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Contemplating Death in the 11th Century

Updated: Apr 23

Today I am thinking about my dead people. 

The people I love that are no longer here.

I am thinking about how little or much they suffered while they were dying.I

I feel like most of them met suffering; knew suffering; suffered.

So, I turned my attention to this amazing reflection that I use often in my classes and with clients.

It's the Nine Contemplations of Death, a Buddhist writing attributed to Atisha, an 11th century Tibetan scholar. I hope you will find it as calming and meaningful as I do.

The First Contemplation

Death is inevitable, no one is exempt.

Holding this thought in mind, I abide in the breath.

The Second Contemplation

Our life span is decreasing continuously, every breath brings us closer to death.

Holding this thought in mind, I delve deeply into truth.

The Third Contemplation

Death will indeed come, whether or not we are prepared.

Holding this thought in mind, I enter more fully into the body of life.

The Fourth Contemplation

Human life expectancy is uncertain, death can come at any time.

Holding this thought in mind, I listen with utmost care to every sound.

The Fifth Contemplation

There are many causes of death— habits, desires, accidents can be precipitants.

Holding this thought in mind, I consider the myriad possibilities.

The Sixth Contemplation

The human body is fragile and vulnerable, our life hangs by a breath.

Holding this thought in mind, I attend to each inhalation-exhalation.

The Seventh Contemplation

At the time of death, our material resources are of no use to us.

Holding this thought in mind, I invest wholeheartedly in the practice.

The Eight Contemplation

Our loved ones cannot keep us from death, there is no delaying its advent.

Holding this thought in mind, I exercise non-grasping and clinging.

The Ninth Contemplation

Our body cannot help us at the time of death, it too will be lost at that moment.

Holding this thought in mind, I strengthen my capacity for release.

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