This past Monday, a staff member at the Insight Meditation Society where I work suddenly died. I mean suddenly. Like, we all saw him on Friday at work and on Sunday he was having lunch with friends.
When people die so suddenly like this, it’s a very big shock. The sense of loss is just so palpable. Walking by his office and knowing that he’s not in there is almost too much to comprehend. The heart becomes tenderized and can feel the loss deeply. Life is put into perspective as the presence of death cuts through all that is not important.
So, on the one hand, death is an incredibly potent and heart opening and wrenching event. And, on the other hand, nothing happened that is not always happening. All conditioned experience is subject to decay and death. It’s the world we live in.
Someone once asked the Buddha, “The world, the world, what is the world?” The Buddha replied, “In so far as it disintegrates, it is the world.” Life doesn’t skip a beat when someone dies, because it’s not outside of what is always happening. Monday after work I went to the shop and picked up my car that was being worked on, went home, and had dinner.
I find these two facets of death living side by side fascinating. How can we fully inhabit both? I don’t think there is a teaching that will tell us how to do that. I think we each have to live into this question in our own way.