Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

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Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby mydoghasfleas » Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:54 am

I recently lost my mother and was wondering what the Buddha had to say about this type of grief. Are there any suttas that deal specifically with the loss of a parent? I think it would be a great consolation to me to hear his advice.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:03 pm

The Salla Sutta is one such discourse.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Anagarika » Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:41 pm

This is not a Sutta, but a talk from Ajahn Brahm about grief. This talk has sustained me when thoughts of the loss of my beloved Father bring me to grief.

Grief, Loss, and Celebrating a Life
by Ajahn Brahm, from Who Ordered This Truck Load of Dung?

Grief is what we add on to loss. It is a learned response, specific to some cultures only. It is not universal and it is not unavoidable.

I found this out through my own experience of being immersed for over eight years in a pure, Asian-Buddhist culture. In those early years in a Buddhist forest monastery in a remote corner of Thailand, Western culture and ideas were totally unknown. My monastery served as the local cremation ground for many surrounding villages. There was a cremation almost weekly. In the hundreds of funerals I witnessed there in the late 1970s, never once did I see anyone cry. I would speak with the bereaved family in the following days and still there were no signs of grief. One had to conclude that there was no grief. I came to know that in northeast Thailand in those days, a region steeped in Buddhist teachings for many centuries, death was accepted by all in a way that defied Western theories of grief and loss.

Those years taught me that there is an alternative to grief. Not that grief is wrong, only that there is another possibility. Loss of a loved one can be viewed in a second way, a way that avoids the long days of aching grief.

My own father died when I was only sixteen. He was, for me, a great man. He was the one who helped me find the meaning of love with his words, “Whatever you do in your life, Son, the door of my heart will always be open to you.” Even though my love for him was huge, I never cried at his funeral service. Nor have I cried for him since. I have never felt like crying over his premature death. It took me many years to understand my emotions surrounding his death.

I found that understanding through the following story, which I share with you here.

As a young man I enjoyed music, all types of music from rock to classical, jazz to folk. London was a fabulous city in which to grow up in the 1960s and early 1970s, especially when you loved music. I remember being at the very first nervous performance of the band Led Zeppelin, at a small club in Soho. On another occasion, only a handful of us watched the then-unknown Rod Stewart front a rock group in the upstairs room of a small pub in North London. I have so many precious memories of the music scene in London at that time.

At the end of most concerts I would shout “More! More!” along with many others. Usually, the band or orchestra would play on for a while. Eventually, though, they had to stop, pack up their gear and go home. And so did I. It seems to my memory that every evening when I walked home from the club, pub, or concert hall, it was always raining. There is a special word to describe the dreary type of rain often met with in London: drizzle. It always seemed to be drizzling, cold, and gloomy as I left the concert halls. But even though I knew in my heart that I probably would never get to hear that band again, that they had left my life forever, never once did I feel sad or cry. As I walked out into the cold, damp of the London night, the stirring music still echoed in my mind, “What magnificent music! What a powerful performance! How lucky I was to have been there at the time!” I never felt grief at the end of a great concert.

And that is exactly how I felt after my own father’s death. It was as if a great concert had finally come to an end. It was such a wonderful performance. I was, as it were, shouting loudly, “More! More!” when it came close to the finale. My dear old dad did struggle hard to keep living a little longer for us. But the moment eventually came when he had to “pack up his gear and go home.” When I walked out of the crematorium at Mortlake at the end of the service into the cold London drizzle--I remember the drizzle clearly--knowing in my heart that I would probably not get to be with him again, that he had left my life forever, I didn’t feel sad; nor did I cry. What I felt in my heart was, “What a magnificent father! What a powerful inspiration was his life. How lucky I was to have been there at the time. How fortunate I was to have been his son.” As I held my mother’s hand on the long walk into the future, I felt the very same exhilaration as I had often felt at the end of one of the great concerts in my life. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.

Grief is seeing only what has been taken away from you. The celebration of a life is recognizing all that we were blessed with, and feeling so very grateful.

Thank you, Dad.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:27 pm

Ajahn Brahm wrote:In the hundreds of funerals I witnessed there in the late 1970s, never once did I see anyone cry. I would speak with the bereaved family in the following days and still there were no signs of grief. One had to conclude that there was no grief. I came to know that in northeast Thailand in those days, a region steeped in Buddhist teachings for many centuries, death was accepted by all in a way that defied Western theories of grief and loss.


