Recently I saw many people around me suddenly being sick and facing some health obstacles. Faced with so many bad news can really affect our own state of mind, and I feel very deeply for them yet helpless that I am unable to help much.
A Dharma sister is lying in hospital at the brink of death right now, due to haemorrhage. Within a short span of a week, she had headache, found to have a blood clot in her brain, gone for an operation, and is in coma. Now she is on life support system. The doctor says the chances of survival are slim. She is only 40 years old. So many prayers are being conducted right now. Her husband is staying strong and hopes that his wife can go to Pureland with the gurus' blessings. May she have a good rebirth when the time comes.
A colleague's parents also encounter some obstacles relating to health in recent weeks. Another friend's parent is diagnosed with cancer too. I understand their feelings well because my own father went through the same thing in his 50s. Fortunately for my father, his cancer is now in remission. We always feel sad when we hear someone we know experiencing some serious illness. But it really hits home especially when the ones closest to us encounter the same situation. Recently a loved one is also diagnosed with a condition which can be potentially life threatening. While awaiting the doctor's findings and advice, I am also arranging pujas to be conducted for my loved one.
In order to practise the Dharma, we attend teachings which is crucial in helping us plant the seed to develop wisdom, extinguish our delusions and ignorance. But at the same time, as I mentioned many times before, attending pujas is equally important as different pujas help us clear different types of obstacles and negative karma which we have accumulated since beginningless times. When sudden sickness ripens, or when we encounter various obstacles, we should seek to eradicate these imminent problems first, for without a healthy body and a clear state of mind, how can we focus on teachings? Without clearing the dirt stuck at the bottom of a bottle, no matter how much clean water we pour in, the water inside the bottle will still be dirty. Pujas and teachings work hand in hand.
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche says, "Never forget how swiftly this life will be over, like a flash of summer lightning or the wave of a hand. Now that you have the opportunity to practice dharma, do not waste a single moment on anything else."
A phrase in the Meditation of the Stages of the Path (Lamrim) states....
"For the one time I have found this excellent body which gives me freedom. Please give me your blessings so that I may understand how difficult it is to find it and how very useful it is. And can develop an inner attitude which is focused without interruption, day and night, on that which is essential. The body and life are as transient as water bubbles. Because they pass away so quickly please give me your blessing so that I may be reminded of death and may gain unshakeable certainty about the fact that after my death the effect of positive and negative actions follows as the body is followed by its shadows. May I always bear in mind that I must avoid even the smallest fault and put all positive motivation into action."
Indeed, life is impermanent and we do not know when we will be robbed of our life. It can happen in a flash of lightning. Only when we realise the fragility of life that we can truly treasure what we have in this lifetime. The human life is precious because we are able to liberate ourselves in this human body, through practice and understanding and realising the teachings. A dog or cat or hungry ghost can't. The ripening of karma determines where we go next, and it may not necessarily be as a human or any of the higher realms. We cannot guarantee we would be reborn as a human in the next life. Hence it is important to treasure this life.... to practice and to benefit others, while we're still alive.