, in a fire, by drowning, by a wild beast, by slipping off a cliff, by poison, by murder, etc.

I have seen that people admitted to and discharged from hospitals are not only old folks, but consist of many young people as well. Even babies are admitted for serious illnesses including cancer, leukemia, brain death, and serious infections. With eighty four thousand types of illnesses, it is a terrible thing to die of sickness! Yet there lies an even more horrifying fact: the killing committed through wars.

The sudden arrival of death is a distinct possibility, and not something with a low probability. If someone is thrusted into the realm of death in the bardo state, how should this spirit react? Do you have the ability to control yourself? Will you have no fear if death suddenly descends upon you?

You think humans have the independent control and self mastery to live forever, and that existence in this world is a right. Yet aren`t you aware that life can be lost in any given moment? Death can arrive anytime, and everyone is worried about and fearful of it. In the past, I often told my disciples to focus on cultivation, to treasure the time they have, and perform one session of practice per day. It is also necessary to think about the three roots throughout the day. These three roots are the Root Guru, the Root Principal Deity, and the Root Dharma Protector.

Why must the Tantric practitioner cultivate the practice of Dharma Protectors? You should know that the Dharma Protectors are here to protect and guard the Tantric practitioner, and by cultivating a Dharma Protector`s practice, you can avoid many troubles and sufferings, such as:

1. The spells cast by evil masters
2. Magic and Curses
3. Harm caused by evil men
4. Accidents
5. Being preyed on by evil spirits
6. Depletion of energy by non-humans
7. Entrance into dangerous zones

and so forth


Still, you must watch out for the `impermanence of life and death.` If you do not keep to the schedule of practicing once a day, forget to focus your attention on the Guru, and forget to visualize your Principal Deity residing above your head, or you are careless with your actions, your emotions, and have doubts in your mind, your three inner roots will never be able to take root spiritually. The inherently illuminating light of self-nature will then be extinguished. So when the impermanence of life suddenly manifests as death, the Tantric practitioner will become a snack to be consumed by the evil spirits of impermanence.

I personally feel that the three roots of Tantrayana are vitally important, as the Guru is the main holder of all Dharma, the Principal Deity is the self nature of the practitioner, and the Dharma Protector is the guardian of the human world. All three are so important that you cannot be missing any of them. When you achieve union (yoga) in your cultivation, your fear of death will dissipate like the fog upon sunrise, naturally disappearing without a trace.

I often say: when taking a flight, you must achieve union with the Principal Deity residing above your head (actually, under all circumstances, it is vital that the Principal Deity resides above your head). When a cultivator dies, the Principal Deity draws the self-nature deity (yourself) to merge with the wisdom being (Buddha), and you will directly ascend to the Pure Land. This is the very essence and meaning of this teaching I offer you in the practice of visualizing the Principal Deity residing above your head. It is this knowledge and practice which helps the bardo spirit directly transform itself to attain enlightenment. Therefore this knowledge you are learning, or already know, is truly the right knowledge and right view.

The yogic response of seeing the principal deity residing above your head is of utmost importance.
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