What a lot of twaddle. Thai peasants grieve just like anyone else. They just do their weeping in private and keep a stiff upper lip at the funeral or when monks are visiting their home.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Feathers » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:33 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Ajahn Brahm wrote:In the hundreds of funerals I witnessed there in the late 1970s, never once did I see anyone cry. I would speak with the bereaved family in the following days and still there were no signs of grief. One had to conclude that there was no grief. I came to know that in northeast Thailand in those days, a region steeped in Buddhist teachings for many centuries, death was accepted by all in a way that defied Western theories of grief and loss.


What a lot of twaddle. Thai peasants grieve just like anyone else. They just do their weeping in private and keep a stiff upper lip at the funeral or when monks are visiting their home.


I'm really interested to hear this. I am generally a big fan of Ajahn Brahm, but some of his views on grief have seemed a bit mistaken (or at least, not suitable for all situations) to me.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:47 pm

Feathers wrote:I'm really interested to hear this. I am generally a big fan of Ajahn Brahm, but some of his views on grief have seemed a bit mistaken (or at least, not suitable for all situations) to me.


As far as I know, Ajahn Brahmavamso didn't spend much time as a layman in Thailand, and as a forest monk it's unlikely he would have had much intimate acquaintance with the domestic lives of Thai laity. But even so, I find his radical "othering" of Thai people thoroughly bizarre.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Anagarika » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:44 pm

In any case, I felt that sharing this story with Mydoghasfleas might be of some benefit to this person. If you listen to Ajahn Brahm's talks enough, you get the impression that he takes some liberties with the stories he tells, often telling the same story from his books may times over as he travels the globe and addresses different communities. Whether he truly understands the nature of Thai grief from the 1970's is really not the point. The theme of his talk is this: Loss of a loved one can be viewed in a second way, a way that avoids the long days of aching grief. Perhaps as we meditate on the causes and conditions of grief, we might be mindful of the Suttas that do teach us of anicca, dukkha, and anatta. Perhaps instead of lamenting the loss of the people that we love, we can give equal attention to celebrate the karma that arose that placed us and this beloved person in the world at the same time. Maybe by fully understanding the Suttas, we bring into focus the possibility of celebration of the lives of those we have lost, and reject, at least for a time, a sense of grief that consumes us and takes us off the path of mindfulness.

Ajahn Brahm is not everyone's cup of tea, but the man has done much to bring the heart of the Suttas into a common everyday parlance, that has affected many in a positive way. If his story helped Mydoghasfleas even slightly, then I say to Ven. Brahm: sadhu! sadhu! sadhu!
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 29, 2013 1:29 am

mydoghasfleas wrote:I recently lost my mother and was wondering what the Buddha had to say about this type of grief. Are there any suttas that deal specifically with the loss of a parent? I think it would be a great consolation to me to hear his advice.


I am sorry for your loss.
I have lost both parents and an older sibling. I have found the Dhamma, in word and in application, a great anchor. For me, no specific suttas were of any more relevant than the other. They are all nectar.
With metta,

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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby mydoghasfleas » Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:22 am

I thank all who replied. It's good to hear others stories and listen to their experiences. It's good to be around people who are well-versed in the Dhamma. I am glad I found this site. Even though I don't post much, I have learned many things by reading the threads. Buddhasoup's story is very helpful.

Again, thank you for taking the time to reply.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Kusala » Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:12 pm

mydoghasfleas wrote:I recently lost my mother and was wondering what the Buddha had to say about this type of grief. Are there any suttas that deal specifically with the loss of a parent? I think it would be a great consolation to me to hear his advice.


I hope this helps:

"All things are impermanent,
They arise and pass away.
Having arisen, they come to an end,
Their coming to peace is bliss."


http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/ ... ndDead.pdf
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:18 am

mydoghasfleas wrote:I thank all who replied. It's good to hear others stories and listen to their experiences. It's good to be around people who are well-versed in the Dhamma. I am glad I found this site. Even though I don't post much, I have learned many things by reading the threads. Buddhasoup's story is very helpful.

Again, thank you for taking the time to reply.


Hello

I'm very sorry for your loss. I lost my mother in 2004, when I was 20. I will try to sum up what I have learned from that.

There's a balance between what the sutta venerable Pesala quoted advised to do, and between being lost in grief.

The problem, with the first aproach is that you can find yourself repressing feelings that are too powerful to be repressed. Meaning that if they are repressed, they will manifest as mental problems. A sign that this repression is happening is if you feel relatively ok; or if you think "yes, death is natural. I'll always love her, but let's move on"; or if you are unafected at all _ even possibly thinking that you are quite detached from the world, a sign of spiritual maturity. If this happens I'm almost sure it's a similar case of what I went through: I didn't deal with what I actualy felt because it was so, so hard that my own mind didn't allow for me to feel it consciously. It ended up creating me an enormous deal of trouble.

I think being lost in grief is obviously not the way either.

