Shabkar on Impermanence

Nineteenth-century Tibetan yogi Shabkar sees the impermanence of all things when his mother dies.  Never forget we are here for a limited time only, to be washed away like footprints on a beach.

Footprints Wash Away... Like us!

“When they placed in my hands my mother’s bones, I thought, “A ho! Things of this world really are nothing. In the past, my old mother, overwhelmed by affection and thinking of her only son, used to weep bitterly and send me messages and letters begging, ‘Son, come back once again.’ But still I did not interrupt my practice. I still thought of my mother as being young, and thought that, even if I did not see her for a few years, she wouldn’t die.”

“Thus, believing in the permanence of things, I kept putting off my return. I purposely deceived her by continuing to write, saying, ‘Next year…I’ll come to see you next year.’ And, in the end, she died without my ever having seen her again.

“Thinking of my mother, I, her bad son, had just set out on my way back to her from a distant place, pack on my back, staff in my hand. I did not have anything of value to bring for her, but I was coming back to her with many comforting words already in mind that would have brought peace to her mind.

“But my merit was insufficient. My mother had already set out on the infamous road called Death. She is no longer in a place where, if I looked, I could see her, or that, if I spoke, she could hear me. She has gone on to the distant land that is the next life.

“Even if, by virtue of having practiced the Dharma, we meet again in our next lives, we did not have the opportunity to meet once again in this life in order to say a few things to one another that would have warmed our hearts.” […]

Disconsolate, my sadness was fathomless. Weeping, I sang this song of mourning:

Lord guru, enlightened one,
Please remain on the crown of my head.
With compassion look upon all sentient beings,
Each one of whom was once my mother,
Especially, look upon my mother of this life,
Whose fate is now in your hands.

I went off, thinking I’d meet
My mother one more time.
I did not meet her–
I met her bones.

Considering, reflecting,
The memory of my mother
Comes to mind. […]

“I have no need to meditate any further on impermanence and death. My mother gave me these teachings, and vanished. Now, if I don’t practice the Dharma–what else is there?”

Shabkar, The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiographie of a Tibetan Yogin

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