Category Archives: Teachings

Explaining Death – Religion Meets Science

The following is taken from an article titled What It’s Like To Die by Jennie Dear

In her last couple of weeks, when my mother’s mind seemed to be floating off somewhere else most of the time, she would sometimes lift her arms into the air, plucking at invisible objects with her fingers. Once, I captured her hands in mine and asked what she’d been doing. “Putting things away,” she answered, smiling dreamily.

This half-dreaming, half-waking state is common in dying people. In fact, researchers led by Christopher Kerr at a hospice center outside Buffalo, New York, conducted a study of dying people’s dreams. Most of the patients interviewed, 88 percent, had at least one dream or vision. And those dreams usually felt different to them from normal dreams. For one thing, the dreams seemed clearer, more real. The “patients’ pre-death dreams were frequently so intense that the dream carried into wakefulness and the dying often experienced them as waking reality,” the researchers write in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

Seventy-two percent of the patients dreamed about reuniting with people who had already died. Fifty-nine percent said they dreamed about getting ready to travel somewhere. Twenty-eight percent dreamed about meaningful experiences in the past. (Patients were interviewed every day, so the same people often reported dreams about multiple subjects.)

For most of the patients, the dreams were comforting and positive. The researchers say the dreams often helped decrease the fear of death. “The predominant quality of pre-death dreams/visions was a sense of personal meaning, which frequently carried emotional significance for the patient,” they report.

The predominant quality of pre-death dreams/visions was a sense of personal meaning, which frequently carried emotional significance for the patient Seems to me we are given what we need in a form, scientific/religious/mystical, which eases our way, be it near death experiences or approaching actual death. We will never know what happens at these times and no explanation will ever, I believe, be enough to explain that which at base is a mystery.

Instructions for Meditation – Audio

Time to inject some formal Buddhist teaching while I’m out and about appreciating this ‘warm snap’ we are having here in the North West of England. Nothing lasts though! And thank goodness for that!

Rev. Master Koten of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory has recorded five talks giving instruction on how to meditate . (Don’t get confused about the numbering of the files. They skip from #4 to #6 and there isn’t one missing.) You will find all of the Dharma Talks on this page, all good, and the ones I’ve referred to are at the bottom of the list. The first one takes us back to the time of the Buddha and his Enlightenment. It was not all plain sailing either. Struggle and letting go were as much part of the picture for him as it is for us. The details are different, the ‘path’ is fundamentally the same.

Many thanks to Rev. Master Koten and his disciple Rev. Master Aurelian up there on Dragon Flower Mountain British Columbia, Canada.

What Letting Go – Isn’t?

Well this is really helpful for those grappling with the instruction to ‘let go’! Really, what does that mean in practice anyway and how do you ‘do’ that? In this post by Rev. Alicia she explains. Thank you Reverend and I’d like to think I had some part in your taking up this expression and writing about it.

So letting go doesn’t mean we have to get rid of all our stuff, live on our own and never have an opinion about anything. Letting go means seeing where we have invested our sense of self in an object, a person or a thought (views, opinions, ideologies, likes, dislikes etc. are all thoughts) and being willing to look at that attachment as honestly as we can until we see through it and it can drop away.

Rev. Alicia – Sitting Buddha Hermitage
One thing to keep in mind is to not use the expression, or instruction, as an accusation. That’s either to oneself or others. Passionately saying, with raised voice or not, to let go is not going to bring about a desired outcome!

The Way – Going Nowhere In Particular

Richmond Park. London, Tuesday. A hidden gate leading to nowhere in particular. A hidden gem of an iron gate with remarkable detailing. And the park itself. Hardly hidden yet remarkable. A gem of an open rural playground. For all.

Today marks the end of nearly three weeks away from home base. The way has been varied, from Welsh hills to Derbyshire Dales. Rural to urban to plain old motorways. All to the accompaniment of…? Hard to express yet ever-present. I guess it’s the music of The Way. Background music. And I’m not talking about the racket of the exhaust pipe vibrating against the body of the car I’ve been driving!

Note added 19th August.
For those who wonder/worry. The cause of the noise was an easy fix. just a bolt on exhaust pipe heat shield sheared off. What a clatter! Friendly local garage fixed it for free.

Understanding Knowing

From a reader:
I would like to thank you (Mugo) for the link to Reverend Saido’s video on The Four Noble Truths. I found it very helpful indeed, particularly his reference to the need for being careful in the event of the falling away of a ‘chunk’ of the ‘stuff’ pointed to in box one.

This mention of stuff falling off reminded me of something that happened very early on in my life. Why should the falling away happen to a four year old, as it did for me? It was not as if I’d been intentionally practicing anything specific at that age. What, in general terms, did/does it mean for the rest of my life? The following thirteen years were lived in ignorance of what exactly had happened that day?

Now, decades on I wish to at least try to convey a feeling of the event:

Gazing at the blue sky
Fluffy clouds drifting across
Suddenly present way, way up
Nothing but vast light-space-distance all around
Wonderful, wonderful boundlessness, everything encompassed
Whilst returning/descending, a great falling away from within
Rendered transparent, utterly clear, no body here at all
And yet someone still returned
The whole world now my home, the whole sky my roof
Intimate/loving everyone, wanting to know about their lives, but how to ask?

I feel privileged to have known it, although known and it are not quite right. I never have understood why this should have happened and the certainty/clarity I was left with evaporated in time.
Over the years I’ve tried to leave the door open and remain receptive, being careful not to strive for understanding or cling through Zen practice to the experience. And there has been the help of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and Reading Priory.
Ross E.

Thanks to Ross for this. Many people struggle with this sort of experience when young, as in this case, and when older too. Most often there is no context, such as a faith tradition, to help somebody to fully appreciate the meaning of such an experience. I’m glad he found guidance.