Life is King

Hour after hour, day
After day we try
To grasp the Ungraspable, pinpoint
The Unpredictable. Flowers
Wither when touched, ice
Suddenly cracks beneath our feet. Vainly
We try to track birdflight through the sky trace
Dumb fish through deep water, try
To anticipate the earned smile the soft
Reward, even
Try to grasp our own lives. But Life
Slips through our fingers
Like snow. Life
Cannot belong to us. We
Belong to Life. Life
Is King.

Sangharakshita, “Life is King”, from Complete Poems 1941-1994, published by Windhorse Publications.

“I recently wrote my first will, aged 36. I hadn’t expected to feel so good afterwards. There was a relief at having my ‘post-death’ affairs in order, but also a great satisfaction at having effectively made donations to two organisations that I feel both passionate about and grateful to: the London Buddhist Centre and Karuna Trust. It was also interesting to reflect upon what I own, and its insubstantiality in the event of my death. Some of it will be of value, but some will no doubt end up in charity shops or the bin!”
Amalavajra, London

The Buddha taught us always to remember impermanence: the ever-changing, coming and going, never-quite-certain nature of things.

He knew that if we really took the teaching of impermanence to heart, then almost everything else he taught would become obvious. We’d realise that although things of the world can give pleasure, they don’t last and don’t lead to deeper fulfilment. We might start questioning how much they are worth the hurry and hassle we put into getting them. We’d understand that we cannot grasp at life; it slips though our fingers like snow. We’d see that life cannot belong to us. We belong to life. Life is King.

And if we can live with life as King, we become more alive, more real, and more opened-out to the world, aware of its beauty and of other people in it. We see that nothing – in the end – belongs to us. We just borrow things for a while, and then we have to return them. We borrow from the earth, the seas, and the sun. Each breath we take is a borrowing and giving back.

This short booklet is about one way of remembering impermanence, and of being aware of how we’ve borrowed and will one day give back. It is about making a will; reflecting on the things that we own and what we’d like to do with them after we’re gone.

We may have loved ones we’ll want to care for. We may have good causes in the world we’d like to support. We may belong to communities that we want to help grow and prosper. Making a will is important. It can also be an inspiring and liberating spiritual practice in its own right. It is another way of thinking about what most matters to you, and reflecting on letting-go, giving-up, passing-on. The next few pages give you the information you need to make a will, and ask you to consider leaving a gift in your will to the Triratna Buddhist Community.

“Our children were small when we had to leave them to travel abroad to the funeral of a close friend. This made us think: ‘what would happen if we both died?’ We had a solicitor draw up our wills because there was property involved and the complexity of inheritance tax to be sorted. We appointed guardians for the children to live with and to manage finances until they reached 18. We’ve left everything to each other, and then to our children. We’ve talked about the wills to them and especially about the difficulties that can arise around inheritance, and how they can manage without greed or hatred coming between them.”
Meg, Herefordshire