Monday, April 19, 2010

What Would Buddha Do When a Loved One Dies?

I just sent the April Soaring Dove Connection newsletter that discusses the loss of a loved one and how those of us left behind are left wondering if he or she is okay and how to go on without them. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, or if you do not receive it on a regular basis, please click here. I write this blog as a follow up.

I recently acquired a wonderful book called What Would Buddha Do? An interesting take on the popular “What Would Jesus Do,” it takes the teachings of Buddha and breaks down the many areas of life, such as love, insecurity of self, doing the right thing, walking life’s path, to name but a few, expanding the teaching from a modern perspective. Ironically, I just opened this book to the section of love, and came across the question: “What would Buddha do when a loved one dies?” I wanted to share the teaching through this venue as a follow up to the April issue of Soaring Dove's eNewsletter.

“Not through weeping and grief do we obtain peace of mind. We increase misery; we harm our bodies. We become thin and pale, destroying ourselves by our own power.” Sutta Nipata 584

Buddha doesn’t intend that we as humans are not to mourn our loss through tears, for as humans, our feelings do demand expression, regardless of whether that expression brings embarrassment or tears to us or those who watch. Consider how you feel when you or another is expressing his or her grief. Are you uncomfortable because you have not fully grieved a loss? Are you embarrassed to share your feelings lest you feel vulnerable and weak? Are you in touch with your emotions about the loss or have you steeled yourself against them in order to be strong as our society demands and even expects it?

When life ends, we do need to mourn, but once we have faced and expressed our grief, we have to let it go. This is the challenging part for many of us; we want to hold on to our grief, which means that we are holding on to the one whose loss prompts the grief. After awhile, this emotionally-gripping attachment drains us and prevents the direction of our energy of love to someone or something else and/or new in our life. Grief is indeed a process, but when we hang on to it as the theme for our personal (often unconscious) agenda to unproductively hold us hostage to victimization and self-pity, we then misuse our personal power, and begin that process of self-destruction that Buddha speaks of in the above teaching.

Our letting go of our loved one and moving on with living our life does not dishonor his or her memory, for we forever remain attached to him or her in love through our hearts. In doing so, we honor all that their presence contributed in our journey during which time we mutually shared a path. They continue to live through us and our personal expression of power; sometimes this is expressed positively and/or unproductively. Regardless, when we can heal our hearts, we can begin to understand that we are always and forever One with our loved one who once served, and who continues to serve us as a teacher, even when physically absent in our life.

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