文／美國佛心寺禪修班學員 Jeanna Salinas
Most of us are familiar with the story of Krisha Gotami, the woman who upon the death of her young child went to Buddha and asked for his help. He instructed her to go to each house in the village until she found a family that had not experienced death and to ask of that family a mustard seed. She was then to bring the mustard seed back to Buddha.
She went from house to house but was unable to find any household that had not been touched by death. As she continued to search for a family untouched by death it gradually occurred to her that death was universal. There was not a family that had not experienced death. Everyone dies and realization was her first glimpse of the nature of impermanence and the futility of grasping.
Losing a loved-one through death can be a dark and difficult time, and for some perhaps the most difficult time we are to face during our lifetime. Often, the threatened loss of someone dear can provoke more fear than a perceived loss of our own self, especially when it involves the loss of a child. But as in the case of Krisha Gotami, children do die. As do parents. As do spouses. As do siblings.
However, the most precious Dharma has provided a path to gradually develop the perspective and insight not only to endure, but to learn from our losses, and to find and maintain the inner peace and happiness that comes from the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.
One of the first teachings that we are taught is that of impermanence. This teaching is very clear and we are taught to look for ourselves at this impermanence and how it affects everyone universally. By the recognition of impermanence we obtain the true picture that shows us that everyone suffers at the hands of death and once we accept this, the natural progression becomes one of learning how to let go. Recognition of this need to let go brings us to a different perspective.
We learn to see how futile it is to grasp and the more that we can embrace the idea of impermanence, the easier it is to let go in times of personal loss. When this realization becomes anchored firmly in place, we then through our practice and training, learn to turn our loss outwardly into compassion - compassion for others who have also experienced the sadness of death, and compassion for those who have not yet realized the truth of impermanence and nonattachment.
Buddha has given us the teachings that allow us to turn the darkness of grasping and attachment into the light of compassion. When we experience a loss, through our training and practice we are able to experience the loss, but at the same time, experience it through the perspective of one who understands impermanence and is able to still see the sky through the clouds.