Dharma Teachings

Birth A Reminder of Death

生是死的警惕-心道法師Every year, students would hold a birthday celebration for me. While I appreciate their thoughtfulness, I'd like to remind all to be diligent with their practice. A birthday celebration is simply a worldly gesture. However, being a practitioner or a monastic member, birthday is a reminder of how frightening samsara is. What are we celebrating? When we recognize that living and dying are the cyclic existence that we’d want to escape – what are we celebrating for? The best birthday present is to be free from samsara. Birthday is a reminder and a witness on renunciation. We have the opportunity to practice Dharma because there’s cyclic existence of living and dying. We strive to break free from samsaric misery. Thence, it is a time for reflection and a moment to generate renunciation. 

Chan practice is the pursuit of realization. What kind of realization? A state of unarising and unceasing. It is a working of inner realization. We try to clarify as of “whom” is living and dying? “Whom” is unarising and unceasing? Samsara comes into formation with our lifetimes of thoughts, actions, and habits. One lifetime of karma is therefore created. The karma will mature into cyclic living and dying in the future. Hence, Dharma practice tackles the problem from thoughts and intentions. By establishing the right view and taking actions, we’re practicing properly. 

Birth A Reminder of Death -MasterHsinTaoIf the birthday isn't about Dharma, there is no need for a birthday. With birth, there comes death. Birth is an alert of death. It is a calling for diligent practice. Other celebrations for birthday are insignificant. 

A practitioner dwelling in a deep mountain loses track of time easily. When we are practicing, our perception of time changes. We don't matter the birthday that much anymore. Even if we do, longing for renunciation would arise. Death is the final witness of birth. Therefore, we must use our time wisely to practice and to break free from death and the karmic debts of kindness and grudges. Once again, I hope that you all can do sitting meditation and engender bodhicitta wholeheartedly. Chan and compassion are our life.