Once you realize the preciousness of your human life and the potential you have for inner freedom, you turn to the second theme: impermanence. This human life with all its potential is precious, and it’s also temporary. You will die.

Reflecting upon how transitory life is, we know very well that some of our plans may not come to pass. We have no idea at what time we actually will die. We come to know for sure that we are going to die. All beings die.

We reflect on the immediacy of our death through the three roots:

  • You will die - certainly
  • There is no certainty when you will die
  • When you do die the core of your being is what you will take with you

The first root – The certainty that you will die

We all die. You will die – definitely.

This precious, amazing life form that we have achieved will definitely be temporary. We will definitely leave it. This is the first certainty.

Developing a strong certainty that we are going to die liberates us from unfocused practice. It dawns on us that this body and mind and these five senses will cease to be.

The second root – There is no certainty when you will die

The causes of life are few and they are fragile, the causes of death are many. We habitually go along secure with the idea that there's going to be some time later when we're going to die — "when you are old and full of sleep" — but there is no knowing when we will die.

So we add to the certainty that we will die the uncertainty when we will die.

We do not know. when we’re going to die. It could happen at any time. We should be prepared that it can happen at any time.

Reflecting on the uncertainty of when you will die, that is could be at any moment, you may become a little bit of a keyed up state as we meditate. That’s OK. Then we bring in the third root.

The third root – When we do die…

When we do die the core of our being is what we will take with us. The one thing that can help us at that time will be how much of the Dharma we have integrated into the core of our being — our openness, fearlessness, tolerance, generosity, intelligence, calm. That's what helps us confront death. It's all we can take with us.

The only thing that will help us at the time of our death is what has become integrated in our subtle most inner mind, the mind within and (relatively) apart from the mind that coordinates the sense stimuli and sense perceptions. 

But If we’ve integrated concentration, generosity and openness, fearlessness, wisdom, ability to discern, ability to remain lucid, these abilities these will be of help to us.

From the three roots grows our awareness of impermanence.

The three roots of the immediacy of death

When we integrate the three roots, we have this creative intensity known as the awareness of the immediacy of death. We have death in our hearts in a creative, liberating way. We have the energy of death to be in this moment alive, truly alive. We therefore we have no fear of death, because we have a more relaxed relationship to this feeling of possessing our body and mind and properties and knowledge — we know they’re temporary. They’re casually slung over our shoulder, so to speak, rather than clutched deeply and zipped into our being.

From these three roots grows our awareness of impermanence, our impermanence. We come to feel that there is no time at all. We become alert to the moment, making the moment as full as possible, because we're not investing it in some other thing. We don't know what could be happening next, so we concentrate on what is happening now. This kind of awareness, held in creative tension with the preciousness of human life, is extremely liberating.