A farewell is a beautiful teaching
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Rain is falling, and with it autumn leaves, indicating that winter is soon at hand. The rain falls at Sudeoksa Temple, deep in the mountains, on the funeral of an old Seon Master. One after another, the rains fall in sheets, like a summer monsoon, and everyone holds tight to their umbrellas.The drops still manage to soak my clothes, pouring off the umbrella of the person in front of me. It seems that one umbrella is not enough to protect myself from the torrent. The Master’s death seemed to soak into my body through the dripping rain. Just as an umbrella cannot protect me from getting wet, life cannot protect me from the ghost of death. They say that the old Master left a verse as he passed away. "Do not trust, do not trust, do not trust your body and mind."
I pondered over the verse and had to ask myself. Are the body and mind reliable, are they suitable for my refuge? It seemed they were not. My body gets sick and old without my sanction, and my mind is unsteady and so constantly fitful. No matter what it is I intend to do, it is never a simple thing to get it done in accordance with my true intentions. There is nothing that is reliable. Nothing that can be done at my will.Thus, I reckoned how foolish it was to be the slave of body andmind. I had confirmed the truth of my Master’s last testament.
When the time comes, we are born; and when another time comes, we depart. Though such ideas of life’s transience are intimate to us through experiences with them in movies and the like, there’s something not quite right about this. Such events of life and death are quite a different matter when they happen in our own family, or our own self.
Unlike in the movies, where such events are scenes of continuous repetition, for ourselves, it is a scene where something is coming to an end. Standing by the funeral pyre, I stared upon my own death. It didn’t seem that it would be any sort of picnic. There would be regret and the sorrow of parting. Being separated from the the people and the surroundings you’ve encountered throughout your lifetime can never be easy. Their is no way to lighten the weight of the attachments we’ve formed in this life. Yet I have seen many instances of old Masters who leave this mundane world without any regret. The last words the Master left to his disciples was, "Don’t worry, don’t worry. Eternity is radiant, the mountains are green and the waters pure."
What this means is that even though we’ve died, we’ve not really departed, and nothing is ever really changing. How hard one would have to practice in order to look upon our lives as if they were like trees and beautiful flowers that get cut down along the side of the road.
Such a thought brings to mind the words of the Master: "You must strive hard, as there is no graver thing than the matters of life and death." There has been so much time spent on my long journey pursuing life in my body and mind. To think of it now, it has all been such a waste. Just as the flames consumed the corpse, the Master’s death burned up my own unrestraint, becoming a beautiful teaching.