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A Silence Filled the Room…

July 22, 2013

by Stephen Damon

Last week I attended an ongoing Hospice training session about the signs of impending death. The information about changes in breathing, skin color, and body temperature, among other things was very helpful, but what was most striking was the strong impression that none of us in the room, even those who had been volunteers for many years, knew anything about what happens the moments after death. Yes, people described impressions they had that “something” was going on in the body after the last breath, but these were not descriptions of anything but their own projections and imaginations of what might be happening.

Some talked about things that they had read in Buddhist books. But none of us knew from our own experience. How could we? When I shared that impression with the others, the room became very silent and very full. There was truth in the room and everyone sensed it.

We each sensed the truth that in spite of all our efforts to understand the dying process and offer assistance to the dying and the bereaved, death would always be beyond our understanding. A great silence filled the room as we each took a moment to move a little closer to the great unknown of life and death, without trying to give it any form.
In this context I’d like to share a Zen story I recently read.

A student asked his master, “What happens after we die?”
The Master replied, “I don’t know.”
The student said, “But you are a great master.”
The master replied, “That may be so, but I am not a dead Zen master.”


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From → Zen Buddhism

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