Maranasatiby Gerald Lee Jordan
10 July 2021 23:22 (NZT)
Maraṇasati (death meditation, mindfulness of death or death awareness) is a practice where the person meditating considers that their life will end. This practice can take place within formal meditation environments (sitting, walking, etc) or can happen with a moment's thought, such as considering for a given moment and then returning to one's daily activities.
There are many forms of death meditation. One example follows.
The Nine Contemplations of Atisha
The First Contemplation
Death is inevitable, no one is exempt. Holding this thought in mind, I abide in the breath.
The Second Contemplation
Our life span is decreasing continuously, every breath brings us closer to death. Holding this thought in mind, I delve deeply into its truth.
The Third Contemplation
Death will indeed come, whether or not we are prepared. Holding this thought in mind, I enter into a real sense of practice. (Or, “I enter more fully into the body of life.”)
The Fourth Contemplation
Human life expectancy is uncertain, death can come at any time.Holding this thought in mind, I listen with utmost care to every sound.
The Fifth Contemplation
There are many causes of death – habits, desires, accidents can be precipitants. Holding this thought in mind, I consider the myriad possibilities.
The Sixth Contemplation
The human body is fragile and vulnerable, our life hangs by a breath. Holding this thought in mind, I attend to each inhalation-exhalation.
The Seventh Contemplation
At the time of death, our material resources are of no use to us. Holding this thought in mind, I invest wholeheartedly in the practice.
The Eighth Contemplation
Our loved ones cannot keep us from death, there is no delaying its advent. Holding this thought in mind, I exercise non-grasping and clinging.
The Ninth Contemplation
Our body cannot help us at the time of death, it too will be lost at that moment. Holding this thought in mind, I strengthen my capacity for release.
Credited to Atisha (982 -1054 CE), this English version is by Roshi Joan Halifax of The Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.