5 Minutes of Death a Day

A devotee before the Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu. (Credit: Prakesh Mathema/AFP/Getty)
A devotee before the Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu. (Credit: Prakesh Mathema/AFP/Getty)

I came across a fascinating article recently about Bhutan, a country that despite being one of the poorest in the world, is also one of the happiest in the world.

Say what!?

That’s right.

In the article the author has a conversation with a man responsible for promoting tourism in Bhutan who tells him the secret of Bhutan’s happiness:

“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

“You need to think about death for five minutes every day,” Ura replied. “It will cure you.”

That made me recall this Alan Watts talk that I highly recommend:

Transcript:

Now there really isn’t anything radically wrong with being sick or with dying. Who said you’re supposed to survive?  Who gave you the idea that it’s a gas to go on and on and on?

And we can’t say that it’s a good thing for everything to go on living. In very simple demonstration that if we enable everybody to go on living, we overcrowd ourselves and we’re like an unpruned tree.

And, so therefore, one person who dies in a way is honorable because he’s making room for others…  Although each one of us, individually, will naturally appreciate it when anybody saves our life, if we apply that case all around we can see that it’s not workable.

We can also look further into and see that if our death could be indefinitely postponed, we would not actually go on postponing it indefinitely because after a certain point we would realize that isn’t the way in which we wanted to survive.

Why else would we have children? Because children arrange for us to survive in another way by, as it were, passing on a torch so that you don’t have to carry it all the time. There comes a point where you can give it up and say now you work.

It’s a far more amusing arrangement for nature to continue the process of life through different individuals then it is always with the same individual, because as each new individual approaches life, life is renewed. And one remembers how fascinating the most ordinary everyday things are to a child, because they see them all as marvelous – because they see them all in a way that is not related to survival and profit.

When we get to thinking of everything in terms of survival and profit value, as we do, then the shapes of scratches on the floor cease to have magic. And most things, in fact, cease to have magic.

So therefore, in the course of nature, once we have ceased to see magic in the world anymore, were no longer fulfilling nature’s game being aware of it.

There’s no point in it any longer. And so we die. And, so something else comes to birth, which gets an entirely new view.  And so nature’s self-awareness is a game worth the candle.

It is not, therefore, natural for us to wish to prolong life indefinitely. But we live in a culture where it has been rubbed into us in every conceivable way that to die is a terrible thing. And that is a tremendous disease from which our culture, in particular, suffers.

And we notice it personally in the way in which death is swept under the carpet. And, so a person is left to die alone, suddenly, unprepared, and doped up to the point where death hardly happens.

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