Encounters with Yama, the Deity of Death

The 13th century Japanese Zen master Dogen said once, “birth and death are the everyday practice of the Buddhist Way.” Today, someone dies every 15 seconds from Covid 19, that is 250 people per hour and 5,900 per day, according to Reuters Press. The statistical evidence is staggering. On our hand-held screens, laptops, and desktops the sheer numbers show up daily. But Dogen’s maxim is not an invitation toward data driven calculation, nor to remain an aloof witness to the parade of birth and death, but rather, whole-heartedly, to experience it directly.

For students of yoga and anyone who inquires into the magnum mysterium, a brush with death through some circumstantial event, in a dream, or standing at a hospital bedside, serves to amplify the experience of living. Bearing witness to death heightens appreciation for life.

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