Remembering a friend who has passed away, we reflect on the nature of reality – that birth and death are merely illusions projected by our minds. From the perspective of emptiness, we are inseparable from those around us. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:
This body is not me,
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today,
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet again at the source of every moment.
We will meet each other in all forms of life.
(Thich Nhat Hanh Plum Village and Chanting Book Parallax Press: Berkeley 2000)
Death is a change of state – a passage to our next life. The loss of a loved one inspires us to develop the spiritual qualities to help all beings find freedom from the endless circle of birth and death. The King of Prayers, a Tibetan Buddhist prayer, contains the following passage:
May I purify an ocean of worlds,
May I free an ocean of beings,
May I clearly see an ocean of Dharma,
May I realize an ocean of pristine wisdom.
May I purify an ocean of activities,
May I fulfill an ocean of aspirations,
May I make offerings to an ocean of buddhas,
May I practice without discouragement for an ocean of eons.
We visualize a perfect world free of hatred, greed, and all forms of dissatisfaction. A world which we take responsibility for creating:
May sentient beings acquire everything that is beneficial and desired by the mind: clothing, food, drink, flower garlands, sandal-paste and ornaments.
May the fearful become fearless and those struck by grief find joy. May the despondent become resolution and free of trepidation.
May the ill have good health. May they be freed from every bondage. May the weak become strong and have affectionate hearts for one another.
(excerpt from the Indian poet Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life)
Andy Smith, Community Producer for the Washington Post, wrote an article that weaves together prayers of remembrance from several religious traditions. He included the second quote presented above. The article was published in the May 25th, 2012 paper. It is interesting to see the prayers side by side.