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Those who faced Death with calm and equanimity

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  • han tun
    Dear Nina and others, There is a Jaataka story that touches my heart. It is about how a Brahmin and his family, who dwell on the thought of death, face the
    Message 1 of 8 , Feb 16, 2012
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      Dear Nina and others,

      There is a Jaataka story that touches my heart. It is about how a Brahmin and his family, who dwell on the thought of death, face the death with calm and equanimity. It is lengthy, but I cannot break it up into installments without spoiling the story.

      No. 354. Uraga Jaataka
      Translated by H.T. Francis and R.A. Neil

      Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin household, in a village outside the gates of Benares, and rearing a family he supported them by field labour. He had two children, a son and a daughter. When the son was grown up, the father brought a wife home for him from a family of equal rank with his own. Thus with a female slave they composed a household of six: the Bodhisatta and his wife, the son and daughter, the daughter-in-law and the female slave. They lived happily and affectionately together. The Bodhisatta thus admonished the other five; "According as ye have received, give alms, observe holy days, keep the moral law, dwell on the thought of death, be mindful of your mortal state. For in the case of beings like ourselves, death is certain, life uncertain: all existing things are transitory and subject to decay. Therefore take heed to your ways day and night." They readily accepted his teaching
      and dwelt earnestly on the thought of death.

      Now one day the Bodhisatta went with his son to plough his field. The son gathered together the rubbish and set fire to it. Not far from where he was, lived a snake in an anthill. The smoke hurt the snake's eyes. Coming out from his hole in a rage, it thought, "This is all due to that fellow," and fastening upon him with its four teeth it bit him. The youth fell down dead. The Bodhisatta on seeing him fall, left his oxen and came to him, and finding that he was dead, he took him up and laid him at the foot of a certain tree, and covering him up with a cloak, he neither wept nor lamented. He said, "That which is subject to dissolution is dissolved, and that which is subject to death is dead. All compound existences are transitory and liable to death." And recognizing the transitory nature of things he went on with his ploughing. Seeing a neighbour pass close by the field, he asked, "Friend, are you going home?" And on his answering "Yes," he said, "Please
      then to go to our house and say to the mistress, "You are not to-day as formerly to bring food for two, but to bring it for one only. And hitherto the female slave alone has brought the food, but to-day all four of you are to put on clean garments, and to come with perfumes and flowers in your hands."

      "All right," he said, and went and spoke these very words to the brahmin's wife.
      She asked, "By whom, Sir, was this message given?"
      "By the brahmin, lady," he replied.

      Then she understood that her son was dead. But she did not so much as tremble. Thus showing perfect self-control, and wearing white garments and with perfumes and flowers in her hand, she bade them bring food, and accompanied the other members of the family to the field. But no one of them all either shed a tear or made lamentation. The Bodhisatta, still sitting in the shade where the youth lay, ate his food. And when his meal was finished, they all took up fire-wood and lifting the body on to the funeral pile, they made offerings of perfumes and flowers, and then set fire to it. But not a single tear was shed by any one. All were dwelling on the thought of death.

      Such was the efficacy of their virtue that the throne of Sakka manifested signs of heat. Sakka said, "Who, I wonder, is anxious to bring me down from my throne?" And on reflection he discovered that the heat was due to the force of virtue existing in these people, and being highly pleased he said, "I must go to them and utter a loud cry of exultation like the roaring of a lion, and immediately afterwards fill their dwelling place with the seven treasures."

      And going there in haste he stood by the side of the funeral pyre and said, "What are you doing?"
      "We are burning the body of a man, my lord."
      "It is no man that you are burning," he said. "Methinks you are roasting the flesh of some beast that you have slain."
      "Not so, my lord," they said. "It is merely the body of a man that we are burning."
      Then he said, "It must have been some enemy."
      The Bodhisatta said, "It is our own true son, and no enemy,"
      "Then he could not have been dear as a son to you."
      "He was very dear, my lord."
      "Then why do you not weep?"
      Then the Bodhisatta, to explain the reason why he did not weep, uttered the first two stanzas:

      (1) "Man quits his mortal frame, when joy in life is past,
      E'en as a snake is wont its worn out slough to cast.
      (2) No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
      Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread."

      (1) "Uragova taca.m ji.n.na.m, hitvaa gacchati sa.m tanu.m;
      Eva.m sariire nibbhoge, pete kaalakate sati.
      (2) ".Dayhamaano na jaanaati, ~naatiina.m paridevita.m;
      Tasmaa eta.m na socaami, gato so tassa yaa gatii"ti.

