Death and Impermanence
...from The Light of Wisdom, Vol. 1, pgs. 102-103:
Like the rising and setting of the sun and moon, composite things
The time of death lies uncertain, like a flash of lightning in the sky.
At the time of death nondharmic things are of no help at all,
So practice the sacred and sublime Dharma correctly.
In general, all which appear as this world and beings are composite phenomena produced through the interdependence of causes meeting with conditions, and therefore not a single thing is permanent. A sutra says:
"Monks, all composite things are impermanent."
How are these impermanent? This is described in the Udana Varga:
The end of gathering is depletion.
The end of rising is falling.
The end of meeting is parting.
The end of living is death.
Not beyond these four limits of impermanence, gross impermanence is the changes of the world and beings, creation and destruction, years and months, and the four seasons. Subtle impermanence is the moment-to-moment aging and changing, just like the instantaneous movement of the rising and setting of the sun and moon. In particular, the human life span is indefinite, so the time of death lies uncertain. There are many causes for death, making it sure that we will die. A human life is similar to a flash of lightning in the sky fading away the moment it appears. The Vinaya Scripture describes this:
Like the mountain river flowing into the ocean,
Like the sun or moon approaching the western mountain,
Like day and night, hours and minutes quickly go by;
These lives of people pass in this same way.
When you die, nothing besides the sacred Dharma, nothing such as high mental capacity, friends, servants, or wealth, are of any help whatsoever. Casting away mundane and superficial aims as though these are spittle, engage in the correct practice of the sacred Dharma as this has been taught by the victorious ones and the offspring of their hearts. RY (RWB)