Chapter One: Awareness of Death Just as when weavingOne reaches the endWith fine threads woven throughout,So is the life of humans. -- Buddha It is crucial to be mindful of death -- to contemplate that you will not remain long in this life. If you are not aware of death, you will fail to take advantage of this special human life that you have already attained. It is meaningful since, based on it, important effects can be accomplished.Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime during which you can perform many important practices. Rather than being frightened, you need to reflect that when death comes, you will lose this good opportunity for practice. In this way contemplation of death will bring more energy to your practice.You need to accept that death comes in the normal course of life. As Buddha said: A place to stay untouched by deathDoes not exist.It does not exist in space, it does not exist in the ocean,Nor if you stay in the middle of a mountain. If you accept that death is part of life, then when it actually does come, you may face it more easily.When people know deep inside that death will come but deliberately avoid thinking about it, that does not fit the situation and is counterproductive. The same is true when old age is not accepted as part of life but taken to be unwanted and deliberately avoided in thought. This leads to being mentally unprepared; then when old age inevitably occurs, it is very difficult.Many people are physically old but pretend they are young. Sometimes when I meet with longtime friends, such as certain senators in countries like the United States, I greet them with, "My old friend," meaning that we have known one another for a long period, not necessarily physically old. But when I say this, some of them emphatically correct me, "We are not old! We are longtime friends." Actually, they are old -- with hairy ears, a sign of old age -- but they are uncomfortable with being old. That is foolish.I usually think of the maximum duration of a human life as one hundred years, which, compared to the life of the planet, is very short. This brief existence should be used in such a way that it does not create pain for others. It should be committed not to destructive work but to more constructive activities -- at least to not harming others, or creating trouble for them. In this way our brief span as a tourist on this planet will be meaningful. If a tourist visits a certain place for a short period and creates more trouble, that is silly. But if as a tourist you make others happy during this short period, that is wise; when you yourself move on to your next place, you feel happy. If you create problems, even though you yourself do not encounter any difficulty during your stay, you will wonder what the use of your visit was.Of life's one hundred years, the early portion is spent as a child and the final portion is spent in old age, often just like an animal feeding and sleeping. In between, there might be sixty or seventy years to be used meaningfully. As Buddha said: Half of the life is taken up with sleep. Ten years are spent in childhood. Twenty years are lost in old age. Out of the remaining twenty years, sorrow, complaining, pain, and agitation eliminate much time, and hundreds of physical illnesses destroy much more. To make life meaningful, acceptance of old age and death as parts of our life is crucial. Feeling that death is almost impossible just creates more greediness and more trouble -- sometimes even deliberate harm to others. When we take a good look at how supposedly great personages -- emperors, monarchs, and so forth -- built huge dwelling places and walls, we see that deep inside their minds was an idea that they would stay in this life forever. This self-deception resulDalai Lama XIV is the author of 'Mind of Clear Light Advice on Living Well and Dying Consciously', published 2004 under ISBN 9780743244695 and ISBN 0743244699.