Zen & the Art of Dying:Zen Moments #3
A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died. Hakuin answered ‘How am I supposed to know?’ ‘How do you not know? You’re a Zen master!’ exclaimed the samurai. ’Yes, but not a dead one,’ Hakuin answered.
A General and a Zen Master
During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master.
Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was.
When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger.
“You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could kill you without blinking an eye!”
But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved.
“And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be killed without blinking an eye?”
Usually people are interested in finding whether there is a life after death. Zen teachers say it is better to focus on the present moment than worry about the afterlife. The real question is not if there is life after death but if there is a life before death. As far as life after death is concerned there are just 3 possibilities: either we die n that is the end of our story or we keep reincarnating till we achieve nirvana or we pass on to other realms of existence…we can never be really sure of which of this 3 actually happens until we are, errr, well actually dead. Like the famous Greek Philosopher Epicurus said “When we are, death is not & when death is, we are not”. So what happens after death is really unimportant. It is a mystery for us the living. But death is certain that much is pretty sure & in fact though we hate to die, paradoxically it is death which makes life exciting or even bearable. Imagine being immortal, that would be a fate worse than death. So we as human beings are not meant to figure out what happens after death but rather how to make the most of life in face of impending death. The answer is we must learn to live each moment fully. To squeeze the juice out of each moment. It is said those who live wisely are not afraid to die. Only those who live half heartedly, die half heartedly. Just like we get a good night’s sleep after a day well spent, we can get a good death after a life well spent.
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure (c. 1716)
- The Zen Master & The Belligerent Samurai (bahrainisufi.wordpress.com)
- zen’s dying… (zendictive.wordpress.com)
- ups and downs (zendictive.wordpress.com)
- Zen Story: Is that So? (mothermaryswords.wordpress.com)
- Story: definition of zen (aboutzen.wordpress.com)
- The Pursuit of Happiness (blogofreflections.wordpress.com)
- heaven and hell (a zen tale) (zendictive.wordpress.com)
- “There Are Many Opportunities, But in the Expert There Are Few” – Zen Master Suzuki Roshi (mindoversports.com)
- Zen Masters Webinar Series: Q&A with Author Joseph Michelli (zendesk.com)
- ScienceShot: Is Your Dog a Zen Master? (news.sciencemag.org)