I remember many years ago attending a talk given by a Buddhist monk back when I lived in the United States. Something he said has stayed with me to this day, and I am confident always will remain with me until I die. It was something obvious, something we all know, but I suppose the context drove home a crucial message. The monk did work in prisons… work with death-row inmates. People who were sentenced to die for the crimes they committed. There was no going back, they knew they would be killed and their time was limited. The monk talked about how some of these prisoners had realized greater freedom than the mass majority of people who are living ‘free’. Then he said the sentence that grabbed my head and has never let go… He said ‘We are all on death-row’
Now, of course, we all know that we will all die, someday. But, at least for me, it was always some abstract thing to occur in the incalculable future..
We will all die, we are truly all already on death-row.
Yet… how liberating.
How would you act towards yourself today if you knew you were to die tomorrow? How would you act towards other people?
In one sense, knowing we will die can free us from the fear of the consequences of our actions… both good and bad… we can become fearless.
In another sense however, knowing we will die can bind us with crippling fear of the upcoming death we know awaits us.
We are all on death-row… how will we make the time we have left in the prison we have put ourselves in?
In Buddhism, there is a Way, a path, in which we can escape our prison before we die.. so that when we do die, we die free. … like some of those inmates in the electric chair.