      Sakka on hearing the words of the Bodhisatta, asked the brahmin's wife, "How, lady, did the dead man stand to you?"
      "I sheltered him ten months in my womb, and suckled him at my breast, and directed the movements of his hands and feet, and he was my grown up son, my lord."
      "Granted, lady, that a father from the nature of a man may not weep, a mother's heart surely is tender. Why then do you not weep?"
      And to explain why she did not weep, she uttered a couple of stanzas:

      (3) "Uncalled he hither came, unbidden soon to go;
      E'en as he came, he went. What cause is here for woe?
      (4) No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
      Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread."

      (3) "Anavhito tato aagaa, ananu~n~naato ito gato;
      Yathaagato tathaa gato, tattha kaa paridevanaa.
      (4) ".Dayhamaano na jaanaati, ~naatiina.m paridevita.m;
      Tasmaa eta.m na socaami, gato so tassa yaa gatii"ti.

      On hearing the words of the brahmin's wife, Sakka asked the sister: "Lady, what was the dead man to you?"
      "He was my brother, my lord."
      "Lady, sisters surely are loving towards their brothers. Why do you not weep?"
      But she to explain the reason why she did not weep, repeated a couple of stanzas:

      (5) "Though I should fast and weep, how would it profit me?
      My kith and kin alas! would more unhappy be.
      (6) No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
      Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread."

      (5) "Sace rode kisaa assa.m, tassaa me ki.m phala.m siyaa;
      ~Naatimittasuhajjaana.m, bhiyyo no aratii siyaa.
      (6) ".Dayhamaano na jaanaati, ~naatiina.m paridevita.m;
      Tasmaa eta.m na socaami, gato so tassa yaa gatii"ti.

      Sakka on hearing the words of the sister, asked his wife: "Lady, what was he to you?"
      "He was my husband, my lord."
      "Women surely, when a husband dies, as widows are helpless. Why do you not weep?"
      But she to explain the reason why she did not weep, uttered two stanzas:

      (7) "As children cry in vain to grasp the moon above,
      So mortals idly mourn the loss of those they love.
      (8) No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
      Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread."

      (7) "Yathaapi daarako canda.m, gacchantamanurodati;
      Eva.msampadameveta.m, yo petamanusocati.
      (8) ".Dayhamaano na jaanaati, ~naatiina.m paridevita.m;
      Tasmaa eta.m na socaami, gato so tassa yaa gatii"ti.

      Sakka on hearing the words of the wife, asked the handmaid, saying, "Woman, what was he to you?"
      "He was my master, my lord."
      "No doubt you must have been abused and beaten and oppressed by him and therefore, thinking he is happily dead, you weep not."
      "Speak not so, my lord. This does not suit his case. My young master was full of long-suffering and love and pity for me, and was as a foster child to me."
      "Then why do you not weep?"
      And she to explain why she did not weep, uttered a couple of stanzas:

      (9) "A broken pot of earth, ah! who can piece again?
      So too to mourn the dead is nought but labour vain.
      (10) No friend's lament can touch the ashes of the dead:
      Why should I grieve? He fares the way he had to tread."

      (9) "Yathaapi udakakumbho, bhinno appa.tisandhiyo;
      Eva.msampadameveta.m, yo petamanusocati.
      (10) ".Dayhamaano na jaanaati, ~naatiina.m paridevita.m;
      Tasmaa eta.m na socaami, gato so tassa yaa gatii"ti.

      Sakka after hearing what they all had to say, was greatly pleased and said, "Ye have carefully dwelt on the thought of death. Henceforth ye are not to labour with your own hands. I am Sakka, king of heaven. I will create the seven treasures in countless abundance in your house. Ye are to give alms, to keep the moral law, to observe holy days, and to take heed to your ways." And thus admonishing them, he filled their house with countless wealth, and so parted from them.
      ----------
      Then Lord Buddha said: "At that time Khujjuttaraa was the female slave, Uppalava.n.naa the daughter, Raahula the son, Khemaa the mother, and I myself was the brahmin."

      ----------

      Han: This story is also the background story for Dhammapada Verse 212.

      212. Piyato jaayatii soko,
      piyato jaayatii bhaya.m,
      Piyato vippamuttassa
      natthi soko kuto bhaya.m.

      212. Affection begets sorrow,
      affection begets fear.
      For him who is free from affection
      there is no sorrow; how can there be fear for him?
      (translated by Daw Mya Tin)

      Han: Yes, if only I can be free from affection there will be no sorrow. But it is very difficult for me to do so. In Myanmar we usually call affection as "san-yo-zin" (from Paa.li word Sa.myojana). We have a song that says that although it has just three little words, it is very strong and it is very difficult for a puthujjana to cut it.

