If we can sit in meditation, we can consider ourselves fortunate. If we cannot sit, we have no means but to lie down to meditate. People who can sit are still physically strong, but what about the ones who cannot even sit, who are very weak?! For example, a person who is so ill that death is very near cannot get up. Sitting up to meditate is impossible because every breath is permeated with suffering and delusion.
These are the states of mind which we have to consider. When time is available we must quickly sit down to our practice. If we can only do it when lying down, our opportunity has been lost because sensation will dominate us. We will be beaten completely. Moaning of every ache and pain, we suffer terribly … Why have I not recovered? Why am I in this condition? Why? All these repeated questions have no answer.
The main reasons for suffering are that we have a body and mind; and that there is birth! Thus there is pain and weariness, old age and death. We must always consider these reasons in order to become wise. As long as we possess physical forms, we cannot escape illness.
Good hearing can subsequently deteriorate. At one time one could hear everything clearly, later on all sorts of sounds become very soft. It is like some kind of wind gets into one ear and goes out of the other. Good eyesight weakens and we cannot see as clearly as before. Sometimes we look at one person but see two. Delicious food becomes tasteless. Wherever we used to go and enjoy ourselves, we have no strength for an outing anymore. This is the way things are.
If there is birth, everyone will have to accept this and consider that nothing can put an end to it. Do not grieve, just accept it. Contemplate the arising of suffering and try to understand and see through the whole process with sharp awareness. Do not try to resist or suppress it. Otherwise restlessness will cause more suffering.
Suppose we are taken to the hospital. Do not struggle because the time has come for us to be there. In the past we were not in this condition but it is natural for the body to be affected by illness. No one can forbid it to happen or control it.
Studying Buddhism helps us to release our mind from anxiety, confusion and ignorance of reality. Unfortunately, most of the time, people really cannot help themselves when they are ill; they have no Sati, Samadhi, or knowledge and understanding of their own emotions. They talk in their sleep, they are worried, and are full of impulses, emotions, wrong thoughts and imaginings.
These people have no right view whatsoever because they have never practiced Morality and Kammatthana (meditation exercises). They therefore cannot help themselves. Offering food and requisites to the order or taking precepts, and being taught by a monk are not beneficial at all because they cannot control their own minds as sensation completely dominates them. They have to depend only on medicine and doctors until they die. This sort of help cannot bring peace and in the end confusion will remain.
We must train our minds first in order to understand them clearly, and we can then control sensations. The mind must be above sensation whatever happens in our lives if we want happiness. Unfortunately people do not think that they will encounter suffering. We must prepare to confront the unexpected suffering which we have not experienced before, such as the suffering of old age and illness.
If we have never broken our teeth, we must prepare ourselves for it happening. Later on they will break and drop out. The hair which is not grey will eventually be grey. Smooth skin will wrinkle and strong bodies will weaken. All these changes show us the suffering within our bodies as they do not really belong to us. We cannot think of our bodies as ourselves. (We have to realize always that the body is mirage-like because it is essentially insubstantial.)
In fact these sufferings, such as unendurable pain or being carried to the hospital with a fatal illness, will happen to us one of these days because it is inevitable. We must consider all these to prepare our mind, and then if it happens, we will not suffer. Always think in this way and bear it in mind. This is not a curse but is a cause of mental calm.