Nine Stages of Charnal Ground Contemplation

In the Pali Canon discourses, the Buddha frequently instructs his disciples to seek out a secluded dwelling in a forest, hillside cave, jungle grove, or charnal ground to contemplate the concept of impermanence, attachment and aversion, and fear of death.

The Satipattana Sutta orThe Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta in its first Contemplation focused on the body guides this “Nine Cemetery Meditations”, also called the Nine Stages of the Charnal Ground Contemplation.

On April 15, 2015 Wed. evening sit, Pat Komarow will guide us in this meditation as we intentionally bring our awareness to our own death. We will visualize the decomposition of our body after death through nine stages of dissolution, continually observing our body as a corpse and seeing it change over time.

In our discomfort around the topic of death, we often joke about death, the only thing as certain as taxes. Woody Allen has famously typified the attitude most of us find amusing and normal: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

One might ask, “Why do this kind of meditation?” Joan Halifax in her renowned book Being with Dying reminds us that “old age, sickness, and death do not have to be equated with suffering; we can live and practice in such a way that dying is a natural rite of passage, a completion of our life, and even the ultimate in liberation.”

Why not prepare for our death as we live our life fully? Why not explore our fears, anxiety, attachment to and identity with our body in an intentional moment of full awareness. What can we learn that informs the life we are now living? When we avoid death, we also avoid life.