47. The Mahayana instruction for ejection of consciousness at death is the five strengths. How you conduct yourself is important.
This second slogan about the Five Strengths calls us to make friends with death. Because we are born, we die. Here are the Five Strengths as they apply to this slogan:
- Strong Determination: I will maintain basic sanity, even in dying.
- Familiarization: I will refrain from panic at death.
- Seed of Virtue: There is no break from the fear of death. This is the time to overcome attachments.
- Reproach: Death is caused by ego, so this is the time to let it go.
- Aspiration: While dying, may I continue to open. There is nothing to hold on to and nothing to regret. I rest my mind in the nature of alaya and breathe.
A number of years ago I lived in northern Virginia and enjoyed the many mountain biking trails in the area. One day I was enjoying a fabulous ride on a set of trails that was new to me. At one point I came sweeping around a turn in the trail and ran directly into the cut end of a small tree that extended horizontally, slightly into the trail. It impacted me right at the top of my ribcage, just below my throat. I was knocked backward off the bike and landed heavily on my back. As I lay on the ground, struggling to breathe, I remembered this slogan. While I couldn’t recall the specifics, or even what the five strengths were, I remembered to just breathe and rest my mind. This helped me calm down and realize that I was not actually dying – I just had the wind knocked out of me. I hope that when the actual moment of my dying arrives that I am able to remember this slogan and die well.