The Five Remembrances


I am of the nature to age.
I have not gone beyond aging.

I am of the nature to sicken.
I have not gone beyond sickness.

I am of the nature to die.
I have not gone beyond dying.

All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.

I am the owner of my karma,
Heir to my karma,
Born of my karma,
Related to my karma,
Abide supported by my karma.
Whatever karma I shall do, for good or for ill, of that I will be the heir.

— The Buddha

The Five Remembrances

Life is often the unexpected. Not only did the Buddha say in the First Noble Truth that it was impermanent but that we cannot count on being in a body; it is unreliable. We are unable to control the thoughts that arise, the emotions that come and fade away, and the feeling tones of what present itself as pleasant or unpleasant. It is often quite a task to be a human navigating up and down the path of life with all its myriad twists and turns.

This became very present for me on Wednesday, June 14, when a message came that my oldest granddaughter’s boyfriend was no longer alive. The immediacy was a shock, the message written with compassion and lacking all the information of what exactly happened. How could this be — a young man of 21, a budding musician, a polite and caring person who I had just seen in Denver at the high school graduation party for my granddaughter. He was just telling me that he was moving into a new apartment, had found a better paying job… he seemed happy. How could this be, as the saying goes “here today, gone tomorrow”?

After the initial shock waves settled, all I could do was think of my granddaughter and the uncanny events that had just transpired: her loss, her plans, all the fear, sorrow and anger that may be passing through her. No good answers, mainly loved ones to be around for support and solace and professionals in the field to speak to her.

Outpourings of love began filling her Facebook page, his page, and then the amazing amount of photos of him or them together, happy, content, peaceful, and smiling. This is so much for an 18 year old to go through at the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. What could I do to be a source of help for her?

Someone mentioned candles and I found a long burning, natural scented candle that I placed on a table in the living room to honor his spirit and the “everlasting light” that burns within us all. It filled the house with fragrant aromas and there was no way to forget what it was burning for. This is a small token. Then I remembered I had a photo of all three of us taken last September at a concert my granddaughter was performing in and I posted it as the background picture on my Facebook wall and then found a lovely photo of her and I smiling at each other to place as the personal picture on the page; this felt good. And it’s been on my computer screen for several days to honor him and her and hold them in my heart/mind.

Buddhism informs us, from the beginning teachings such as the “Five Remembrances,” that we are vulnerable, that life does contain suffering, unreliability, and stress. It also lets us know the cause of it is clinging or attachment to what we want, what is changing, what we do not like or want. And it also tells us that there can be an end to these difficulties if we follow what the Buddha called “The Noble Eight Fold Path…to Happiness.” He advised us to read the Five Remembrances daily and to stay awake to them and to follow this path that can free us from mental afflictions, hindrances, and to remember to meditate. It is possible to bring ease, calm, and equanimity to the mind in the midst of tragedy and uncertainty.

May my granddaughter and her boyfriend be blessed and live in peace.
May all family, friends, and neighbors rest in peace.
May our beloved pets, plants, and mother earth be held in peace.
And may all beings everywhere live in peace.

Please be aware that I will be taking a 6-week break beginning June 29, with classes resuming again on August 22. Please have a wonderful summer, whatever you do. There will not be another blog until mid August. Take care and be well.