Here’s a photo taken of me in a moment of reflection back around 1994 and below are some of the reflections on where the spirit which inhabits the body whilst we ‘live’ goes when we ‘die’: I’d like to thank those of you who have ‘liked’ this post and all of you who have written to me with your feelings & thoughts, Namaste.
I ‘found’ myself when I finally refrained from looking and chasing around. I had relaxed and was just taking my part in the journey of life. I picked up some notes from 2002 where I had mentioned my then 84 year old mother and my father who had died aged 73 (both born in 1918). My mum lived a further 7 years into her 90s. I was reading the Dalai Lama then as I am now and then I likened him to an alien presence, realising that we all are, as we are visitors to this planet. Our ‘spirit’ or ‘essence’ is merely passing through…However, although I respect their vision I must point out there are millions of other stars and planets out there. Don’t we visit some of them as well?
Tibetan insight into existence would have us believe that what we refer to as ‘life’ is the Bardo of Living and what we see as ‘death’ is their Bardo Of Dying. These are opposites like yin & yang which can’t exist without each other. Tibetan monks see existence as a series of steps or ‘transitions’ through these bardos. We inhabit the bardo of living when we are born and enter the bardo of dying when we ‘depart this mortal coil’. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition says our spirit returns to the bardo of living many (millions of) times in rebirth until we eventually get ‘Enlightenment’ and quit this scene for good.
I been lucky as I been around (in this lifetime) 64 years + some months & days hours minutes & seconds. Let’s crunch numbers- in 1967 when I were 16 Lennon wrote When Am 64 with his old mucka. None of us 16 year olds anticipated back then in 67 that we’d ever be 64 but now 48 yearns later I have become 64 and in 48 years from noo, in October 2063 had I lived that long I’d be 112. Few of us in the west ever think about our deaths as it’s almost taboo to talk about death and writing a blog about the subject is a rather risky ting to do on the face of it but I insist it is a good idea to address the issue before I die cos afterwards it’d be difficult no doubt. I don’t intend to be, and I insist I am not being, morbid. On the contrary I am elucidating to those of you what don’t know the Tibetan take on death is that they take it on early in their thinking lives so that when it does arrive it won’t take them by surprise, they are ready.
Buddhists perceive the human condition as one permeated by ‘suffering’ and their aim is to become a Buddha through gaining Enlightenment. This is intangible to me with the only way to ‘see’ or ‘understand’ it being only by ‘nuance’ or a glimpse.
Occasionally I ‘glimpse’ a sense of the presence of my dead dad. I may see a symbol which represents him for me like a lacewing and often in moments rather appropriate for my memory of time spent with him.
The same applies to seeing or remembering past lives. In a recurring dream I see a 19th century helmet in mud on a battlefield which speaks to me of a previous life-death in the Crimean war. It’s a rather strange view but I ‘get’ that was from a previous life but it would be more convincing if I had a snitchet of conversation or more detail about the site.
I am not sure if the Dalai Lama ‘sees’ his past lives (on Earth, in Tibet) clearly. Until I myself have had such vivid clear sight I remain unsure as to whether anyone else can do so.
Thinking like a materialist or a logical positivist empiricist I could/would say I can tell you what I saw or felt. So, I can look back and see myself walking up Manchester Road in Burnley ahead of my mum who was pushing a pram plus my sister after we had seen the Queen Elizabeth at Burnley town hall in 1955 when I was 4 years old.
Queen Liz arriving to obsequiousness at Burnley town hall.
Liz was more interested in looking in the crowd for ‘Littul Pete’ and his mum.
I can see myself playing with a big tin American model toy car in the mud near my home on Wycoller Avenue. I have memories of playing football and wrestling other boys. These memories are real in various degrees. My wife often comments that what I just recalled doesn’t fit her memory of an event we shared together, ‘That’s not how I remember it.’ That calls into question my retention skills and also the idea that we all see the same thing or same event the same way which of course we never can cos we are different folks. As for seeing back into different incarnations, well there’s even less ‘proof’.
Regarding seeing forward to what will happen when I die again there’s no apparent cognisance. Recently some three of my personal friends have died. With each of us, when we die, what happens is the ‘life’ leaves the body. We see that.
My old friend Roy Fraser leaving his earth body watched by Apulsfinx.
