Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

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Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby cooran » Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:28 pm

Hello all,

I was wondering how to use Aging as a day to day spiritual practice? The usual everyday attitude is to try to wipe away any visible signs of aging e.g. plastic surgery, diets, exercise, make-up, hair transplants, fashionable clothing.
Often, some of these things can be helpful - when they are done for health reasons - but not when they are to fool ourselves and others that aging and death can be postponed indefinitely
The Buddha actually gave advice on how to lose weight to King Pasenadi ....

Donapaka Sutta
King Pasenadi Goes on a Diet
Samyutta Nikaya 3.13
Translated from the Pali by Andrew Olendzki
Once when the Buddha was living at Savatthi, King Pasenadi of Kosala ate a whole bucketful of food, and then approached the Buddha, engorged and panting, and sat down to one side. The Buddha, discerning that King Pasenadi was engorged and panting, took the occasion to utter this verse:
When a person is constantly mindful,
And knows when enough food has been taken,
All their afflictions become more slender
They age more gradually, protecting their lives.
Now at that time the brahman youth Sudassana was standing nearby, and King Pasenadi of Kosala addressed him: “Come now, my dear Sudassana, and having thoroughly mastered this verse in the presence of the Buddha, recite it whenever food is brought to me. And I will set up for you a permanent offering of a hundred kahaapanas every day.” “So be it, your majesty,” the brahman youth Sudassana replied to the king.
Then King Pasenadi of Kosala gradually settled down to [eating] no more than a cup-full of rice. At a later time, when his body had become quite slim, King Pasenadi stroked his limbs with his hand and took the occasion to utter this utterance:
Indeed the Buddha has shown me
Compassion in two different ways:
For my welfare right here and now,
and also for in the future.
——————————————————————————–
Translator’s note
Who would have thought weight-loss could be so easy! In this brief exchange the Buddha is suggesting that over-eating is the root of obesity, which hastens the aging process and threatens one’s life, and that this only occurs when mindfulness is weak or absent. If we eat slowly and with a great deal of attention, it can more easily become apparent (if we are truthful with ourselves) when an adequate amount of food has been consumed. Interestingly, he seems to be saying that wisdom will provide what is needed to refrain from further eating, rather than the modern conventional view that it requires will-power or self restraint.
Always one to play on words, the Buddha says that all our afflictions (literally, all our unpleasant feelings), and not just our bodies, will “become more slender.” Perhaps this is what Pasenadi is referring to when he says the Buddha’s teaching has not only helped him slim down his body (the immediate benefit), but the general increase of mindfulness and diminishing of greed will help with all aspects of the spiritual life (and thus with his rebirth in the future).
The commentary to this text informs us that the king did not engage Sudassana to utter the verse throughout the entire meal, but only once he had started eating. The idea is not to cultivate an aversion to food, for food itself is not an evil. As with so much else in the Buddha’s teaching, it is a matter of understanding cause and effect, and of using food skillfully as a tool for awakening rather than allowing oneself to be caught by the latent tendencies of attachment, aversion and confusion that might be evoked by our relationship to food.
Notice the language of the last line of the Buddha’s verse. The word for life (aayu) is the same one as in the Indian medical tradition of Ayurveda (=knowledge of life), and is regarded as something that can be squandered or carefully guarded. When approached with care, the preservation of life also slows down the aging process. The image is not one of conquering illness or death (for this comes only from full awakening), but of treating the precious resource of one’s own vitality with wisdom.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
http://www.essentialspirit.com/archives/37

Thoughts about awareness of aging as a spiritual practice in the Suttas?

metta
Chris
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby cooran » Sat Apr 11, 2009 12:14 am

Hello all,

A few more suttas and teachings on Aging:

Aging as a spiritual practice - Good health is simply the slowest way a human being can die......

Aging and Dying by Ven. P. A. Payutto
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/9280/aging.htm

Sn 4.6 Jara Sutta On Decay
Translated from the Pali by John D. Ireland

"Short indeed is this life, this side of a hundred years one dies; whoever lives long even he dies from old age. People grieve for things they are attached to, yet there exist no permanent possessions but just a state of (constant) separation. Seeing this one should no longer live the household life. That which a man imagines to be his will disappear at death. Knowing this a wise man will have no attachment (to anything).
"As a man awakened from sleep no longer sees what happened in his dream, similarly one does not see a loved one who is dead. Those people who were seen and heard and called by their names as such and such, only their names remain when they have passed away. Those greedy for objects of attachment do not abandon sorrow, grief and avarice, but sages having got rid of possessions, live perceiving security. For a bhikkhu with a detached mind, living in a secluded dwelling, it is right, they say, that he no longer shows himself in the abodes (of existence).1
"A sage who is completely independent does not make close friends or enemies. In him sorrow and selfishness do not stay, like water on a lotus leaf. As a lotus is not wetted by water, so a sage is not affected by what is seen or heard, nor by what is perceived by the other senses. A wise man is not deluded by what is perceived by the senses. He does not expect purity by any other way.2 He is neither pleased nor is he repelled (by the six sense-objects)."

