Even if resembling, while alive, the
    children of the gods,
Once dead they are more frightful than a
    demon horde;
People of Tingri, you’ve been deceived by
    these illusory bodies.

California Vulture, John James Audubon, 1838, Courtesy of the Audubon Society
California Vulture, John James Audubon, 1838, Courtesy of the Audubon Society

Your body may be something of pride to you at the moment, and you no doubt cherish it and try to look after it well. Your friends and relatives, too, take it affectionately by the hand and speak warmly to it, all smiles. The day after you die, however, everything will be very different. Your dear ones will do everything they can to get your body out of the door as quickly as possible. Who wants a corpse in the house? If you were in Tibet, your body would be bound up with rope, put in a sack, and carried to the cemetery, to be dismembered by men and torn to shreds by vultures.

What should you do to put your body to good use? Most people have no idea. A craftsman who borrows some tools will try to make the best possible use of them while they are available. Your body, too, is actually on loan to you for the time being, for the brief period left before it is taken back from you by death. Had you better not use it to practice the dharma while you can?

From The Hundred Verses of Advice: Tibetan Teachings on What Matters Most, © 2002 by Shechen Publications. Used with permission of Shambhala Publications.

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