Streamlining: Guiding Principles

In sorting through accumulated notes, books, journals, magazines, personal items, letters and cards, as well as CD’s – stored in boxes (from several moves), drawers, cupboards – I became mindful of the following insights:

1. Select appropriate beneficiaries for precious items.

These include:

a. Buddhist materials – Dharma books and Dharma materials (cards, images, course workbooks, etc.)

b. Personal valuable possessions – such as iPhone, iWatch, iPad, and MacBook

c. Money – gift money and other savings

2. Donate what is fitting to do so.

These include:

a. Christian books, booklets, magazines, and files

b. Secular books and booklets

c. Clothes, shoes, and accessories

3. Dispose of what should be relinquished!

These include:

a. Brochures, papers, and miscellaneous knick-knacks

b. Secular files – that have served their purpose

c. Worn-out clothes and old electronic items

4. Streamline my life.

This includes the following:

a. Strive for minimum maintenance – because energy and resources are precious.

b. Strive for utmost simplicity – because time is precious.

c. Monitor all tasks and activities – ask: Is it necessary? Is it profitable? Is it the best use of time and energy?

5. Make decisions where needed.

Decide regarding:

a. Details of will

b. Websites – in memorium

c. Specific funeral wishes

6. Know what is crucial at the time of death.

a. Know with certainty what will help at that critical hour! Only the Dharma will help, so I must practice with diligence.

b. Realize that I must part with my body, family, relatives, friends, others, and all possessionseverything!

c. Remember that while death is certain and inevitable, its timing is uncertain!

7. Realize that my life is extremely precious.

Think of the time, energy, resources, freedoms, and opportunities presently at hand for me. Therefore:

a. Focus on spiritual priorities – the inner transformation.

b. Don’t get involved in longer-term mundane, unfruitful projects.

c. Don’t get entangled in unprofitable relationships.

8. Realize the difficulty of obtaining the freedoms and riches I presently have!

a. Meditate until comprehension and genuine certainty has arisen that the freedoms and riches I possess are difficult to obtain and easily lost, and that they have many benefits.

b. Exert myself with great perseverance – day and night – in study, reflection, and meditation.

c. Earnestly apply myself to developing bodhicitta (the mind of enlightenment).

d. Decide to constantly carry out wholesome actions, from today on, untiringly. (Since I create my own karma, I must abandon vice.)

9. Ponder earnestly impermanence and death.

a. It is certain that I will die! No matter how much people try to hold on to life and prepare to stay, they do not succeed. There is not a single being who has stayed alive without dying.

b. I will die soon, not knowing exactly when. The life span here is uncertain. Death approaches imperceptibly. With every year, month, and day that goes by, death comes closer little by little. Death comes quickly.

c. I will die without having had the time to purify my harmful actions. This is because my life span is uncertain, and the causes of death are numerous.

d. Therefore, practice the Dharma continually. It does not make sense to take it easy, thinking, at least today I will not die. The time when I will disappear will come without a doubt.

e. The Lord of Death will pop up against my will – while I am thinking of getting my unfinished worldly affairs done little by little. Therefore, I should not try to achieve worldly aims concerning this life, but rather pursue what is of benefit for future lives. Since we do not know whether tomorrow or the next life will come first, we should not concentrate on tomorrow but rather on the next life.

f. Nobody can prevent death. At the time of death, I have to leave everything behind, except the fruits of my actions. I go naked and empty-handed. At that time, meritorious karma will be my sole protection.

g. I will leave this world behind and go to the world beyond – a great relocation takes place, and I will enter a great darkness. At that time, there will be no other refuge, place of rest, friend and helper apart from the Dharma. At that time, the Dharma will be my island, my protector, my place of rest, and my teacher.

h. The holy beings of the past were inspired by impermanence, gave up concerns for this present life, and concentrated solely on spiritual practice. Be stirred by impermanence and practice the Dharma without wasting time.

i. Reflect about the uncertainty of the moment of death, make short term plans, develop weariness with worldly things, and with an intense feeling of urgency, spend my time with spiritual practice day and night. Don’t get lost in laziness!

j. Finally, at the time of death, nothing whatsoever will be of any use except the Dharma. Sometimes imagine how I am struck by an illness and die, how my corpse is carried to the crematorium, and how my consciousness roams powerlessly like a feather blown by the wind!

10. Reflect deeply on karma, that is, cause and effect.

a. Think about the following: Since my next birth depends on the actions I have committed, I will practice according to the law of cause and effect – not confusing what I should do and what I should not do.

b. Resolve: I shall examine my mind and strive to refrain from harmful actions and accomplish wholesome actions.

c. Remember that if I refrain even from the smallest harmful action, carry out even the smallest wholesome action, and persistently train my mind in love, compassion, and bodhicitta, I accomplish the purpose of the Buddha’s teaching.

d. Generally speaking, all happiness and suffering arises due to actions.

11. Understand samsara, the vicious circle of conditioned existence.

a. There is no place in this round of conditioned existence – from the top of the world to the incessant hell – which is beyond suffering.

b. Having seen that everything in samsara – places, friends, possessions, fame – is futile, I must foster a powerful determination, thinking, “I will by all means cut the attachment to samsara and achieve the state of liberation and omniscience.”

c. Think, “for the benefit of all living beings, I must by all means accomplish the state of unsurpassable, genuine, complete buddhahood.”

d. Abandon projects of this life, give up the craving for sense pleasures, cast far away the eight worldly concerns, keep the certainty of death in my heart, and perceive the round of conditioned existence as painful.

e. Develop a sense of futility regarding the vicious circle of conditioned existence, the frustrations of a household, entertainments, distractions, and projects of this life.

f. Because of unawareness, I have been attached since beginningless time to an “I” where there is no “I”, and to a self where there is no self. From this arises the illusory perception of samsara and the torment of the three types of suffering: the suffering of conditioned existence, the suffering of change, and the suffering of pain.

Note: Points #8, 9, 10, 11 taken from Mahamudra: The Ocean of True Meaning by Karmapa Wangchug Dorje.

Alexander Peck (March 5, 2020)

Our worldly priorities can be ironic. We place first what we think we want most; then we discover that our wanting is insatiable. Paying off the house, writing the book, making the business successful, setting up the retirement, taking the big trip—things that are temporarily on top of our list of priorities completely consume our time and energy. And then at the end of life, we look back and wonder what all those things meant.
(Tulku Chagdud Rinpoche)