'In the teaching and understanding of the Buddha, we all share the nature of no birth and no death. Not only humans, but also animals and plants share the nature of no birth and no death. A leaf and a flower share the same ground of no birth and no death. There is a manifestation of a flower or a leaf or a cloud. During the winter we do not see any sunflowers or dragonflies, and we do not hear the cuckoo bird sing. It seems that they do not exist in winter, but we know this idea is wrong. In the beginning of spring, all of these beings will manifest themselves again. They have just been somewhere else during the winter, in another manifestation, waiting until conditions are favorable in order to manifest themselves again. To qualify them as non-existing in winter is a wrong perception...
'It is real and deep wisdom to learn to look at things in terms of manifestation. If someone who is very close to you has passed away and you define him or her as non-existing, you are mistaken. From nothing cannot be born something. From no one cannot be born someone. From something you cannot become nothing. From someone you cannot become no one. That is the truth. If the person close to you does not manifest in the form that you are used to seeing or perceiving, that does not mean that he is non-existing. It does not mean that he is no longer there. If you look deeply, you can touch his or her presence in other forms of manifestation.
'One day I took the hand of a young father who had just buried his little son. I invited him to walk with me to discover his son in other forms. His son had come to Plum Village when he ws young and learned to enjoy vegetarian food. He gave me his allowance and extra pocket money and asked me to buy a plum tree and plant it for him. He wanted to participate in the work of supporting children in the world by planting a fruit tree at Plum Village. He knew that a plum tree gives a lot of fruit. He knew that we could sell the fruit and send the money to hungry children in the third world. He learned to do walking and sitting meditation, and he practised the dharma very well. When he was sick, I went to Bordeaux and visited him in the hospital. He said to me, 'Grandpa monk, I will do walking meditation for you.' And he got down from his bed and walked beautifully. Shortly after my visit, he died. The day of his cremation, I sprinkled the water and chanted the Heart Sutra for him. A week later, I took the hand of his father during a walking meditation and showed him many other manifestations of his little boy. Together we visited the plum tree I planted for his son, and as we sat in the afternoon light, we saw his little boy waving to us from every bud and branch.
'Looking deeply into reality, you can discover many things. You can surmount so much suffering and counter many wrong perceptions. If we can abide peacefully in the ultimate dimension, we will not drown in the ocean of suffering, grief, fear and despair.
'...The Buddha has advised us that we should not accept any teachings as true just because a famous master teaches them or because they are found in holy books. This also includes the Buddhist canon. We can only accept the teachings that we have put into practice with our own awakened understanding andtht we can see with our own experience to be true. The Buddha said our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Let us look at this again.
'If you light a candle and the flame keeps burning until the whole candle is finished, is the candle still there or not? The Buddha says there is no annhiliation. We have seen that this is true. And also we have seen that the concept of permanence is not applicable to things as they are. So the truth lies somewhere in between. Here we must look deeply with all our concentration.
'Do you think that the flame on the candle is going down only in a vertical direction? If you think so, then you are following the flame in time. You may also think in this way about your own life span: that it is going in a linear direction and that one day it will end. You may think that you were born on a point on a vertical line, a point that you might call 1960. You may think that you will die on a point somewhere far away, which you may call 2040. All you can see is yourself moving in time like the candle. But you are not just moving in a linear direction.
'You might think that the flame is just going down. You might think that the candle will die. In fact, the flame is going out in many directions. It is giving out light all around itself to the north, south, east and west. If you have a very sensitive scientific instrument, you would be able to measure the heat and light that the candle is sending out into the universe. The candle is going into you as an image, as light and as heat.
'You are like a candle. Imagine you are sending out light around you. All your words, thoughts and actions are going out in many directions...
'We are transforming and continuing in a different form at every moment.'
~Thich Nhat Hanh
No Death, No Fear
My dad's body is transforming, as it has done since the moment of his conception. But his existence did not begin at that moment, and it will not end when his body stops functioning. He continues.