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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Death is anything but a neutral word; it comes with a huge emotional charge but it is, after all, a word. As the spiritual teacher, J. Krishnamurti, often observed: "The word is not the thing." What would it be like to approach death without all the associations--images, reactions, memories--that accompany the word?

This may seem all but impossible, at first glance. A meditative approach to death enables one to notice reactions and release them. Slowly, as an inward stillness spreads through one's being, death is approached with emptiness. There is a story about a professor who wished to study Zen. He visited a monastery, where an old Zen teacher greeted him and politely offered the professor a cup of tea. As the old master poured the tea into the professor's cup, it quickly began to spill over and the professor exclaimed: "What are you doing?! You've poured too much." The Zen teacher replied: "If you wish to study Zen, you must come with an empty cup."

Emptiness itself, far from something to be feared, brings one closer to understanding death--the unfathomable. Death is beyond the field of the known, remembered, conceived.

that old urn
now empty
gathering light

zen garden
stands out

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