Video: Death comes without Warning.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 26, 2010
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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

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

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. “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 “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).


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & 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, is now available.


41 Responses to “Video: Death comes without Warning.”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    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.

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

  3. ewa says:

    Que viva la vida!

  4. Joseph Boquiren says:

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

  5. Sioux says:

    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.

  6. alignbetween says:

    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 🙂

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Just stay away from train tracks.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    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.

  9. Jen Tawse says:

    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!

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  15. YogaJunkies says:

    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.

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  32. Shelle says:

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

  33. Amy E says:

    Incredible video footage. Puts things into perspective!

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

  35. Isaac Bohannon says:

    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