Video: Death comes without Warning.

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Life is Precious!

“I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” ~ Oliver Sacks

“I can’t stand it to think my life is going by so fast and I’m not really living it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” ~ Jack Kornfield

“Don’t wait; the time will never be ‘just right.'” ~ George Herbert

How to Appreciate your Life, fully, Every Morning: the Buddhist Four Reminders.

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

carpe diem

Death comes without Warning. This body will be a corpse.

This Precious Human Life is but a Bubble. Seize the day. Rejoice and be of benefit.

Of Carpe Diem, or the Buddhist Four Reminders.

“A little while and I will be gone from among you, when I cannot tell. From nowhere we came, into nowhere we go. What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Chief Crowfoot

Saw this video: Close Calls

…and it reminded me of something I grew up chanting, studying, practicing…

The Buddhist Four Reminders.

Joyful to have Such a human birth, Difficult to find, Free and well-favored.

But death is real. Comes without warning. This body will be a corpse.

Unalterable Are the laws of karma; Cause and effect Cannot be escaped. Samsara Is an ocean of suffering, Unendurable, Unbearably intense.

~ Composed by the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche © 1974 by Chögyam Trungpa. Via the Nalanda Translation Committee:

The Buddhist Four Reminders.

Even after years of [Buddhist] Dharma practice, it is still quite likely that we will adhere to a strong belief that the world is solid and unchanging. Clinging to the appearances of our world, we take their reality for granted—to the point of completely forgetting the profound Dharma we have learned. As simple as they are, the four reminders can reverse our habitual patterns of forgetting the preciousness of human life, ignoring impermanence and death, pretending that the immutable laws of cause and effect do not operate, and chasing headlong after pain in the guise of seeking pleasure. They are the first step in confronting our extreme beliefs about the existence of our world. Each of the reminders brings home the unerring message of change and the opportunity we have to practice meditation and study the teachings of the Buddha in order to gain insight and awakening in this lifetime. The second reminder—impermanence and death—is especially poignant and direct. When His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa was attending a luncheon at the United States Congress, a Congressman asked him, “If Your Holiness could summarize the teachings of the Buddha in one sentence, what would that be?” Without hesitation, the Karmapa replied, “Everything changes.” Similarly, when a student asked Suzuki Roshi to put the entire message of Buddhism in a nutshell, he simply answered, “Everything changes.” The four reminders have been expressed repeatedly by all lineage holders. Over the years we have translated a number of such liturgies, which appear in the Karma Kagyü ngöndro, Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance, and Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, all written by the ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje; and in various Nyingma ngöndros such as the Longchen Nyingthik by Jigme Lingpa, the Könchok Chidü by Jamgön Kongtrül, and the Rangjung Pema Nyingthik by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. For several years, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has emphasized our need to do contemplative practice. At the 1999 Seminary, he used the Vidyadhara’s pithy version of the four reminders as an object of contemplation. He also devoted several chapters of Turning the Mind into an Ally to the four reminders, giving instruction on the importance and the method of contemplation. How do we “turn our mind into an ally?” Through hearing, contemplating, and meditating on the teachings of the Buddha. First we need to hear the dharma, whether in Sanskrit, Tibetan, French, or Polish. We listen with our ears, read with our eyes, and absorb with our hearts and minds. Next, through contemplating, we sink into the meaning of what we have heard. We no longer skim the surface of existence. Rather, we plumb its depths to discover the jewel of dharma hidden there. Finally, in meditation, our mind and the dharma meet, like rock meets bone. The four reminders expose the bone-jarring experience of our daily life, which we usually try to pad with material comfort. They lead us away from our preoccupation with avoiding pain and seeking gain, and guide us toward seeing the true nature of our mind and our world. Then, having glimpsed things as they are, we are inspired to devote ourselves to benefiting others. In early 1974, the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche composed the following text of the four reminders in response to the need of his students, who were just beginning the Kagyü ngöndro practice. It was likely composed in English, based on traditional sources, since the Tibetan texts for the ngöndro were not available to him at that time. This last year, we reprinted this, along with the Kagyü ngöndro text version, as a one-page liturgy for contemplation. Here is the Vidyadhara’s composition…

For more, click here—or click image below to go to The Chronicle Project.

