Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/25/2018

Life as a Nimitta

I believe it was a talk by Ajahn Brahm where he was talking about what happens at death. Speaking about the usual experience of seeing a tunnel with a light at the end he explained they what people are really seeing is the nimitta of their luminous mind. The white disc in the field of darkness gives the appearance of being a tunnel and when people do go into it they enter a mind-made realm where they meet Jesus, Krishna or whoever their mind creates. But, I digress.

The main point I wanted to get to was the “trick” that Ajahn Brahm gave for those of us who have lived less than pure lives and haven’t spent much time cultivating. He says that if you see a dirty or dim nimitta at death you can still get a favorable rebirth if you focus on those parts that are bright and clean. Sounds easy until you realize that this is our task all the time. Ajahn Thanissaro describes find a refuge in the breath as being analogous to staying in a house with a leaky roof and rotting floorboards. Naturally, to get comfortable, stay dry and avoid injuries you move away from the holes in the roof and floor.

On the same way, we don’t focus on the negative in life but cultivate what is useful. Sure, there’s lessons to be learned from the bad stuff (such as “I will do my best never to act like this person” or “May I never repeat this action again”) but it’s not the kind of obsession I usually slip into.


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