How death can make you live

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The law of demand indirectly claims, (ceteris paribus) that when an entity is available in higher quantities, the price is lower. And when there is a low quantity available, a higher price is estimated. So what if an entity has plenty of quantity, and at the same time the supply could end any time? That is reality of how our life is valued.

Law_of_Demand

With a surplus of money in the market, it becomes ‘cheap money’ and with a dearth it becomes ‘dear money’. But may be not knowing the true value, or longevity of our life, should help us keep it in higher regard.

The value for life can not be estimated as we do not know the time of our death. Shouldn’t that allow us to live a life of joy, accounting for our impermanence. Imagine if you knew exactly the date of your death. May be too early, or late, some how it would chart out a map for you. This is the effect of knowing death. But now since we do not think much about it we can go on living day after day, not wondering how we are whiling away our limited time on this planet. Along the same lines His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama says…

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Impermanence is the only constant, and thus Buddha says, change is the only constant. But then how can we ever meditate if change is surrounding us? Meditation involves calming our mind to focus peacefully and mindfully. If everything is constantly changing, the mind’s focus is constantly changing, and so is our mind? and so is our position in this universe, with the earth’s movement? Well, yes of course. Thus when meditating the Buddha would direct our focus to be our breath.

It is the only aspect of our existence that remains on-going as long we live. The breath is a representation of our lives. It comes and goes, and death of every breath we take, is the reality of everything in universe – that one day it will all perish.

We can understand the economics of death by looking at Bhutan. As one of the happiest places to live, it is literally illegal for the nation to have less than 60% forest cover. Right now it is approximately 78%. The role death plays in this aspect is very crucial. Simply put we are all going to die one day, and that should help us value our time. Thus, Bhutan realises that money would not give us happiness directly, it can only be a medium to happiness.

So channeling that thought, Bhutan maintains its forest cover to extend life, and keep it healthy and happy. It is the only carbon negative country in the world. With only a GDP of 1.7 billion USD, (as compared to India’s 1.2 trillion USD) Bhutan offers free healthcare and education to Bhutanese citizens. This relation between happiness, health, economics, and death is established due to ‘death mindfulness’.

Eric Weiner’s article on the BBC website shares a conversation he had with a doctor in Bhutan, which sums it up.

“You need to think about death for five minutes every day,” Ura (the doctor) replied. “It will cure you.”

“How?” I said, dumbfounded.

“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”

“But why would I want to think about something so depressing?”

“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

The Maranassati Sutta: Mindfulness of Death states, that in every breath taken and every morsel of food consumed, if we feel and meditate to the thought that we have fulfilled our teachings, we have attained mindfulness of death.

The Buddha states that anyone not fearing death would usually think along the following lines before their demise-

“I have done what is good, have done what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and I have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. To the extent that there is a destination for those who have done what is good, what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel, that’s where I’m headed after death.’ He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.”

Probably a little mediation on death can save us from the cruel economy, our unhealthy surroundings, and lead us to some joy some where. That is why one is suggested to keep a skull in presence, so as to remember of the impermanence of life. Because in many ways, death can inspire us to live.

Information on the photograph: The colourfully painted skulls are a part of Mexico’s festival called Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos). The festival honours dead relatives.

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