How to be mindful of death?

Death is a taboo in most societies. We do not like to talk about this topic and push it off to the future.

However, everyone born as a human being faces death as a natural consequence. The pandemic was the best recent example that indicated death is inevitable.

Therefore, it is good to pre-meditate on death and be ready to accept it at any moment.

This article is about how to contemplate death.

What is death?

Death is the end of life faculty. It is a natural phenomenon everyone has to face at some point in life.

What is death contemplation?

It is a practice known to Buddhist tradition. A monk or a layperson is supposed to contemplate on their own mortality on a regular basis. It is called Maraṇānussati.

By contemplating death, a meditator does not encourage to end life by any means. Instead, he becomes aware of an incident that is certain to happen.

 Is it good to contemplate death?

Some people are scared to talk or think about death. However, there are some benefits of contemplating death. Some of them are;

·        Death contemplation raises a sense of urgency:

If a person is not aware of his mortality, he cannot prioritize his goals. He might spend a lot of time on trivial things in daily life.

When a person understands there is a limited time available to achieve goals, he can prioritize them. Then he can work toward achieving goals.  

·        Death contemplation requires us to use time to the maximum:

We often procrastinate and do not understand time is so precious. Time passes by within a split of a second.

Thus, we need to get the maximum of the opportunity we have received as human beings. Death contemplation is the best method to keep us on track without letting us become lazy.

·        Death contemplation creates a positive mind:

Life is too short to live with negative emotions in the mind such as; worry, regret, jealousy, etc. If we are aware that death is all around, we will not waste time generating those negative emotions in the mind. Instead, you can live connected to your inner self, purifying the negative emotions.

·        We can live with others in harmony:

If we live only for a short period, there is no point in having enemies. We should try to live with everyone on friendly terms. Death contemplation encourages you to live in harmony with those around you.

·        Death contemplation allows you to practice gratitude:

Sometimes we complain too much about things we missed in life. However, being still alive is the biggest gift we have received up to this moment. When you wake up every day, you can generate a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to live.

How to practice death contemplation?

This is a little exercise we can follow on a regular basis.

Find a quiet place.

Sit comfortably.

Close your eyes and keep the body in an upright posture.

Take a few deep breaths to relax.

Now, remember the death of a person known to you.

In the same way, death comes to you sooner or later.

  • Now remind yourself as if sunsets, as if a river drains, as if a clay pot breaks as if dewdrops disappear in the morning, death takes away life.
  • Young age will be ruined by old age. Your health will be ruined by illnesses. Likewise, all the prosperity gained in life will be ruined by death.
  • Death is common to everyone regardless of fame, prosperity, wealth or other factors. Remind yourself you are not exempted from this consequence.
  • Death can be caused by any means. Food poisoning, accidents, illnesses, etc. can bring death. Actually, our life is fragile. We need a lot of effort to maintain it without being broken.
  • During this era, only a few people live 100 years or a little more than that. All others die before that. Even if you live a century, death is sure to take place. Thus, life is very short.
  • No one knows how and when death takes place. Life is unpredictable.
  • My life will end up one day. This could be my last inhale or exhale.

Reflect on death according to the above phrases for a few minutes. To end up the session open your eyes gently.

What are the benefits of death contemplation?

  • When someone contemplates death, he does not feel fear about his own mortality. Instead, he feels fresh and active because he contemplates something certain to happen
  • Since he is ready to face death at any time, he lives with a happy mind
  • He will spend a simple life without accumulating a lot of belongings because he has to depart from everything at death
  • His generosity will progress as he understands the value of sharing
  • He focuses on spending a virtuous life, because there is no time to make errors
  • He is not envious of anyone or does not harm anyone
  • His patience will improve
  • His concentration will improve

What are the challenges faced in death contemplation meditation?

According to Buddhist texts, the following people cannot progress in death contemplation meditation. They are;

  • Those who scared of their own death,
  • Those who feel sad about loved ones’ death
  • Those who feel happy about enemy’s death

Therefore, one should apply wisdom in practicing death contemplation meditation.

On a final note, we have to be mindful our life span is decreasing at every moment. No one can predict I am going to live x number of years. The human body is fragile and it is best to contemplate our own mortality beforehand. Then we can face the situation without any fear. Also, we can help others in times of death with a peaceful mind.

Thus, it is an art that we should practice for our own benefit and for the benefit of others.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


Rathsara (Sara) is an attorney-at-law who holds a Diploma in Buddhist Studies in ITBMU. She has engaged in community service in Sri Lanka and the United States helping many individuals. She is interested in reading, writing, and researching areas related to mindfulness. Inspired by spiritually developed individuals around the globe, Rathsara is keen to learn and practice mind-developing techniques. In the meantime, she would like to share her experience and knowledge for the well-being of others.

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