Notes
1. There is a play on words here: "bhavana," besides meaning "an abode of existence" also means "a house." So as well as saying, he is not reborn into any realm of existence, the passage also indicates he lives secluded and does not associate with people in the village.
2. By any way other than the Noble Eightfold Path (Comy).
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html

From Discourses
On one occasion Buddha sat warming his back in the western sun. Then Ananda went to the him and massaged his limbs with his hand and said, "It is amazing, lord. It is astounding, how the Blessed One's complexion is no longer so clear and bright; his limbs are flabby and wrinkled; his back, bent forward; there's a discernible change in his faculties - the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."
"That is the way it is, Ananda. When young, one is subject to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject to death. The complexion is no longer so clear and bright; the limbs are flabby and wrinkled; the back, bent forward; there is a discernible change in the faculties - the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."
"Those who live to a hundred are all headed to an end in death."
[From SN 48.41, Jara Sutta - Old Age]

The aging of beings, their old age, brokenness of teeth, grayness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of life, weakness of faculties - this is called aging. With the arising of birth there is the arising of aging and death.
[From MN 9, Sammaditthi Sutta, v. 21-22 - The Discourse on Right View]

The householder Nakulapita went to the Blessed One and said, "Bhagavan, I am a feeble old man, aged, advanced in years, having come to the last stage of life. I am afflicted in body and ailing with every moment. And it is only rarely that I get to see the Bhagavan and the monks who nourish the heart. May the Bhagavan teach me, may the Bhagavan instruct me, for my long-term benefit and happiness."
"So it is, householder. The body is afflicted, weak, and encumbered. So you should train yourself: 'Even though I may be afflicted in body, my mind will be unafflicted.' That is how you should train yourself."
Sariputta added: "And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? A well-instructed disciple has regard for noble ones and is well-versed and disciplined in their Dharma; has regard for men of integrity and is well-versed and disciplined in their Dharma - his form changes and alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change and alteration."
[Excerpts from SN 22.1, Nakulapita Sutta.]
On one occasion two brahmans - feeble old men, aged, advanced in years, having come to the last stage of life, 120 years old - went to Buddha and said to him: "Master Gotama, we are brahmans - feeble old men, aged, advanced in years, having come to the last stage of life, 120 years old. Teach us, Master Gautama. Instruct us, Master Gautama, for our long-term benefit and happiness."
Buddha taught:
"This world is swept away by aging, by illness, by death.
For one swept on by aging no shelters exist.
Keeping sight of this danger in death, do meritorious deeds that bring bliss.
Make merit while alive.
When the world is on fire with aging and death, one should salvage [future wealth] by giving:"
[From AN 3.51 and 52, Dvejana Sutta - Two People 1 and 2]

How can aging and the signs of aging be used as a spiritual practice? Mostly, I don't want to see them - so that is just dosa.

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---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: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:12 am

Hi Chris

Years ago I had the good fortune to work for a funeral director for a short period of time. I was sent out with another employee to 'pick up business' but in a very short period of time I was doing just about everything bar the administration and meet and greet with the family members. At the end of my three-month employment I was even helping out in the morgue making up bodies for family viewings. At the time I was reminded of the cemetary contemplations within the Satipatthana Sutta and I used the opportunity to make my work part of my practice. I haven't yet had an opportunity to review Buddhagossa's Vissudhimagga or the suttas to verify whether this is the correct approach.
In the interim, I would recommend that you perhaps review the use of observing the characteristic of anicca of vedana. Many of the effects of aging are the increase of unpleasant sensations associated with this or that condition or the loss of this or that function. And for many of us, it is a more visceral and immediate object rather than something than an object that is outside of our own namarupa.
Metta

Ben
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby SeerObserver » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:27 am

Please listen to this brief, albeit meaningful chanting verse. It is what one should recollect so as to not be attached to one's form. This recording is of Ajahn Brahmavamso, care of Bhikkhu Pesala's aimwell.org website.

I am of the nature to age; I have not gone beyond aging.
I am of the nature to sicken; I have not gone beyond sickness.
I am of the nature to die; I have not gone beyond dying.

All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.
I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma,
abide supported by my kamma.
Whatever kamma I shall do, for good or for ill, of that I will be the heir.
Thus we should frequently recollect.

:anjali:

Anjali to both venerables.
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Apr 11, 2009 6:01 am

Theres a series of talks here on the Heavenly Messengers that I found useful, since some of them discusss practise to do with old age and death.
http://www.imsb.org/teachings/audioSeries.php

Metta
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby Zack » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:55 pm

The Five subjects for frequent recollection
are one of the few forms of practice I have been able to maintain consistently over the years.
I find it to be most beneficial to start every day with them.

