Five reflections for everyone

reflections in a lakeThe Buddha must have considered the following list very important, since he advised that everyone should reflect on in. The five reflections are that I, personally, am subject (1) to aging, (2) to illness, and (3) to death; (4) that I will be separated from all that is dear to me; and (5) that I am responsible for my own actions and destiny.

There’s a saying that runs, “Few people on their deathbeds think, ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office.’ ” Thinking from this perspective — from the recognition that life is short and precious — brings us more fully into contact with our deeper values. In the everyday swirl of events we can easily lose sight of what is most important. Right now, spending more time in the office so that you can afford a so-called “better standard of living” may seem to be crucially important.

And yet what will you wish you’d spend more time on when it comes time for you to die? Most people have a sense of a life well lived when they have developed integrity of character, when they have done things to benefit others, and when they have build up long-lasting bonds of love and friendship with others.

In reading these passages, I suggest you imagine that you are on your deathbed, looking back at your life. What kinds of achievements will you want to look back on? What kind of character traits do you want to be remembered for? What relationships will you most value?

7 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Bodhipaksa

    These reflections sound a little sad when you first read them, it is tough to admit the body is so vulnerable and aging may bring weakness and dependence. But I was thinking how much wasted time might have been gained if we were taught this very early in life. Every moment you are healthy, every moment you the ones you care about are well, is so precious, still we complain and want more. Thanks for the site and for caring about people enough to get involved in teaching them to live better.

    I wish you well.


  • Hello Bodhipaksa,

    Thank you for giving us this opportunity to comment on your wonderful teachings.

    I have been learning about how the many ways of mediation in all its forms can be a great path towards peace and centeredness. I have gone through a number of difficult experiences in my life of late, and after many years of thinking I could handle anything, I am only now realizing that there are many things about how I have gone through life that can benefit from re-examination.

    This section on the Five Reflections has given me much to ponder, and I actually made a drawing about them that I was hoping to share with you–unfortunately I cannot attach it via this email. Perhaps you could let me know if there is a way I can send it to you somehow.

    No matter what, It is with deep gratitude that I send this note and thank you and your colleagues for this immensely rewarding sanctuary. I know that my struggles are far from over, but I believe now that from suffering will come true knowledge and awareness of the precious life we all have been bestowed.

    All the best,


    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks. We’re receiving a lot of very kind and appreciative comments these days. It’s very helpful!

      You should have received an email notification of your comment, and you can attach the drawing to that. What a lovely thing to have done! Many thanks!

  • Here’s the drawing that Alex was talking about, and which he kindly gave me permission to post. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

  • […] One major implication of this body of work, Vail says, is that we should “turn attention and research efforts toward better understanding of how the motivations triggered by death awareness can actually improve people’s lives, rather than how it can cause malady and social strife.” Write the authors: “The dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.” […]

  • […] My goal today is not to be bleak- it’s to reach the simple conclusion that, as the Buddhists say, “I will be separated from everything dear to me”. […]

  • I am happy to have found this— the drawing from Alex awhile back is amazing


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