Of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme
The 9 steps of Maranasati (MINDFULNESS of death) meditation in the Theravada tradition are a series of contemplations designed to help the practitioner develop a deeper understanding of the nature of impermanence and the preciousness of life. Here is a general outline of the 9 steps of Maranasati meditation:
- Recognizing the of death: Contemplate the fact that all living beings, including yourself, will eventually die.
- Reflecting on your own : Consider the fact that you yourself are subject to the same inevitability of death as all other beings.
- your own life: Consider how you have lived your life up to this point, and reflect on whether or not you have used your time wisely.
- Reflecting on the of life: Consider how quickly life passes, and how little time you have to accomplish your goals and fulfill your aspirations.
- Reflection on the : Consider that death is not something that happens to others, but is an inescapable aspect of life for all beings.
- Reflecting on the of death: Consider that death can happen at any moment, without warning, and that you are never truly secure.
- Reflecting on the of life: Consider that everything in life is subject to change and that everything is temporary.
- Developing a sense of : Consider that your time is limited, and that you should take advantage of every moment to develop your spiritual practice and grow in wisdom.
- Cultivating the desire to live a virtuous life: Consider the impact that your actions have on others, and strive to live a virtuous life that benefits both yourself and others.
These 9 steps of Maranasati meditation are meant to be practiced regularly, in order to cultivate a deeper understanding of the nature of impermanence and the preciousness of life. By contemplating death in a MINDFUL and contemplative manner, the practitioner can develop a greater sense of urgency, compassion, and wisdom, and can live their life with greater meaning and purpose.
- Maraṇasyāpi saṅkhārānaṁ aniccaṁ dukkhaṁ anattaṁ
Even death is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.
Kathaṁ maraṇā gatiṁ gacchati nāhaṁ jānāmi ko pana jānāti
- How does one go at death's approach? I do not know. Who knows?
This mantra is a reminder that we do not know what happens to us after death. It is important to be open to the possibility of the unknown, and to live our lives in a way that is true to our values.
These mantras can be used to cultivate mindfulness of death and to remind ourselves of the impermanence of all things. They can also be used to develop a sense of equanimity and acceptance in the face of death.
what are the benefits of maranasati?¶
Maranasati is a Buddhist meditation practice that involves contemplating death and impermanence. The benefits of practicing maranasati can include:
- A greater appreciation of the present moment: By contemplating death, practitioners may develop a greater appreciation for the present moment and a deeper sense of gratitude for life.
- Reduced attachment: By contemplating the impermanence of all things, practitioners may become less attached to material possessions and to the self, reducing suffering and increasing peace of mind.
- Improved wisdom and understanding: Maranasati can help practitioners develop a deeper understanding of the nature of reality and the Buddhist teachings, leading to increased wisdom and insight.
- Overcoming fear of death: By contemplating death, practitioners can overcome fear and anxiety about the end of life, and develop a more peaceful and accepting attitude towards death.
- Greater motivation to practice the Dharma: Maranasati can serve as a powerful reminder of the urgency of the spiritual path and motivate practitioners to engage in other Buddhist practices more fully.
It's important to approach maranasati meditation with the guidance of a qualified teacher and to maintain a strong foundation in ethics and MINDFULNESS practices, as this type of meditation can be challenging and may require a certain level of maturity and understanding.
If you never face your greatest fears you can spend a lifetime in a sort of trance, asleep, with these fears driving you to act in unwholesome ways, it can cause distraction, restlessness, misdirected goals, etc.
At death the goal is to have treated others with equanimity, love and compassion because the only thing you take with you at death is good karma which comes from a lifetime of wholesome actions. They meditate on death to overcome fears that could cause you to act compulsively and unwholesome throughout life generating bad karma to be carried into the next life.
In buddhism one of the reasons you meditate is to prepare for your death, you can hear more about their traditions in the video above. In the end what is valued is your ability to remain fully aware your entire life, and to prepare for death at any moment, to remain aware even when asleep and aware specifically during the experience of death, or bardo (transition during death) which has it's own specific set of techniques in some traditions.
what it means to transcend life and death¶
additional instructions for maranasati?¶
The specific instructions for maranasati meditation can vary depending on the specific tradition and the teacher, but here is a general outline of the practice:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit where you won't be disturbed.
- Establish a stable and relaxed posture, with your back straight and your body relaxed.
- Focus your attention on the breath and bring your mind to a state of calm and clarity.
- Start to contemplate the reality of death and impermanence. This may involve reflecting on your own mortality, or on the impermanence of all things, including the body and material possessions.
- Allow yourself to fully experience the feelings that arise during the contemplation. This may include feelings of fear, sadness, or uncertainty, but try to maintain an open and accepting attitude towards these emotions.
- Reflect on the teachings of the Buddha, especially on the Four Noble Truths and the Three Universal Truths, and how these relate to your experience of death and impermanence.
- Continuously bring your mind back to the contemplation whenever it becomes distracted.
- When the meditation is finished, take a few moments to return to the present moment and to reflect on the insights and experiences gained during the practice.
It's important to approach maranasati meditation with respect and humility, and to maintain a strong foundation in ethics and MINDFULNESS practices, as this type of meditation can be challenging and may require a certain level of maturity and understanding.
which traditions practice maranasati¶
Maranasati is a practice that is found within the Buddhist tradition, specifically in the Theravada and some sects of the Mahayana tradition. In these traditions, maranasati is considered an important aspect of the spiritual path, as it helps practitioners develop a deeper understanding of the nature of reality and the impermanence of all things.
