Meditation on Death 01
I really wanted to become free. Free from the thoughts that cling to me all day long, from the emotions that crush my peace without getting tired, and above all, from myself, the source of all those things. So I started meditating to forget myself. Perhaps the desire to become ‘nobody’ was instinctual.
We are a collection of every moment we’ve lived. Some moments are shamefully embarrassing, while others are overflowing with pride and satisfaction. However, all these moments weigh on us like a burden. All past mistakes and wrongdoings, secretive and harmful thoughts nobody knows about, are all there. They are always there like ink that soaked deep into our skin.
I enjoyed the moments of forgetting myself while meditating. These moments, described as “mu” in Zen Buddhism, were very brief, lasting at most five seconds, but in that instant, I experienced infinite freedom and peace that no happiness in life could give me. For those few seconds, I was pure like the primal ocean and filled with a sparkling delight. I was everything in the world and nothing at the same time.
However, forgetting oneself seemed almost impossible systematically, like a game character recognizing the player controlling it. It seemed like we were designed not to be able to do that.
To forget myself easily, I started imagining death as soon as I meditated. When I meditated hard on the moment of death, it was easier to accept that I might not exist in reality. The thought that the moment my existence disappears must surely come was the first step towards freedom.
I close my eyes and imagine my moment of death as best I can. An old and wrinkled me lies in a bed. The people I love and the unknown people who do not yet exist in my life surround me around the bed. I smile gently and look out the window at the beautiful sunset. I speak to the people who mourn for me, saying it’s time to leave for my greatest adventure in life. I also try to capture more of the sunset in my eyes that are shutting. I slowly reach my death, feeling a slight regret that seeing that magnificent sky with human eyes is my last.
After meditating on death, I feel as if all the dirt has been stripped from my body, and I am light and weightless. Shedding the ego, which is like the dead skin we collected from the world, my transparent body floats effortlessly. I become a refreshing and lively presence that could be blown away by even a gentle breeze. I permeate everything in the world like the wind, and everything in the world becomes me.
Once the ego is shed and one melts into the entirety of the world, there is no longer a need to struggle with oneself to prove one’s worth. Everyone tries to display their ego. I had grown weary of constantly trying to prove my existence’s value to myself and others.
Not many people fully focus on experiencing the present moment and connecting with others. Because everyone is obsessed with proving their own worth. They only listen to others to promote themselves. Almost everyone I met was like that, and whether they succeeded or failed in gaining recognition, it was not a good experience for anyone.
I was consumed by the desire to show off my own ego while either sympathizing with or observing others. If they just asked me questions, I could show them how similar I am to them and how deeply I empathize with them. I even became impatient trying to figure out which of my accomplishments to reveal to make them like me more. However, they never asked me any questions. Whether they were Israelis, Americans, Italian pastors, Burmese monks, or Korean monks, they all had the same expression of talking to themselves in their heads, even while listening.
Our ego needs others to confirm its worth through comparison. Everyone is like that. In every moment, everyone seeks someone to listen to their story and understand them. It seems that humans are beings that can never escape loneliness.
I wanted to exist fully, without that thirst. I wanted to mix with the world without any inadequacy or need. I wanted to breathe properly as a relaxed and comfortable person who does not strive to prove their worth of existence.
However, my biggest goal was happiness, and one of the conditions for that happiness was becoming a useful person. I wanted to be someone who was valuable to others and could be used in a helpful way. I thought that was how I would find meaning in my life. That’s how much unfree I was.
The only time I could be even slightly free from this was when I meditated on death. I imagined a self that had not achieved anything or become a valuable existence to anyone, lying on the deathbed and disappearing. When meditation worked well, I could really immerse myself in that moment and there was no regret. I thought that could happen. On the contrary, my current reality self, who still had time and opportunity to prove my worth, fretted. My meditation self, who was about to die, didn’t really care how useless my life had been. I just wanted to see the sunset a little longer. That’s how death brought freedom.
I asked a monk how to let go of the self. The monk bluntly said that one cannot let go of the self during one’s lifetime.
I thought that letting go of the self would lead me to the path of enlightenment, and that my soul would become even more fulfilled and my life happier. However, even the desire to let go of the self seemed like a never-ending Möbius strip of the self’s greed, endlessly jumping around. But if one cannot let go of the self, then there was a slight sense of relief and it became very distant.
However, even the desire to let go of the self to reach enlightenment seemed like the ego’s greed; I felt like I was running on a never-ending Möbius strip. The monk’s answer relieved me a bit and suffocated me a lot.
Still, there are moments when it feels like I have truly let go of my ego. It happens when I meditate on death and enter into a state of nothingness. All the obligations and burdens imposed on my ego and the weight of life disappear, and I feel truly relaxed in a state of nothingness. The rainstorm of thoughts that pelt me also disappears, and I enter into a euphoria where I forget about my existence. It only lasts a few seconds but it’s a world I can always return to if I focus.
The state of being without me is freedom itself. It’s happiness. I disappear along with the world and dissolve into the hum of the air purifier. There’s truth in the neutral noise that’s neither positive nor negative. Everything resides in it. My ego is dead. Sins are forgiven.