Any living being - no matter how long he or she lives -
must eventually die. There is no other way. One you dwell
within cyclic existence, you cannot live outside of its nature.
No matter how marvelous things may be, it is built into their
very nature that they and you, who take joy in them,
must degenerate in the end.
Not only must you die in the end, but you do not know when
the end will come. If you did, you could put off preparing
for the future. Even if you show signs of living to a ripe
old age, you cannot say with one hundred percent certainty
that today you will not die. You must not procrastinate.
Rather, you should make preparations so that even if
you did die tonight, you would have no regrets.
If you develop an appreciation for the uncertainty
and imminence of death, your sense of the importance
of using your time wisely will get stronger and stronger.
Thinking about death not only serves as a preparation
for dying and prompts actions that benefit future lives,
but it also dramatically affects your mental perspective.
For instance, when people are not accustomed to this
practice of being mindful about the certainty of death,
then even when it is obvious that they are old and will soon
pass away, their friends and family feel they cannot be
realistic with them, and even feel the need to complement
them on their physical appearance. Both parties know
it is a lie. It is ridiculous!
Sometimes even patients suffering from terminal diseases
such as cancer avoid using the words "die" or "death."
I find it almost impossible to speak with them about
their impending death; they resist hearing about it.
But for one who cannot now face even the word "death,"
never mind the reality of it, the actual arrival of death
is likely to bring with it great discomfort and fear.
On the other hand, when I meet with a practitioner
who appears to be near death, I do not hesitate to say,
"Whether you die or recover, you need preparation for
both." It is possible for us to reflect together on the
imminence of death. There is no need to hide anything,
for that person is prepared to face death with no regret.
A practitioner who, early on, thinks about impermanence
is much more courageous and happy while dying.
Reflecting on the uncertainty of the time of death
develops a mind that is peaceful, disciplined, and virtuous,
because it is dwelling on more than the superficial stuff
of this short lifetime.
From ADVICE ON DYING - And Living a Better Life
by the Dalai Lama
by the Dalai Lama