      That is why "piyehi vippayogo dukkho" (separation from those we love is suffering) is included in Dukkha Saccaa.

      with metta and respect,
      Han
    • Nina van Gorkom
      Dear Han, ... Thank you, this is a very important Jataka and Christine referred to it long ago. Nobody wept, and I was considering this. As you say, hard to
      Message 2 of 8 , Feb 16, 2012
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        Dear Han,
        Op 16-feb-2012, om 10:44 heeft han tun het volgende geschreven:
        >
        > 212. Affection begets sorrow,
        > affection begets fear.
        > For him who is free from affection
        > there is no sorrow; how can there be fear for him?
        > (translated by Daw Mya Tin)
        >
        > Han: Yes, if only I can be free from affection there will be no
        > sorrow. But it is very difficult for me to do so. In Myanmar we
        > usually call affection as "san-yo-zin" (from Paa.li word
        > Sa.myojana). We have a song that says that although it has just
        > three little words, it is very strong and it is very difficult for
        > a puthujjana to cut it.
        >
        > That is why "piyehi vippayogo dukkho" (separation from those we
        > love is suffering) is included in Dukkha Saccaa.
        > ---------
        >
        Thank you, this is a very important Jataka and Christine referred to
        it long ago. Nobody wept, and I was considering this.
        As you say, hard to apply this. Only the anaagaami has such strong
        understanding that all dosa and unpleasant feeling have been
        eradicated. Even ariyans who are not anaagaami can die of a broken
        heart, as Rob K. often referred to.
        I passed on your last instalment about death to Lodewijk and he
        appreciates it very much. He wanted me to print it out for him. He
        always appreciates your wisdom, he said.
        -------
        Nina.

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • han tun
        Dear Nina, Thank you very much for your useful comments and for your kind words. with metta and respect, Han ... Thank you, this is a very important Jataka and
        Message 3 of 8 , Feb 16, 2012
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          Dear Nina,

          Thank you very much for your useful comments and for your kind words.

          with metta and respect,
          Han

          --- On Thu, 2/16/12, Nina van Gorkom <vangorko@...> wrote:
          Thank you, this is a very important Jataka and Christine referred to
          it long ago. Nobody wept, and I was considering this.
          As you say, hard to apply this. Only the anaagaami has such strong
          understanding that all dosa and unpleasant feeling have been
          eradicated. Even ariyans who are not anaagaami can die of a broken
          heart, as Rob K. often referred to.
          I passed on your last instalment about death to Lodewijk and he
          appreciates it very much. He wanted me to print it out for him. He
          always appreciates your wisdom, he said.
          -------
          Nina.

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • sarah
          Dear Han, I greatly appreciated your presentation of the Uraga Jataka #122601. It seems that many of us find this Jataka very touching. I was glad that you
          Message 4 of 8 , Feb 29, 2012
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            Dear Han,

            I greatly appreciated your presentation of the Uraga Jataka #122601. It seems that many of us find this Jataka very touching. I was glad that you also kindly went to the trouble to add the Pali verses - I'm sure we'll reflect on it often.

            Also:

            --- In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, han tun <hantun1@...> wrote:

            > Han: This story is also the background story for Dhammapada Verse 212.
            >
            > 212. Piyato jaayatii soko,
            > piyato jaayatii bhaya.m,
            > Piyato vippamuttassa
            > natthi soko kuto bhaya.m.
            >
            > 212. Affection begets sorrow,
            > affection begets fear.
            > For him who is free from affection
            > there is no sorrow; how can there be fear for him?
            > (translated by Daw Mya Tin)
            ....
            S: Thank you for sharing this verse and putting it in context of the background story too.
            ...
            > Han: Yes, if only I can be free from affection there will be no sorrow. But it is very difficult for me to do so. In Myanmar we usually call affection as "san-yo-zin" (from Paa.li word Sa.myojana). We have a song that says that although it has just three little words, it is very strong and it is very difficult for a puthujjana to cut it.
            >
            > That is why "piyehi vippayogo dukkho" (separation from those we love is suffering) is included in Dukkha Saccaa.
            ...
            S: At least we hear and consider and reflect on the Truth, so even though there is bound to be a lot of sorrow and fear in life, we can appreciate what the real cause is.

            Thank you again for your helpful contributions, Han.

