Contemplating death can motivate us to practice the Dharma with greater dedication and enthusiasm, and frequently we hear, read, or remember such teachings. However, this is but a partial and limited view of the benefits of remembering our own mortality.
Contemplating death helps us directly to “avoid harm, do good, and purify the mind” —the summary of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings on the Noble Eightfold Path. How?
When we remember death during our interactions with all sentient beings, we must consider whether we desire that a harmful act be our last intervention, since death can come at any moment. Do we really want a negative thought, a false or cruel word, or a destructive deed be our last act?
Also, when we have the possibility of benefitting others, is it prudent to postpone favorable acts, waiting for a more suitable or convenient time? Do we know for certain that we will have another opportunity to help others?
Lastly, will we have time in some uncertain future to challenge and eliminate our wrong views and afflicted emotions, or is this the right moment to cut off the ignorance that keeps us bound to the cycle of suffering?
Contemplating death reminds us that now is the only moment in which we can put the Dharma into practice.