Carpe Diem, via Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society:

“We are food for worms. We’ll stop breathing, turn cold and die.” What will your verse be? You can, if in a hurry, skip ahead a bit. Or, better, seize the day by slowing down into the present moment, and appreciate it all (I’ve added a few versions ’cause youtube keeps deleting old versions and none below seem entirely complete).

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.

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anonymous Jul 17, 2015 8:08am

Hi Waylon and the Elephant team,

I really enjoyed this re-post. and happy belated birthday Waylon! It’s a challenge and honor to remember the four truths everyday.

I attempted to access the links both in this post and the Steve Jobs article to “Via the Nalanda Translation Committee:” but the links appear to be broken. Hope you can fix, as I’d enjoy reading more.

With metta, Isaac

anonymous May 7, 2015 12:17am

The sooner we accept these truths the better. Thanks for reminder!

anonymous Jul 11, 2014 9:33pm

Incredible video footage. Puts things into perspective!

anonymous Jun 21, 2013 2:47am

Thanks! "food for worms" = good food for thought!

anonymous Mar 3, 2013 12:02pm

[…] For more. […]

anonymous Feb 24, 2013 12:23pm

[…] It’s precious and vulnerable and […]

anonymous Dec 20, 2012 6:35pm

[…] is too short, too precious to throw its minutes away on ill-gotten unfulfilling sex–or inner-life […]

anonymous Dec 9, 2012 5:06pm

[…] Some say stop and smell the roses. Some say Carpe Diem! […]

anonymous Dec 6, 2012 3:21pm

[…] when I write, “You will die momentarily,” I mean that your transition from life to death will occur rapidly, not imminently. The dying […]

anonymous Sep 29, 2012 11:25am

[…] think there’s something beautiful about getting real, getting really into that headspace where you think about life and death and how precious it is, and whether, in that place, you want […]

anonymous Jul 31, 2012 7:23pm

[…] For (much) more. […]

anonymous Jul 12, 2012 4:47pm

[…] Whether right now is exquisitely beautiful, excruciatingly painful or somewhere in the wonderful cool boredom in between, it’s precious because it’s now. It’s precious because one deep breath…and it’s gone. […]

anonymous Jul 8, 2012 9:21pm

[…] happens, and can happen at any moment. Love today, and aim true. ~ […]

anonymous Jun 17, 2012 6:41am

[…] It’s all a temporary gift. I know it, but forgetting what I know comes easy. Somewhere in that space where letting go and cherishing meet, there is doubtlessness. Wisdom. Improbable as unending stones in freefall. Certain as that puddle in the river. It is hard to know anything. Soon enough, it’ll all be unknown. […]

anonymous May 27, 2012 10:56pm

[…] (For Now) […]

anonymous May 12, 2012 9:32pm

[…] It’s all temporary. Nothing is permanent. The good stuff. The bad stuff. Maybe I thought I knew it then. I probably just think I know it now […]

anonymous Mar 30, 2012 5:43pm

[…] “Life is short, […]

anonymous Mar 28, 2012 9:55pm

[…] it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. […]

anonymous Jan 1, 2012 9:02pm

[…] is short. Focus on the things that matter. Carpe Diem! (In video form). “The first and the last clip were the most powerful. Your parents looking […]

anonymous Dec 27, 2011 10:05pm

[…] mom’s a teacher. This kind of teacher. One of my favorite movies is Dead Poet’s Society. This is a real-life hero of a teacher—one of thousands upon underpaid-thousands on this Small […]

anonymous Dec 9, 2011 2:04pm

[…] Life is a bubble. Life can stop happening at any moment. Your to-do lists, my to-do lists, don’t […]

