I have recently developed a heart arrhythmia. The verdict isn’t in yet whether it is serious. I can tell you one thing though. It has definitely been a wake-up call. Other than a bout of prostate cancer 10 years ago I have lived my 66 years of life free from any serious chronic illness that could kill me. I thought I understood impermanence. But I always felt that living a healthy lifestyle would at least allow me to survive into my early 80’s. Obviously I have been deluding myself. Death can come at any time.
So, what am I to do with this newfound reality check? I met the Dharma five years ago. Since then I would call myself a lazy Dharma practitioner. I would meditate when it was convenient and study when it fit into my busy schedule. This has got to change. Today could be my last.
I now have a very clear image of myself laying on my deathbed reviewing my life. Am I at peace content with how I lived my life? Was my life meaningful and purposeful? Can I die with a sense of tranquility and satisfaction? Prior to meeting the Dharma I would say yes. I have accomplished many things during my life. But all of these things focused around self-centered goals. It’s not that I didn’t benefit others along the way. But it seems that there was always a component of the eight worldly concerns in the mix, especially praise and a good reputation.
The Dharma has taught me that peace and happiness at the time of death does not come from dying with all my bucket lists empty and my legacy in place for the world to remember me by. A content and meaningful life only derives from eliminating my ignorance about the true nature of reality and applying that knowledge and wisdom to benefiting others. If I can leave the world a kinder and gentler place than when I arrived, my life has had meaning and purpose. I can die happy in the knowledge that I am leaving more positive karmic seeds than negative ones on my mindstream and that these will follow me into the next lifetime.
One could say this latest health issue has scared the bejeebers out of me. My priorities have changed. Tomorrow I will practice. Doing so is no longer an alternative.