Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is There Death Before Life? II

Scott Bradley


In the previous post it was suggested that Zhuangzi's "life and death are one thread" can be better understood when we see death, not as merely a future possibility, as an end to life, but also as the source of life. The death which will be is no different from the death that was, and that same death is the death that is now in me. In this sense, death is expressed in life as conscious experience without fixity.

Zen speaks of the Great Death. This is the realization of death in life, where death is not the extinction of life, but its source and most essential attribute. Death is the vastness beyond the individuation of identity. To live that death now is to participate now in the vastness. It is to be empty. And thus to be full.

Previously, I have discussed whether 'original face' should be understood as a something. Is there a 'buddha-nature' transcendent of space and time, and is it me? There is a natural inclination to want it to be so. Zen would sometimes suggest it is so, yet would eschew any suggestion that it is. To experience me-lessness in the present is to be neither a nothing nor a something; it is to be empty. Emptiness is a something which is nothing and a nothing which is something. It is experience free of all fixity.

Death is as ever much a part of life as life itself. This is not death as a future prospect, but the death that you now are. The death that you were and the death you will be are the same death which you presently are. You are not now other than what you were (or were not) before you were born, nor are you now other than what you will be (or not be) when you are dead. It is all one thread. And that thread begins and ends in the Vastness where there is neither beginning nor ending.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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