In this extraordinary series, Geshe Tashi gives us regular updates on the Coronavirus Pandemic amongst the Tibetan diaspora in India through the lens of Sera Monastery, home to around 6,000 monks. In response to emails requesting advice on Coronavirus and Buddhist practice, he generously shares his observations, thoughts and teachings in his usual warm-hearted and accessible style.
In this episode, Geshe Tashi comments on the fifth verse from Lama Tsongkhapa’s “The Essence of a Human Life.” When we hear of the deaths of others, we can turn this into a positive teaching, reminding ourselves that as long as we are born, we must die. The building blocks of our body and the person dying are the same, the processes are the same, we both need to breathe from the mouth to the lungs, we are the same. For us too, death is certain and the time of death uncertain. Not just at the end of our life, but now, moment by moment, we are dying. Geshe Tashi asks us to practice mindfulness around death, actively recalling the understandings we have from our contemplations and meditations on death, and training to hold those understanding in awareness throughout our day.
In the last part of the Practicing Buddhism section, Geshe Tashi continues his explanation of the Eight Fears that Tara helps us overcome. Yesterday he looked at the first, pride, which from a Buddhist perspective, in contrast to self-confidence and self-esteem, is always a negative emotion. Today he discusses the second fear, ignorance. If we can cultivate mindfulness and conscientiousness, then we can avoid becoming lost in the objects of our senses and the kind of madness and ignorance that follow.
We are conscious the words seem a bit bleak on the page. It is all sobering stuff, yet as usual Geshe la teaches by example, sharing with us a lightness of touch around the dharma, a sense of joy and ease that, it seems, he invites us to share.
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The Essence of a Human Life (verse 5)
Words of Advice for the Lay Practitioner
Think, therefore, upon seeing and hearing of others’ deaths,
“I am no different, death will come,
its certainty in no doubt, but no certainty as to when.
I must say farewell to body, wealth, and friends,
but good and bad deeds will follow like shadows.
p.211 The Splendour of an Autumn Moon, Lama Tsongkhapa, trans. Gavin Kilty.
Khen Rinpoche Geshe Tashi Tsering taught in London for over 25 years and is currently Abbot of Sera Mey Monastery in Karnataka State, India.