The Cycle of Birth and Death

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Soon after Lodewijk’s passing away I decided to undertake alone a journey to Thailand. In January 2013 Acharn Sujin, Sarah and other friends had organized a three weeks sojourn in Thailand for a group of Vietnamese friends and other friends from different countries whom I have known for a long time. There were three different trips outside Bangkok: to Hua Hin which is near the sea, to Wang Nam Khiao or Korat, in the North East, and to Kaeng Krachan, a place where Acharn Sujin and Khun Duangduen regularly stay and where we often had visited them before.
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    1   In Memory of Lodewijk. The Cycle of Birth and Death  by  Nina van Gorkom Preface Soon after Lodewijk‟s passing away I decided to undertake alone a journey to Tha i-land. In January 2013 Acharn 1  Sujin, Sarah and other friends had organized a three weeks sojourn in Thailand for a group of Vietnamese friends and other friends from different countries whom I have known for a long time. There were three different trips outside Bangkok: to Hua Hin which is near the sea, to Wang Nam Khiao or Ko-rat, in the North East, and to Kaeng Krachan, a place where Acharn Sujin and Khun 2  Duangduen regularly stay and where we often had visited them before. I had never thought that I would come to Thailand again, but it all happened accord- ing to conditions. Thanks to Sarah‟s e ncouragement I could undertake this journey, and I am most grateful for the kind concern and moral support of Sarah, Jonothan and the other friends. I was surrounded by a group of sympathetic friends who were al-ways ready to give me assistance. When I was young and I married my beloved one I did not think that there must be an ending too. That seemed so far away. When the end comes it is so hard to accept the unavoidable. We keep on thinking of stories, beautiful ones and sad ones. Thinking is a reality, it arises for a moment and then falls away. The stories we think of are not realities, they are imaginations. Throughout our journey Acharn Sujin was never tired of explaining again and again the true nature of what appears right now, at this moment, like seeing, visible object, hearing, sound or thinking. I am very grateful to her that she time and again reminded us of the present moment, the reality appearing now. That is the only moment the true nature of a reality can be investigated. This helped me to understand that the truth in the ultimate sense (in Pali: paramattha dhamma) is quite different from concepts and stories which are made up by our imagination and which we find so important. We may think for a long time about what happened in the past, about other people, what they did and said, but such moments are different from developing understand-   1   Acharn is the Thai word for teacher. In Pali: ācariya.   2   Khun is the Thai word for Mr. or Mrs.      2   ing of realities that appear now, one at a time. The whole of the Buddha‟s teachings deal with the present moment. It is beneficial to constantly hear about seeing, visible object, hearing or thinking that can be directly known when they appear. Otherwise we forget what is reality and what is not and we spend our days dreaming about what is not reality. A great lesson I learnt while in Thailand. These constant reminders were most helpful to me. *******    3   Chapter 1. What is Life?   In the “Kindred Sayings”, II, 180 (Nidā na, Ch XV, § 4, Tears) we read that the Bud-dha said at S ā vatth  ī  : “Incalculable is the beginning, brethren, of this faring on. The earliest  point is not re-vealed of the running on, faring on, of beings cloaked in ignorance, tied to craving. As to that, what think you, brethren? Which is greater:- the flood of tears shed by you crying and weeping as you fare on, run on this long while, united as you have been with the undesirable, sundered as you have been from the desirable, or the waters in the four seas?”   “As we allow, lord, that we have been taught by the Exalted One, it is this that is greater: the flood of tears shed by us crying and weeping as we fare on, run on this long while, united as we have been with the undesirable, sundered as we have been from the desirable- not the waters in the four seas.” “Well said! Well said, brethren! Well do you allow that so has been the doctrine been taught by me. Truly the flood of tears is greater... For many a long day, brethren, have you experienced the death of mother, of son, of daughter, have you experienced the ruin of kinsfolk, of wealth, the calamity of dis-ease... Why is that? Incalculable is the beginning, brethren, of this faring on. The earliest  point is not revealed of the running on, faring on, of beings cloaked in ignorance, tied to craving. Thus far enough is there, brethren, for you to be repelled by all the things of this world, enough to lose all passion for them, enough to be delivered therefrom.”  We are born, we die and then we are born again, this goes on and on so long as we are in the cycle of birth and death. Each life is very short, before we realize it it comes to an end. When we are reborn we do not remember our life as it is at present,  just as at this moment we do not remember our past life. What has fallen away never comes back and this is true of each moment of consciousness, and each physical real-ity. Each moment will be immediately past, but we are deluded and take mental phe-nomena and physical phenomena for permanent and self. The Buddha taught about realities in detail so that they can be understood as non-self (in Pali: anatt ā ). For a few days I stayed in the same hotel as my friends Sarah and Jonothan, the Pen-insula hotel in Bangkok. I spent a happy time in their company and throughout my  journey they gave me kind advice when I was in trouble. From my window I looked across the river to the Oriental Hotel where Lodewijk and I had enjoyed many pleas-ant days. These belong to the past now. The next day I heard that a good friend, Ivan Walsh, had died suddenly. We went to the temple where rituals were performed and where later on the cremation would take  place. Here Ac harn Sujin and several friends were present. In the morning Acharn‟s    4   sister, Khun Sujid, and Khun Sujid‟s daughter had still seen Ivan on the street, and now he is another person. It can all happen so suddenly. The departing from this life is similar to the departing from last life. When we passed away from last life and we were born into this life, all that happened in the past is forgotten. It is difficult to accept this because of our clinging. We do not like the idea of being forgotten by our beloved one who passed away to another life. Acharn explained to me that it is also difficult to accept the truth of this moment: “Whom do you see? There is always someone, even now.” In reality there is no pe r-son, there is no one who can stay. What we take for a person is consciousness (in Pa-li: citta), mental factor arising with consciousness (in Pali: cetasika) and physical  phenomena (in Pali: r  ū  pa). These are only fleeting mental phenomena and physical  phenomena which arise and then fall away immediately. Seeing-consciousness is a moment of consciousness, a citta, that sees only what is visible, visible object, which is a physical phenomenon, a r  ū  pa. It sees visible object  just for an extremely short moment, and then it falls away. After the seeing has fallen away we think with attachment about things and persons we believe we see. It seems that we see them, but in reality we do not see them, seeing has fallen away already. Because of remembrance, saññ ā , a cetasika (mental factor) arising with each citta, we think of persons and things and we believe that they stay. In reality seeing, visible ob- ject or thinking arise for a very short moment and then fall away. They are mere ele- ments and nobody can change their nature. Acharn said: “What has fallen away never com es back again, never, never.”  I said that it is so sorrowful when I think about Lodewijk, that he never comes back. Acharn answered: “Think of yesterday. Where were you yesterday? And think of this morning, where were you? There is no one at all, just this moment. We have to be very courageous to know that this is true. Even when there is unpleasant feeling, it is just a moment. It has arisen, and if it had not arisen it could not be here right now.”    Nina: “Right understanding is so weak.”   Acharn: “Yes,  because of the self, because of you. But when it is not you it is only the nature of an element. So, we do not mind how many lives will come because we cannot force the ending of the cycle without conditions. It has to be like this. But  paññ ā  (understanding of realities) develops and develops. That is why the Buddha taught us the J ā takas, the stories of his previous lives as a Bodhisatta. Each reality has gone, sound, sight, nothing is left. Is one attached to someone in one's thoughts? But actually there a re only seeing, thinking, visible object.”  The Buddha, during countless previous lives as a Bodhisatta, developed wisdom, right understanding, so that in his last life he could become the omniscient Buddha. He developed right understanding again and again of seeing, visible object, hearing,
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