In Theravada Buddhism, maranasati is often seen as a way of preparing for the ultimate goal of liberation, by helping practitioners to overcome fear of death and to develop a greater appreciation for the present moment. In Mahayana traditions, maranasati is often seen as an important part of the bodhisattva path, as it helps practitioners to develop compassion and a strong motivation to help others achieve enlightenment.
It's important to note that different traditions and teachers may have slightly different interpretations and approaches to the practice of maranasati, and it's always recommended to seek guidance from a qualified teacher to ensure that you are practicing in a safe and effective manner.
The Five Remembrances, also known as Panca Niyama Dhamma in Pali, are a set of reflections in Buddhism that help cultivate MINDFULNESS and appreciate the preciousness of life. They are:
- I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape aging and death.
- I am of the nature to have ill health. No one is immune to sickness, injury, and disease.
- I am of the nature to die. Death is an inevitable reality for all living things.
- All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. Nothing lasts forever, including relationships and possessions.
- My actions (karma) are the only belongings I bring with me beyond this life. My thoughts, words, and deeds will determine the quality of my future experiences.
- Overcoming attachment: By realizing the transient nature of all things, one can overcome attachment to material possessions and emotions, leading to a more peaceful and contented life.
- Reducing fear of death: By understanding that all things are impermanent and subject to change, one can reduce fear of death and the unknown.
- Promoting wisdom: An appreciation of the impermanence of all things can deepen one's understanding of the nature of reality, leading to greater wisdom.
- Improving mindfulness: Meditation on impermanence encourages MINDFULNESS of the present moment and helps one stay focused on what is happening in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Encouraging self-reflection: By contemplating impermanence, one can reflect on the purpose and meaning of life, and focus on what is truly important.
Here are the general steps to meditate with the Five Recollections (Upajjhatthana) in Theravada Buddhism:
Find a quiet place to sit comfortably and establish a stable posture.
Begin with a few deep breaths, calming your mind and body.
Recite the Five Recollections mentally or out loud, if desired:
I am of the nature to grow old. Age is inevitable. I am of the nature to have ill health. Illness is inevitable. I am of the nature to die. Death is inevitable. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. Separation from them is inevitable. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand. Reflect deeply on each recollection, allowing the message to penetrate your mind.
Spend time contemplating the truths contained within each recollection.
End the meditation with a few deep breaths and a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to reflect on these important truths.
Repeat the meditation as often as you like, especially when feeling uncertain or discouraged.
Remember that meditation is a personal journey and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The goal is to deepen your understanding of the Five Recollections and the impact they have on your life. With consistent practice, you will develop a stronger MINDFULNESS and sense of inner peace.
Upajjhatthana or the "Five Recollections"¶
is a meditation practice found in Theravada Buddhism. It involves contemplating the following five topics:
- The recollection of impermanence: The meditation focuses on the impermanence of all things and the transience of life.
- The recollection of death: The meditation reflects on the inevitability of death and the unpredictability of when it will occur.
- The recollection of the purity of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha: The meditation focuses on the qualities of the Three Jewels of Buddhism – the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha – and their role in helping one reach enlightenment.
- The recollection of the virtues of one's own moral conduct: The meditation reflects on one's own actions and the impact they have on one's own life and the lives of others.
- The recollection of generosity: The meditation focuses on the benefits of generosity and the importance of practicing it in order to develop a generous mind.
The goal of the Upajjhatthana meditation is to bring about a sense of urgency in one's spiritual practice and to develop a strong motivation for the attainment of enlightenment.
By contemplating the impermanence of life and death, the purity of the Three Jewels, one's own conduct, and the benefits of generosity, practitioners are encouraged to cultivate a deeper understanding of the Dharma and to live their lives in accordance with Buddhist teachings.
what is Upajjhaṭṭhana¶
Upajjhaṭṭhana is a Pali word that means "the four reminders."
In Theravada Buddhism, Upajjhaṭṭhana is a practice of self-reflection and MINDFULNESS that is used to cultivate a sense of awareness and understanding.
It is one of the Five Spiritual Faculties, along with faith, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.
The four reminders of Upajjhaṭṭhana are:
- Impermanence (Anicca): Everything is constantly changing and nothing lasts forever.
- Suffering (Dukkha): All existence is characterized by suffering and unsatisfactoriness.
- Non-self (Anatta): The self is not a permanent, unchanging entity but is instead a collection of ever-changing mental and physical phenomena.
- The Four Noble Truths: The teachings of the Buddha about the nature of suffering and the path to liberation from it.
By contemplating these four reminders, practitioners of Upajjhaṭṭhana aim to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of reality and the causes of suffering, and to develop greater wisdom, compassion, and liberation from negative mental states and suffering.
The practice can be performed alone or as part of a group, and can be a helpful tool for gaining greater insight and clarity in one's daily life.
The Satipatthana Sutta (MN: 10) and the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN: 119)¶
- A corpse that is "swollen, blue and festering."
- A corpse that is "being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals or by different kinds of worms."
- A corpse that is "reduced to a skeleton together with (some) flesh and blood held in by the tendons."
- A corpse that is "reduced to a blood-besmeared skeleton without flesh but held in by the tendons."
- A corpse that is "reduced to a skeleton held in by the tendons but without flesh and not besmeared with blood."
- A corpse that is "reduced to bones gone loose, scattered in all directions."
- A corpse that is "reduced to bones, white in color like a conch."
- A corpse that is "reduced to bones more than a year old, heaped together."
- A corpse that is "reduced to bones gone rotten and become dust."
According to the Maranassati Sutta (2) a monk should reflect on the many possibilities which could bring death and then turn his thoughts to the unskillful mental qualities he has yet to abandon.
"Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head, in the same way the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities."1