There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

I am subject to aging,
I am not exempt from aging.

I am subject to illness,
I am not exempt from illness.

I am subject to death,
I am not exempt from death.

There will be change and separation from all that I hold dear and near to me.

I am the owner of my actions (karma),
Heir to my actions, I am born of my actions, I am related to my actions and I have my actions as refuge. Whatever I do, good or evil, of that I will be the heir.

These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.
I am of nature to decay, I have not gone beyond decay.
I am of the nature to be diseased, I have not gone beyond disease.
I am of the nature to die, I have not done beyond death.
All that is mine, dear and delightful, will change and vanish.
I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, related to
my kamma, abide supported by my kamma. Whatever kamma I shall do,
whether good or evil, of that I shall be the heir.
Thus we should frequently recollect.
- Upajjhatthana Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya v.57
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby cooran » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:31 am

Ben wrote:Hi Chris

Years ago I had the good fortune to work for a funeral director for a short period of time. I was sent out with another employee to 'pick up business' but in a very short period of time I was doing just about everything bar the administration and meet and greet with the family members. At the end of my three-month employment I was even helping out in the morgue making up bodies for family viewings. At the time I was reminded of the cemetary contemplations within the Satipatthana Sutta and I used the opportunity to make my work part of my practice. I haven't yet had an opportunity to review Buddhagossa's Vissudhimagga or the suttas to verify whether this is the correct approach.
In the interim, I would recommend that you perhaps review the use of observing the characteristic of anicca of vedana. Many of the effects of aging are the increase of unpleasant sensations associated with this or that condition or the loss of this or that function. And for many of us, it is a more visceral and immediate object rather than something than an object that is outside of our own namarupa.
Metta

Ben

Hello all,

Thank you for all your posts - they are very helpful and will contribute to my practice.

Ben, I think you got the same affect from your work with the funeral director as I did when working in a hospital with dead patients in the Emergency department, Intensive Care Unit and in Birthsuites.

Frightening at first - having never seen a dead person before - not unusual in Western cultures. But, after a while, death lost much of its impact.

Not to say that an untimely death of a close friend or relative won't have a strong affect. Or getting a terminal diagnosis myself .... not sure how this will feel, but hope it is a fair way off yet.

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---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: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby nathan » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:45 am

I have had the added advantage of coming across corpses, albeit not human thankfully, in the forest, in various states of decomposition. I suggest taking advantage of that should the opportunity ever avail itself. If you find a body in the woods, so long as it is not still fresh enough to be carrion for a large mammal (which poses an ongoing danger from returning carnivores) you may well be able to return to it from time to time as it continues to break down. As for aging while still alive, that seems easily notable with all people regardless of their ages, one simply has to look closely and with an objective eye. Subtle day to day changes are almost always visible to one extent or another.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby cooran » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:50 am

Hello Nathan,

Having had pets and farm animals over the last 25 years, I've seen lots of dead ones - as well as dead native animals and road kill. But I was able to not relate that to "myself".
The corpse of another human being, however, is a different matter. With the babies in birth suites, often the mothers would not give them up for a few days, and one was able to note the colour and smell changes ... which were helpful for the mothers' acceptance of the the reality of what had happened.

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---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: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby nathan » Mon Apr 13, 2009 8:24 am

Chris wrote:Hello Nathan,

Having had pets and farm animals over the last 25 years, I've seen lots of dead ones - as well as dead native animals and road kill. But I was able to not relate that to "myself".
The corpse of another human being, however, is a different matter. With the babies in birth suites, often the mothers would not give them up for a few days, and one was able to note the colour and smell changes ... which were helpful for the mothers' acceptance of the the reality of what had happened.

metta
Chris
I agree that animal corpses aren't the same as human ones but I don't have the same problem relating to it. This body is not that much different really. I was speaking more of the long term decomposition which is very much as described in the classical meditations on that process. That is more or less the same as I have also noted via my associations with morticians over the years. They have to deal with corpses that are found at various stages, weeks, months or years after the fact. Believe me, a corpse after a couple of weeks is better appreciated from a bit of a distance unless you have a gas mask! That must have been very difficult dealing with mothers who lost their infant children. I know those are strong feelings. My heart goes out to them and to you.
:namaste:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Awareness of Aging as a spiritual practice

Postby pink_trike » Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:29 am

My bathroom mirror has been a dedicated teacher over the decades, and it seems that it is just gearing up for the real teachings to come.

If anyone is interested in viewing the stages of human decomposition in a series of graphic corpse photos, PM me to discuss. These aren't for everyone - they are a practice aid - unsuitable for casual curiosity or for folks that are just stepping onto the path.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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