The evidence is clear. The body ceases to function and we can no longer have a conversation with them, in a physical sense, any more. And soon enough it will occur to my own body, it will ‘die’. (Tibetans say that everything is impermanent and this is true scientifically too. The body we call ‘ours’ is in constant flux, never remaining the same from one moment to the next, subtle changes we are mostly unaware of. Once the spirit leaves the body it has no further use for that body becomes surplus to requirement. Some people donate parts of their old body to science and the medical needs of others which I believe is a generous action. In old Tibet they used sky burials, thus providing the wildlife (usually birds) with sustenance. This was partly to do with the lack of soft earth to dig nor wood to cremate with as in India. I have found a beautiful poem by Robert Okaji in a blog I follow- http://atomicgeography.com/2015/08/13/another-sky-burial/ Whatever is done with our body after we die in one way or another it reconstitutes. It is said that in all of us there is a trace of elements from the original Big Bang. Everything is always changing. That is a mantra I wrote in the early 1970’s when I used to keep a journal towards my future books. Once you accept that you can see the need to cling onto even our old discarded body is unnecessary. I sense some folk may find this writing a bit difficult. yes it may be with the old taboos that are so prevalent in our society which i believe need to be lifted. I see a need to be able to speak about the subject called death with compassion and harmony rather than fear and trepidation. One lady in reply to this blog revealed to me that she used to care for the body of the person who had died and that she saw the activity as “what a privilege it is to perform this final act of care but for most people who die”. Tibetan writings as in Sogyal Rinpoche’s Book of Living & Dying give guidance on how to stay with the deceased person and help them acclimatise to the bardo of dying. I have thought about Ken this week and whilst listening to some beautiful Tibetan monks chanting on cd I could imagine his spirit coming over the mountain to meet thoise monks who would be ready to recieve & welcome hoim along with their ability to put him at ease in his new form. Namaste, Bless you, Shalom. ) What will happen to this thing which is making this pen write these words is unbeknown to me. I have my suspicions, my thoughts on what may happen and emotion and romanticism will inevitably creep into my ideas. We age from the moment of conception, aging is no crime, it’s a fact of life. The idea that this ‘entity’/spirit me which inhabits this aging body will cease to exist because the body that houses it stops functioning seems naïve and ridiculous to me. But we seem to have no proof, after some millions of years in the process of evolving into ‘modern’ humans (ubeings to take gender out of the term) there seems no proof of what happens to this entity that writes these words when the body that enables the mind to drive the impulse from the brain to the hand to the pen ceases functioning because the life force that impulses the body to pump blood around and send minute (my newt) messages almost instantaneously from brain along the cerebral cortex to the fingers and out thru the pen, stops. There’s a circle there. The life force drives the thought, the nervous system and the blood pump and when that life-force stops the processing stops. There must be a yin-yang or positive-negative force going on. The body cannot function without the life force which cannot function without the body, seemingly, at least we have no proof.
Here is a rather sombre/somber song by Len Cohen which seems to be a reflection on all aspects of life and death. I love Cohen’s work he does the most beautiful poems which translate so well into song accompanied always by stunning musicians and singers. This however seems to be his reflections on life without the faintest gilding.
We have no proof that there is life on the other planets that have now been proven to be going around many of the billions of stars that exist. We have proof of the minutest microbes because they can be magnified and ‘seen’ but we cannot ‘see’ the life force which inhabits our bodies. Can we?
My life force goes to bed to sleep about 11pm and awakens between 4 (thanks cats) and 7am. Whilst it sleeps it is still functioning. It still pumps from the heart and ‘sees’ dreams and certain sounds impinge enough to wake me up. I don’t wish to give a blow by blow, puff by puff account of ‘living’ what I am trying to get to, to understand, is the life-force. On top of mundane tasks like toileting, washing up, eating, I create ‘art’ including the words on this paper. That’s just above existing. I dance. I drive a car etc. one day in the next 40 years for sure all that will stop. Bound to. My body will have aged and deteriorated so much that it cannot continue to function. Then am gone. This is where the words don’t come. I cannot anticipate what happens. Some say nothing, dead end- pardon the pun. That seems a shame & a waste after all the effort that went in from me being 3 and walking up Manchester Road ‘til now in 2015 with my GCEs & Masters degrees and all. But it’s a fact, it stops, the physical part. So my dad died and took all of his steeplejack knowledge with him, his second world war experience went too.
In a way that’s why I write and create art so that I leave a footprint other than the natural residue of having lived x years but in many ways my ‘work’ is clutter, rubbish and it will dissipate. So enjoy it, drink it while you still can.