I think the apropriate aproach is an apropriate combination of samatha and vipassana. It is at this time that practice is very useful. But be prepared for a realy rough period. It is important to know that it will pass. But it is also important to know that you will go through hardship.

I think it's important to make this comparisson: if you're not well trained in meditation, a tooth ache will cause you suffering. You can try to apply equanimous mindfulness. It will be good for a while, but eventualy it will be too much. That's when you need to temporarily distract yourself from the pain, or even taking medication if necesary. But, when you're ready again, you apply equanimous mindfulness again. And so on. It's the same with equanimous mindfulness of grief.

I think it would be very useful to speak both with a therapist and an experienced monk, who will guide through this difficult time. The monk, in particular, will be important to advise you on how much samatha and how much vipassana/mindfulness you should do.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Anagarika » Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:22 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:
mydoghasfleas wrote:I thank all who replied. It's good to hear others stories and listen to their experiences. It's good to be around people who are well-versed in the Dhamma. I am glad I found this site. Even though I don't post much, I have learned many things by reading the threads. Buddhasoup's story is very helpful.

Again, thank you for taking the time to reply.


Hello

I'm very sorry for your loss. I lost my mother in 2004, when I was 20. I will try to sum up what I have learned from that.

There's a balance between what the sutta venerable Pesala quoted advised to do, and between being lost in grief.

The problem, with the first aproach is that you can find yourself repressing feelings that are too powerful to be repressed. Meaning that if they are repressed, they will manifest as mental problems. A sign that this repression is happening is if you feel relatively ok; or if you think "yes, death is natural. I'll always love her, but let's move on"; or if you are unafected at all _ even possibly thinking that you are quite detached from the world, a sign of spiritual maturity. If this happens I'm almost sure it's a similar case of what I went through: I didn't deal with what I actualy felt because it was so, so hard that my own mind didn't allow for me to feel it consciously. It ended up creating me an enormous deal of trouble.

I think being lost in grief is obviously not the way either.

I think the apropriate aproach is an apropriate combination of samatha and vipassana. It is at this time that practice is very useful. But be prepared for a realy rough period. It is important to know that it will pass. But it is also important to know that you will go through hardship.

I think it's important to make this comparisson: if you're not well trained in meditation, a tooth ache will cause you suffering. You can try to apply equanimous mindfulness. It will be good for a while, but eventualy it will be too much. That's when you need to temporarily distract yourself from the pain, or even taking medication if necesary. But, when you're ready again, you apply equanimous mindfulness again. And so on. It's the same with equanimous mindfulness of grief.

I think it would be very useful to speak both with a therapist and an experienced monk, who will guide through this difficult time. The monk, in particular, will be important to advise you on how much samatha and how much vipassana/mindfulness you should do.

:goodpost:
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Pondera » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:41 am

Sorry about your loss. Here's a famous parable. Probably not exactly what you're looking for. It does make a point.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/noncanon ... 1-ao0.html

I was searching online for a friend I had not seen in years. Typed in her name to search, learned she has been dead since 2010. That was three weeks ago. Unbelievable - for me. Talk about a lump in ones throat. Nothing one can really say. Death is not easy to understand.

Pondéra
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby cooran » Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:10 am

This Sutta (Kosala Sutta) may be of use: The King was speaking to the Buddha when the news came that his wife Queen Mallika had just died.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .hekh.html

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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby mydoghasfleas » Fri Nov 01, 2013 3:46 pm

Wow! These last two links really hit home. It's important to reflect that not only do all beings experience decay and death, but also that all beings experience grief. Like the woman with the dead son who was able to deal better with her grief when she realized there is no one untouched by this. This is message of the story of the dead wife, too. I am fascinated by the wisdom of the Buddha. He even mentions being unable to eat and the body becoming haggard. Seems we've been experiencing grief in this way forever.

I think when Pondera said finding out about a friend's death was "unbelievable" is part of the whole problem I'm having. Because even through you think you're prepared for an elderly parent's death, I found myself thinking "I can't believe this happened." As I adjust to and accept the fact that she died, I'm finding I'm coping with it better.

Modus.Ponens is right that I have to find that middle path between repression and being lost in grief.

Once again I thank all who responded out of compassion, for your valuable links and advice.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby Kamran » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:36 am

Thanisaro bikhu has study guide with suttas called "Beyond coping: a study guide on aging illness separation and death"


Available in PDF and ebook formats at http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index. ... udy_guides
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Are there any suttas dealing with death of loved one?

Postby zerotime » Sat Nov 02, 2013 7:08 pm

the same Sutta cited by Pondera also exists in a personal and famous version from Paul Carus, titled "The Mustard Seed":
http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm
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