In the course of training, the more one contemplates, the more one exerts oneself. When the Buddha taught Ananda to contemplate death every time he breathed in and out, it meant he taught him to contemplate the contamination within his own body.
To think about one’s own death is against the worldly way of thoughts. Why does one imagine such a dreadful thing? Isn’t it better to think about eating, sleeping, and going out to enjoy oneself. The Buddha, however, asks us to reflect on death which is loathsome and fearful to all of us, because in doing so, the mind will become detached from the idea of ‘self’.
If we are full of Lobha and various thoughts, we will not want to die because death is suffering. We are dominated by craving. When we realise however that death is coming, we can stop suffering because this suffering is eliminated by the frequent thoughts of our death and old age. We will develop Sati which protects us against Nivarana. Samadhi which follows will make our mind light and peaceful. So we must try to train ourselves to study the mind.
Buddhism teaches to study about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Concentration helps us to understand our own mind and the way to get rid of suffering. It also teaches us the primary, intermediate and, finally, the advanced method to end suffering because human beings are full of distress. Some have sorrow, anger and delusion which they cannot endure. When their minds are overwhelmed by a lot of impulses and emotions which are accumulated, the negativities will be expressed through body and mind. Some suffer so much that they have to commit suicide to escape from it all.
If we have practiced the Dhamma, we will know how to correct the mind. If we train ourselves frequently, skilful means will be developed. If we have never sat in meditation, we will be very ignorant because the mind is very difficult to understand. It is a very delicate thing. Some people will think that it is easy, but it is not. Only Ariyamagga will make us understand our minds and destroy Anusaya which are buried in the intrinsic qualities of character. Consequently wisdom will arise.
If defilements are not eradicated, wisdom will not be developed because, from our conditioning, we have not realised the truth and cannot get rid of delusion. We are still attached to suffering all the time. When there is illness, suffering, happiness and joy, we assume that it is ‘we’ who experience all these. ‘We’ are ill, ‘we’ are old, ‘we’ have pain, ‘we’ die. We cling to different statuses and never let go of the bodies which consist of Rupa (corporeality) and Nama (mind). If we are deluded, our contemplation will not be effective.
Therefore we must try to meditate in order to gain wisdom, to have sharp awareness of our minds, and to see how we are deluded by impulses and emotions. We must ask ourselves these questions: “When we sit for a long period, is there suffering? What is the cause of suffering?” As long as we have 5 aggregates (body, feeling, perception, intentional activities and consciousness), we will have suffering and will always have to put up with it.
If anything happens to affect our minds, whether it is grief or confusion, we will know straight away that suffering has arisen. Are we delighted? Regretful? Melancholic? … Yes, we are full of misery. Why does only missing someone or something make us so unhappy? The answer lies with attachment to this person or that person, and to this object or that object.
What can we do to stop attachment? We must try to meditate in order to let go. How can we let go when we cannot discipline our minds? We must practice first, practice enough Morality and Samadhi so that when any problem arises, we are ready to let go.