Buddhist Belief – More about The Aging Question
The Five Remembrances:
Buddha recommended we bring this almost into the mantra category as a reminder of life’s ephemeral nature. (1) We will grow old. (2) Our bodies will deteriorate. (3) Death is inevitable. (4) Everything changes. (5) We must part from our loved ones, and our actions or karma are our true belongings, the ground upon which we stand.
Since I am in the process of aging and also a practitioner of Buddhist Belief, I have to ask myself, and hopefully you who are reading this blog, how are we dealing with the inevitability of aging? It doesn’t matter whether you’re in your 20s or 30s or whether you’re in your 70s or 80s, or somewhere in between or older, the question is still there. Nothing is permanent. We may think we’ll live forever, but the fact is, we won’t. Our time will come. So, how do we prepare?
Where does our practice and way of life fit into this picture of impermanence? Let’s face it, our culture is in denial and is phobic about death. How do we find a path through this getting old stage of life while we live in this culture? Buddha taught there were three characteristics central to Buddhism – dukkha (suffering), anatta (nonself) and anicca (impermanence). All three of these characteristics are vital to all of us as we move through our lives. For those of us in our older years, it’s time to start paying attention.
In Buddha’s time, the culture had the tradition of ashramas, the four stages of life. First we are students – followed by a period of providing for our family. Once your children were grown and your career had run its course (sort of like retirement age in our culture), it was time to focus on your inner life – a time when you would go on retreat and get more involved in your practice. Our culture isn’t much different, except for the last stage.
Here in our modern-day western culture, we find the idea of focusing on our inner life to be a huge challenge. How do we make the leap from a fast-paced, “work your butt off” lifestyle, to one that is calmer and contemplative – one where we give more of ourselves to meditation and inner discovery? Our lives, up until this “getting older stage”, have been driven to doing rather than being. This has become a form of addiction for all of us, and there’s nothing more difficult than trying to rehab ourselves out of an addiction. I know I still get up every morning and “go to work”. No, I don’t get paid any more, and no,I don’t climb in a car and drive to an office any longer, but I do have an office in my home and I do go there every day – most every day of the week. It’s where I do my work – the writing for this blog and two others. It’s where I do my political activism and other forms of rabble-rousing. Yes, I do meditate and it is an important part of my day, but it’s on a schedule just like the rest of my life.
This is not how I should be living now with my health the way it is and at my age. Perhaps it is time for me to call up another of Buddha’s teachings – the Five Remembrances. Buddha recommended we bring this almost into the mantra category as a reminder of life’s ephemeral nature. (1) We will grow old. (2) Our bodies will deteriorate. (3) Death is inevitable. (4) Everything changes. (5) We must part from our loved ones, and our actions or karma are our true belongings, the ground upon which we stand. If this is true, then what becomes truly important, especially in our culture of television, tweeting, and Facebook?
I’m slowly becoming more and more convinced there is a sacred dimension to the process of aging because we begin to see how precious time can be. This is the time to call upon our practice to sustain us – to inspire us. I do clearly see this, but putting it into my own way of life is proving to be an enormous challenge. I need to summon up some new, inner strength to carry this off. This is when I’m dealing with declining energy levels and a life-threatening illness. To now make this leap into a more contemplative life is a huge task, especially in my current environment.
I was speaking to some friends yesterday when I brought up the fact that my wish for this time of my life was to be able to be more contemplative and to be able to devote my quiet moments to preparing myself for my final days. However, now with two teenagers and a 2-year old living in my home, their very ill mother where my wife has to devote so much energy and care, plus all the related drama that goes along with all that, it is near impossible. One of my friends, (a person I hold in the highest regard for their wisdom) commented, “You probably need to just let that idea go!”
Was that comment right? Is that the way to go now? Do I need to find a different direction than the one I had hoped for?
I’m curious and would love to hear your thoughts over the coming days. Please comment here and let me know what you think. Thanks!!
Metta ….May I be well and happy. My I live in safety. May I be healthy and strong. May I live with ease. May all beings be well and happy. May all beings live in safety. May all beings be healthy and strong. May all beings live with ease.
Namaste — Be in Peace.
Just click the links that are sort of Grey in color to take you to where you can learn more about each book and how you can purchase a copy for your own library.
Stephanie Kaza — Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
Stephanie Kaza, an amazing writer and Buddhist teacher I knew from my 36 years living in Vermont, gathers key Buddhist thinkers to reflect upon aspects of consumerism, greed and economics. Certainly, many other authors have examined consumerism from the lens of their religious traditions, but this book’s Buddhist perspective is unusual, and its pairing of consumerist critiques with core Buddhist concepts is generally fruitful. Check this one out! Hooked!
Stephanie Kaza — Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking
Another one from my Vermont friend — Stephanie Kaza, a biologist and professor of Environmental Studies at University of Vermont, combines Zen Buddhist practices and teachings with her 40 years as an environmentalist for this guide to enlightened environmentalism, proposing a belief in the interdependence of people and nature as the genuine way to “go green”: “When we come to see ourselves as part of the green web of life… we are naturally drawn to respond with compassion.” A good read for Buddhists or anyone from any religion. Mindfully Green
Anam Thubten — No Self – No Problem
No Self – No Problem
shows how to realize the ultimate meaning of life in each moment by dissolving all notions of ego-identity. It asks that spiritual seekers wake up to their true nature, which is already enlightened. Based on Buddhist wisdom traditions, this easy-to-read book discusses in simple, but profound and inspiring language, how we can live a life full of love, satisfaction, and happiness. No Self – No Problem
Sharon Salzberg — The Kindness Handbook
“It takes boldness, even audacity, to step out of our habitual patterns and experiment with a quality like kindness–to work with it and see just how it might shift and open up our lives. This book is an invitation to do just that. — From The Kindness Handbook
Eckhart Tolle’s amazing best seller, A New Earth
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s wonderful book, My Stroke of Insight: Nirvana is just a breath away!
And this one by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.
This is a new one for you by Pema Chodron entitled: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
Have a peaceful day!! —
P.S. If you’d like to read my memoir/novel, you can access it here: