Sunday, April 22, 2007


I read somewhere, that one should not search for the miscellaneous causes of things.

When my own son died, just after birth, people offered many

consolations and suggestions.  Most people acknowledged that they were

only offering a temporary crutch. I learned that people did this

because they had a desire to be compassionate, and help Diedre and me to

feel better.  Usually, I thanked people and sometimes I said, "You

know, that doesn't really help, but thank you for being kind." 

What Lone-Mountain said is

true, there is no good reason to dilute your experience with "some

karmic/bardo crutch." But even her suggestion is Dharma,  and

commentary, intended to help you on the path towards realization.

For me, Tracy's question reminds me of the impermanent nature of life.

Death will certainly come, for all of us. This is a good reason to try

and remain clear minded and focused on the present.

The trouble with suffering is that one person's suffering can spill

over into other lives, cause them loose clarity and to commit actions

which bring immeasurable suffering to countless others.  But the same is

also true of happiness. One person can touch countless lives in a

positive way.

In the Buddha Dharma, there is only one 'real' and lasting happiness,

which is the realization of one's true nature. Our true nature is

always with us but we just don't get to look at it very often.; So we

turn to the Dharma for help with that, knowing that Buddha found a way

to realize his own true nature and saw fit to share that with others.

I've heard it said that Buddha gave eighty four thousand different

teachings in his lifetime, so that all different types of people would

be able to approach the Path to enlightenment.  I think that number is

just meant to mean a lot of different teachings.  As i understand, all of

that was to help people free themselves from attachments and aversions

which are the source of all their suffering.

From my own experience, the desire to search for answers, caused people

to offer many harmful suggestions for the cause of my son's death.

number of them focused& on& the speculation that I carried some

unknown genetic flaw, (I was an adopted child.) Others suggested

negligence...even murder. I was able to keep my head together and be

present for most of it. But blame and guilt effectively tore my family


I spoke with Pamela, the nurse/midwife who attended the birth recently,

after more than two decades, she remembers everything vividly.   She and

one of the other attending midwives had found a possible cause for

Owen's sudden death: a strain of streptococcus virus. Since she attends

many birthings, she has made it her mission to test for this and spread

awareness about the virus.

I find that Pamela's reaction is the most practical. For her the child's death

was a sudden reminder that life is short and fragile, and that it is very

often something simple and preventable which causes the most

suffering. Because she learned a way to

prevent other similar deaths, and shared it with people, her explanation seems closest to a

Bodhisattva's intention: to end suffering.

From a medical view, she found a likely cause of death, found ways to diagnose it, treat it and share her knowledge.

should i far as i know, Pamela was one of the most spiritual

people i have met. She did not appear to have much self indulgent

behavior. Zen for her, happened every day. She knew the washing

dishes meditation and the  Dharma of Diapers. She smuggled

anti-biotics into Amish communities and served as an elections officer

in her county. She also spent a lot of time listening to the parents

of a dead kid. I think that she said, "Yeah," Wow," and "Far Out!"

And she said, "You can have other babies," and, "Nothing can replace your child."

Kurt Vonnegut said that the purpose of life is to fart around.

I tend to agree. [no purpose]

If we make commitments or try to serve a higher purpose, (as Mr. V did,) then obviously we might do more than fart around.

Some commitments can have adverse affects on people,

While other commitments give people more chances to do more beneficial things for all people.

The poetry escapes me now,

But babies can't be held

Responsible for life,

Or lack of life.

Babies do represent

All potential, yet

They are not resposiable for the causes of their existence.

Few of us choose to be alive and fewer choose to be dead.

So listen,

To others,

To your self,

And to the handfuls of wisdom,

The world hands out every day.

So what if nothing

Makes sense.

I love the Heart Sutra.

I do not understand it.

the Sutra flows around my feet

Like a wave

Swallows my head like I'm going under

Do you think i will survive ?

Where are you, in all of this, watching?

My son died and dinner seems stolen.

I went to college for my dead child's

Sake, and found a world of people like me;

Old, predatory, and focused on shades of greatness

People look at death and see rebirth

Thinking mostly of themselves.

See your self in every one

And you might glimpse the truth. . .

For now.

A dharma friend of mine

Listened to my story,

He said, "My mother saw

Her brothers and cousins

Killed in Tibet. The Dalai

Llama lost his whole country."

My friend said "Even Jesus

died for a thief." but you

Feel bad?"

"Among Buddhists death is regarded as an occasion of major religious significance, both for the deceased and for the survivors. For the deceased it marks the moment when the transition begins to a new mode of existence within the round of rebirths. When death occurs all the kammic forces that the dead person accumulated during the course of his or her lifetime become activated and set about determining the next rebirth. For the living, death is a powerful reminder of the Buddha's teaching on impermanence; it also provides an opportunity to assist the deceased person as he or she fares on to the new existence.

Both aspects of death — the message of impermanence, and the opportunity to help the departed loved one — find expression in the Buddhist funeral rites of Sri Lanka. Naturally, the monastic Sangha plays a prominent role in the funeral proceedings. One of the most important parts of the funeral rites is the ritual called "offering of cloth on behalf of the dead" (mataka-vastra-puja). This is done prior to the cremation or the burial of the body. Monks are assembled in the home of the dead person or in the cemetery. The proceedings begin with the administration of the Five Precepts to the assembled crowd by one of the monks. This is followed by the recitation in chorus of the well-known stanza:

Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavayadhammino.

Uppajjitva nirujjhanti tesam vupasamo sukho.

Impermanent alas are formations, subject to rise and fall.

Having arisen, they cease; their subsiding is bliss.

Next follows this ritual, which consists of the offering of a length of new white cloth to the monks. The cloth, called a pamsukula — literally, a dust-heap cloth — is intended to be cut into pieces and then stitched into a robe.

After offering it, the close relatives of the deceased sit together on a mat, assume a reverential posture, and together they pour water from a vessel into a cup placed within a plate until the cup overflows. While the water is being poured, the monks intone in unison the following stanzas extracted from the Tirokuddha Sutta of the Khuddakapatha:

Unname udakam vattam yatha ninnam pavattati

evameva ito dinnam petanam upakappati.

Yatha varivaha pura paripurenti sagaram

evameva ito dinnam petanam upakappati.

Just as the water fallen on high ground flows to a lower level,

Even so what is given from here accrues to the departed.

Just as the full flowing rivers fill the ocean,

Even so what is given from here accrues to the departed.

The context shows that the pouring of water in this manner is a ritualistic act belonging to the field of sympathetic magic, symbolizing the beneficial inheritance of the merit transferred by the living to the dead, as a kind of dakkhina or offering. The entire ritual is hence an act of grace whereby merit is transferred to the departed so that they may find relief from any unhappy realm wherein they might have been born.

Another funeral rite is mataka-bana or "preaching for the benefit of the dead." The usual practice is to conduct a monk to the house of the dead person, generally on the third day (or occasionally on any day within a week) after the funeral and to request him to preach a sermon suited to the occasion. Accordingly he preaches a suitable sermon for about an hour's duration to the assembled audience, which inevitably consists of the deceased's relatives and the neighbours of the household. At the end of the sermon, the monk gets the relatives to recite the necessary stanzas to transfer to the deceased the merits acquired by organizing the event. Following this, a gift is offered to the monk, and the invitees are also served with refreshments.

Three months from the date of death, it is customary to hold an almsgiving (sanghika dana) in memory of the deceased and thence to repeat it annually. As in the case of the rituals mentioned earlier, here too the purpose is to impart merit to the deceased. Hence it is called the offering in the name of the dead (mataka-dana). The basis of the practice is the belief that if the dead relative has been reborn in an unhappy existence (i.e., as a peta or unhappy spirit), he or she would expect his or her living relatives to transfer merit in this manner as these departed spirits or petas are incapable of performing any meritorious deed on their own. Even their hunger and thirst, which is perpetual, subside only in this manner. Hence they are referred to as "living on what is given by others" (paradatta-upajivi). This custom can be traced to the Buddha's own time when King Bimbisara was harassed by a group of his departed kinsmen, reborn as petas, because the king had failed to give alms to the Buddha in their name. Once this was fulfilled as requested by the Buddha, the petas became happy and ceased to give any more trouble (KhpA. 202f; PvA.19ff). This was the occasion on which the Buddha preached the Tirokuddha Sutta referred to earlier, which further says that once these rites are performed, these contented spirits bless the donors in return.

These rites, it may be mentioned here, resemble the sraddha ceremonies of the Hindus in some ways. And it is also significant that, according to the Buddha himself, only the dead relatives who have been reborn as petas are capable of receiving this benefit "

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