Sunday Dharma Talk: On Turning 80 - A Shambhala Buddhist Perspective On Old Age and Death

with John Hanagan

October 21st

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    On leaving his palace in his late twenties, the young Siddhartha was shocked to witness the suffering of sickness, old age, and death. It was this realization that set him on the path to Buddhahood. Caught up in the Sunset World, people scramble to find pleasure and avoid pain; and all this striving ends up in death and decay. As Trungpa Rinpoche asks: “Is this all a joke?”

    The outer ring of the famous Tibetan Thangka of the Wheel of Life depicts the inevitable co-dependent arising of birth and death, and the early sutras are eloquent on the pain and suffering of Jara (old age) and Marana (Death).  There is, in fact, a Jara Sutra that quotes the Buddha as saying

     

    I spit on you, old age —

    old age that makes for ugliness.

    The bodily image, so charming,

    is trampled by old age.

    Even those who live to a hundred

    are headed — all — to an end in death,

    which spares no one,

    which tramples all.

     

    Yet we long for longevity. As he enters his ninth decade of life, John will reflect upon his past and current experiences, his confidence and his fears, drawing upon the wisdom of Buddhism and Shambhala, with an occasional foray into the inspiring insights of wise teachers from other traditions, such as Lao Tsu and Plato. Spoiler alert: John is not quite ready to spit on old age. In this talk, he will do his best to explain why.

     


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