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Meditation on Death/Impermanence
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4/14/10 4:34 AM
I might as well spill this latest one out here too. Am just emerging from the state of emotional shock and awe from a recent trip to Varanasi. We stood at the burning ghats, principally, Manikarnika Ghat, three times we did this, generally for a one hour meditation each time, standing meditating/witnessing. They bring the body of their family member wrapped in cloth, build a bed to the funeral pyre, lay the wrapped body on it, and add more wood. A very dense hard wood that burns very hot and clean. There is little or no detectable odor to the smoke. It burns very hot and is like a furnace blast on us as we stand as close as we could be allowed to stand out of respect at maybe 10 or 14 yards away. Periodically, the same man takes a long wooden pole and turns a leg or piece of wood into the hottest part of the fire. At one point, sillouetted against the Ganges below, I could make out the upper torso and head being picked up on the long wooden pole and re-placed into the densest hotest part of the inferno. We stayed on the breath throughout this. No mosquitoes due to the intense heat. There were five fires, each consuming a corpse. Family members awaited nearby each of the fires that reached ten feet into the night sky. They say it takes two hours or so for total cremation. They build one fire on a bed of still furiously hot coals from the last, twenty four hours a day.

This was a very compelling meditation. I can see why it is called the supreme meditation. The emotional aftershocks are now only now dying back for my nervous system, after a month back from the trip. It was useful medicine for this old man to see my fate, to feel it and weep for what is inevitable. For the ultimate attainment, death and utter extinction. To leave my wife behind to mourn. This has been an incredibly useful trip spiritually. Make no mistake about it, the Door of Impermanence is a noble lesson. Dark Night Despair is inevitable with this one, even for the advanced meditator. A sobering cup. So add this to your repertoire too my friends if you need to enter through that Door as I did. But who among us doesn't? Thank God for India.
unedited,
J

RE: Meditation on Death/Impermanence
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4/14/10 5:25 AM as a reply to J C.
The deaths of my much loved grandparents at a formative age (I was between ages 9 and 15) left me with an indelible sense of impermanence.

Thanks for the post. It's a timely reminder.

RE: Meditation on Death/Impermanence
Answer
4/16/10 2:43 AM as a reply to J C.
Yeah, I really got a lot out of those same ghats with very similar impressions, though I remember thinking that burning human flesh smelled eerily like Bar-B-Q...

I also agree, Thanks Be to Mother India, which, while obviously a technicolor catastrophe, is completely amazing in ways I never would have imagined until I went there.