31 July 2013

Beyond the Saved and the Damned

It has become a commonplace among those who believe in an afterlife that everyone goes to heaven.  I have yet to be at a funeral where the assumption wasn't held that the deceased had now entered into his or her eternal reward and that that reward was a pleasing one.  Not one. 

I'm not one for pre- and post-life talk at all, and yet there is something intimated by it that is, all the mystification notwithstanding, spot on.  It's the idea that what we see and hear and feel as ourselves and our lives are but momentary glimpses of a bunch of processes and forces that stretch out endlessly before and after.  The mistake, of course, is to think that this glimpse is definitive and exhaustive, perduring, and on some level unchanging.  A correlative mistake is to think that at the end of this brief glimpse enough is known for it to be given a final reckoning and assessment.  And since no one wants to be mean, I suppose a further mistake is to just to assume everything was just fine and that the balance sheet shows an overall positive sum.

Without wanting to throw the issue completely to the other side, I have to say things were probably closer to the truth when one approached death with a bit of fear and trembling, when the survivors prayed for mercy on the deceased, when the "Dies Irae" was sung.  At least then there was some acknowledgement that the deceased wasn't really all that angelic after all. 

I won't speak about others' faults, but I do know this about myself.  On the day I die there will have been work left undone.  On the day I die I will still be making lapses in body, speech and mind arising from those primal tugs of clinging, aversion and stupor.  On the day I die the "ancient twisted karma" I had acknowledged time and again in the Repentance Gatha will have just gotten another day older in a span of kalpas of kalpas of kalpas.

Positive balance sheet?  Ha!  I hope beyond hope that those who survive me will be kind enough to throw some merit in my direction.  I will most certainly stand in need of it.

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