Death in the Family

Uposatha Day, New Moon, September 15

One by one we lose everybody and everything that is dear to us. Until at some point anyone who is still left out there all at once loses us. We are adrift in an ever-changing unreliable world. Our every attempt to grab onto something as it flies into and out of our world, to pretend it is fixed and constantly at hand when it is in fact flying by, always hurts. Sometimes it jolts, sometimes it mangles.

We lost my older brother Arthur a couple of days ago. I flew out to California where Arthur lived not far from our childhood home, where my dad and I are dealing with his affairs. Inseparable as children, our lives took radically different paths as adults. He became remarkable in many ways. He took his own life and no one can figure out what it was that flying by hurt him so badly.

8 Responses to “Death in the Family”

  1. thgjfr Says:

    So sorry for you’r loss. Thank you for all that you do!

  2. Joan Denson Says:

    John, I too lost a brother to suicide. I am sorry for your loss and that of your family. One cannot figure these things out and yet we are left to accept the reality.

    Hugging your heart, and being grateful for you,
    ~Joan

  3. Sitagu Dhammapala Says:

    It is one of the suffering (Dukkha Sissa) separated from loved ones, I can imagine that and feel that how much your brother had suffering that took his own life. I think you better share your insight knowledge of Buddha teaching to your siblings and relatives before they pass away so that you would be convinced yourself to cover the sorrowfulness and regret.
    with respect and metta,
    Aung Koe

  4. bhikkhucintita Says:

    Thank you for the supportive responses, also some that I have received by email.

    U Aung Koe gets right to the heart of a primary concern in my life. I was acutely aware that Arthur had many faulty values, ambitions, behavioral patterns, conceptualizations that had to cause him a lot of pain even if he did not express the pain. But I see that in most people. My task as a Buddhist teacher is indeed to shine the light of wisdom in these dark places. One might think that this would naturally begin with my immediate family. But what can I do when someone’s heart and mind are already shut to such an influence?

    You can take a horse to water but you cannot make him drink it. Religious teaching, or any teaching, beginning with potty training, is a collaborative endeavor. The student has to be ready to receive the teaching. That is why the Three Refuges are so important and that is why I write so much about Buddhist faith for a Western audience. It takes preparation merely to be able to receive the teachings. U Aung Koe is fortunate to have been born in one of the most devout Buddhist cultures in the world, in which that preparation is as common as potty training. I’ve offered instruction to Westerners and I’ve offered instruction to Burmese and I have to say teaching in the West is far more challenging, even among Westerners who call themselves Buddhists.

    Maybe this weekend I will post some more thoughts on this issue: Where is it that the teacher and the student meet? Almost everyone in my readership is either or a student or a teacher or most likely, like me, some combination of the two. It would be nice to elicit views on how far the teacher should reach out to the student and how far the student should reach out to the teacher in Buddhism.

  5. Diane James Says:

    I am truly sorry for the loss of your brother to suicide. I pray you and your family will be comforted.

  6. Alan Says:

    I’m very sorry to learn of your loss. May all beings be free from suffering.

  7. Dean Says:

    I am very sad and sorry for your loss Bhante. 😦

  8. Adrien Jacob Says:

    Dear Bhante,

    Loss in the family is definitely a trial, and a reminder of impermanence… And the circumstances here certainly make it even more complicated to deal with. May you and your family not be affected too much…

    About the possible regrets one might have that the departed person has not received proper spiritual guidance (and more specifically that WE as relatives have not given this guidance), I would say that Sapirutta himself could not convince his own mother until shortly before his (Sariputta’s) very death. If such a great Dhamma teacher had such difficulties in teaching his own mother, then it appears obvious that one cannot be taught against his will, as you very rightly said Bhante…

    I believe our job is just to keep trying, according to our own (limited) capacities. At the end of the day, intention is all that matters isn’t it ?

    With my Metta,
    Adrien

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