What happens when we die? This is one of life's most puzzling questions, but is our preoccupation with death any different from our preoccupation with what's for dinner or our dentist appointment next week? It's a preoccupation with something other than where life is happening. If we want to know how to live, we have to study life; and if we want to know how to die, we have to study life as well, because the best way to prepare for death is to cultivate awareness of this moment. When we learn to slow down, we start to experience what is actually in front of us. This moment is the most profound thing we can see, and this deep seeing will change our relationship to both life and death.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, as the means to study the self and understand who we truly are. Dharma talks are an essential aspect of Zen training and take place in the context of zazen. Said to be "dark to the mind and radiant to the heart", a dharma talk is one of the ways in which a teacher points directly to the heart of the teachings of the Buddha. In our meditation practice, it is easy to get lost in self-doubt, fantasy, numbness, and emotional agitation. Dharma talks help to ground our practice, providing inspiration and an essential recognition of exactly where we find ourselves, so that we can learn to face difficulties and obstacles with a free and flexible mind. This talk was given at Zen Mountain Monastery or the Zen Center of New York City of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1980 by the late American Zen Master John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009).