            Metta

            Sarah
            =====
          • han tun
            Dear Sarah, I am glad to know that you like my post. I am now trying my family to be as near as possible to the Brahmin and his family in the Uraga Jaataka. If
            Message 5 of 8 , Mar 1 2:05 AM
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              Dear Sarah,

              I am glad to know that you like my post.

              I am now trying my family to be as near as possible to the Brahmin and his family in the Uraga Jaataka. If I die first, there are two important things my wife must do, i.e., (i) to get her widow pension, and (ii) to continue to participate in Staff Health Insurance. I have prepared the checklist, and I am explaining to my wife and my daughter what they will have to do, step by step. I also ask my daughter to stay close to me when I go to the hospital to give her a practical training on how to talk to the doctor, how to get the medical certificate and how to get the out-patient statement (details to be attached to the receipt voucher), and how to prepare each receipt voucher with the supporting documents so that they will be accepted by the Staff Health Insurance.

              I am very happy that my wife and daughter are listening and noting carefully whatever I said, without showing any emotion in their faces. In some families, the talk of death is taboo and even regarded as bad omen. But my family has accepted it calmly. For that, I am very happy.

              with metta and respect,
              Han

              --- On Thu, 3/1/12, sarah <sarahprocterabbott@...> wrote:
              I greatly appreciated your presentation of the Uraga Jataka #122601. It seems that many of us find this Jataka very touching. I was glad that you also kindly went to the trouble to add the Pali verses - I'm sure we'll reflect on it often.

              Also:
              S: Thank you for sharing this verse and putting it in context of the background story too.

              S: At least we hear and consider and reflect on the Truth, so even though there is bound to be a lot of sorrow and fear in life, we can appreciate what the real cause is.

              Thank you again for your helpful contributions, Han.

              Metta
              Sarah
              =====
            • sarah
              Dear Han, ... .... S: I think that s very considerate. Of course, we never know the outcome, but it is helpful to consider, even now when we have ups and downs
              Message 6 of 8 , Mar 1 2:15 AM
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                Dear Han,

                --- In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, han tun <hantun1@...> wrote:

                > I am glad to know that you like my post.
                >
                > I am now trying my family to be as near as possible to the Brahmin and his family in the Uraga Jaataka.
                ....
                S: I think that's very considerate. Of course, we never know the outcome, but it is helpful to consider, even now when we have ups and downs in life and are susceptible to worldly conditions. I wonder if you've read the Jataka with your grandson or any other family members?

                You've made many practical arrangements out of consideration for your family. I appreciate this.
                ...
                > I am very happy that my wife and daughter are listening and noting carefully whatever I said, without showing any emotion in their faces. In some families, the talk of death is taboo and even regarded as bad omen. But my family has accepted it calmly. For that, I am very happy.
                ....
                S: I'm sure you've taught them a lot through your confidence in the Dhamma. You'd better tell them about DSG too (or give my email address) so that we know next time if you're in hospital or have any emergency.

                Of course, our emotions are all conditioned from moment to moment, but wise reflection now, understanding of the Teachings is the best training. If we don't pass the small tests in life, how can we pass the big tests when time comes?

                Thank you again for sharing your family preparations and reflections.

                Metta

                Sarah
                =====
              • han tun
                Dear Sarah, Sarah: You d better tell them about DSG too (or give my email address) so that we know next time if you re in hospital or have any emergency. Han:
                Message 7 of 8 , Mar 1 2:22 AM
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                  Dear Sarah,

                  Sarah: You'd better tell them about DSG too (or give my email address) so that we know next time if you're in hospital or have any emergency.

                  Han: I will do that. For that, I rely on my grand-daughter (whom you had talked on the phone once) who is at the moment in USA.

                  with metta and respect,
                  Han
                • Nina van Gorkom
                  Dear Sarah, Again, a reminder I appreciate so much. Not being neglectful at this moment, when we are not yet in big trouble. In the ultimate sense, we are in
                  Message 8 of 8 , Mar 2 12:25 AM
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                    Dear Sarah,
                    Again, a reminder I appreciate so much. Not being neglectful at this
                    moment, when we are not yet in big trouble. In the ultimate sense, we
                    are in trouble, yes, because of the many moments of akusala now.
                    Nina.
                    Op 1-mrt-2012, om 11:15 heeft sarah het volgende geschreven:

                    > Of course, our emotions are all conditioned from moment to moment,
                    > but wise reflection now, understanding of the Teachings is the best
                    > training. If we don't pass the small tests in life, how can we pass
                    > the big tests when time comes?



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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