This morning, during my sitting meditation session, I devoted my practice to connecting with the Five Remembrances. The original Five Remembrances come from a Buddhist sutra, for which the English translation is entitled: Subjects for Contemplation. The above translation, of which I’m most familiar with, is from my root teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.
According to Wikipedia, which I think is well said: According to this discourse, contemplation of these facts leads to the abandonment of destructive attachments and actions and to the cultivation of factors necessary for awakening.
If feelings of sorrow, overwhelm, upset, or aversion arise upon reading the Five Remembrances, it indicates that only a surface level view is being encountered. If we think these are a downer, we have not yet penetrated them deeply enough to benefit from the levels of insight from which they manifest.
As a collective assembly of people, we are societally groomed to avoid these inherent realities as being part of our human experience. In doing so, we are limiting our ability to be – and stay – in conscious contact and communication with the preciousness of life. We take things, people, places, experiences, and life itself, for granted.
Forging a relationship with the Five Remembrances, practicing to continually deepen our understanding and connection with them, allows us to see things as they really are. And the clearer our world view is, the better able we are to stay grounded and well-balanced in the here and now.
As our understanding of the Five Remembrances develops, we are afforded the ability to expand our appreciation for all beings; ourselves included. Our capacity for cultivating compassion, humility, heartfullness, and kindness also grows in tandem. We learn how to have reverence for life, through the expression of this teaching. And this serves as a gift beyond measure.
Reverence for life and all beings – not just the ones we like and agree with – is a bottomless well. There’s no final destination in which to reach. This teaching, like so many others in Buddhism, is ongoing. We don’t ever get to a place where we stop practicing – that’s not a thing. The practice grows and deepens and continues, the more we invest our time and energy and heart into it.
The more we keep angling ourselves in the direction of connection to understanding and awakening, the more we experience the fruits of liberation and healing. In my own practice experience, the Five Remembrances are a pathway to living a good life.