anonymous Nov 26, 2011 1:02pm

[…] us wake up: learn to appreciate and live each moment fully. Buddhist teaching “Death comes without warning.” (warning: mute if you like at first, first video […]

anonymous Nov 6, 2011 12:59pm

[…] 15, temporarily blindness in both eyes at 19, blacking out and having seizures most of my life and flat-lining on at least four documented […]

anonymous Aug 26, 2011 11:01pm

[…] In the Buddhist tradition, we do tonglen for those who may be suffering. Still, impermanence is fundamental to this life, and death may come at any moment. […]

anonymous Aug 13, 2011 3:56pm

[…] Buddhist Mindfulness Habit: Roadkill. […]

anonymous Aug 13, 2011 9:48am

Love the Rinpoche messages.
In the video, love the extension of life to those who just missed the accident of death. The idiots playing "chicken" on the train tracks? Not so much.
Thanks for an excellent post.

anonymous Jul 20, 2011 1:00pm

[…] Memories fade. But I, and you, have that most lucky of opportunities: our life, however long. As Robin Williams puts it in Dead Poets, it’s our command to suck the marrow out of life. Carpe D…. Because, before I (and you) know it, it’ll all be >poof<…gone with the wind. […]

anonymous May 1, 2011 8:47pm

[…] death can come without warning. Life is a bubble. Carpe Diem! Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, […]

anonymous Feb 23, 2011 11:45am

[…] more. […]

anonymous Dec 24, 2010 11:23am

[…] think human lives are like this. We build our own labyrinth, a choose-your-own adventure. Sometimes we end up dying early, and everyone around us wonders what would have happened if we just made one decision differently […]

anonymous Dec 8, 2010 3:53pm

[…] of countless experiences in life two of the most dynamic are love and death. They both change us in a way that is essential: our very essence is never the same after our first […]

anonymous Oct 13, 2010 9:02am

[…] In your own direct discovery of and awakening to Spirit’s true face, existential doubt has died a sudden and irrevocable death, liberating an infectious confidence rooted deep in your soul. A true finder may or may not […]

anonymous Oct 11, 2010 11:43am

Thanks for your video and post. I don't even need my morning pot of tea to wake up and be of benefit. You are one original and hope the online mag is thriving!

anonymous Sep 28, 2010 7:49am

Whew! Way to get my adrenaline going this morning! My favorite part of your post is this paragraph:

"The four reminders expose the bone-jarring experience of our daily life, which we usually try to pad with material comfort. They lead us away from our preoccupation with avoiding pain and seeking gain, and guide us toward seeing the true nature of our mind and our world. Then, having glimpsed things as they are, we are inspired to devote ourselves to benefiting others."

It's all right there. Thanks for sharing Waylon 🙂

    elephant journal Sep 29, 2010 1:24am

    Great highlight. Life is short—sometimes shorter than we expect—it's precious—make use of it. No greater cause, no fun-er duty, than to be of benefit.

    As the Sakyong says, if you want to be happy, think of others first. If you want to be unhappy, think only of yourself.

anonymous Sep 27, 2010 8:01pm

One of my most memorable lessons on this subject began one rainy morning when I was sitting at a red light watching 4 lanes of rush-hour traffic quickly moving in both directions crossing in front of me, then being suddenly and without warning hit from behind by a car that couldn't stop and pushed mine all the way across those same lanes of traffic I'd just been watching. Unharmed.

anonymous Sep 27, 2010 4:55pm

The guy who CHOSE to lie down on the train tracks and videotape himself is an EEEEDIOT!!

anonymous Sep 27, 2010 10:34am

Que viva la vida!

anonymous Sep 27, 2010 9:26am

FANTASTIC! WOW! I'm now motivated to go take my run and enjoy at least a part of this beautiful fall day.

    elephant journal Sep 29, 2010 1:23am

    Just stay away from train tracks.

anonymous Sep 27, 2010 4:58am

LOVE this. What a great video 🙂
"Live each moment as if it's your last battle here on earth…" I always try to keep in mind those words from Don Juan, via Carlos Castaneda.