At a Cremation

Ajahn Liem

At a Cremation

I heard that you went to see cremations at the crematorium in Melbourne. What would be some good reflections to use on this topic?

One can take what one sees at a cremation as a theme for questioning oneself.

For example: today they have burned this person, but tomorrow who knows who is going to be burned… could it be me? These are good questions because they make us skilled in dealing with the reality of life. When the inevitable events that nature brings arise, we won’t be stirred up in confusion.

The Buddha praised seeking out cremation sites so we won’t lose ourselves in pleasures and fun until feelings of infatuation take hold of us. We have a look at that which helps to alleviate our desires and aversions. We look at cremations to reduce the delusions of self- importance, “me” and “mine”.

To question oneself in this way can bring about peace of mind to a certain degree.

If we reflect on death like this, is it possible that the result is that one gets depressed? Does one need a teacher to guide one, or how does one prevent depression from coming up?

In the beginning it is possible that symptoms like this arise, but if one gets used to this contemplation over a long time, this will change.

This makes me think of the time when I was a young man, together with my friends. Everyone felt they had great fun the way young people do. But when I’d start mentioning the subject of death, it seemed that nobody wanted to talk about it. Everyone would run away, evading the topic.

People don’t want to face things like death. They don’t want to get involved. It is considered something inauspicious. But when I brought this subject up, it was meant as a reminder, to make people conscious of death.

In Isahn [Thailand] the ceremonies for the departed are called “Good-house-festivals”. These “Good-house-festivals” are events that make us experience the reality of life.

These reflections by Luang Por Liem are from the book, No Worries, (pdf) pp. 46-48, translated into English by “the translators, Wat Nong Pah Pong.”