The Five Remembrances come from the Upajjhatthana Sutra, which means ‘Subjects for Contemplation.’ The Buddha recommended reciting these verses every day to help you remember that life is precious and time is short.
The Five Remembrances are simple statements of the facts of life and death. So meditating on them is about accepting reality as it is, not as you would like it be. You can’t hold on to things as they are because everything changes. It may sound bleak to say that everything will slip through your fingers in the long run, but there’s no point in trying to do the impossible. You’re not going to live forever and you probably wouldn’t want to – it would get very repetitive and boring after a while!
Meditating on these verses will help you to let go of your attachments and create the necessary conditions for awakening. It also encourages you to think before you act because it puts your life into a larger context and reminds you of your responsibility.
Here are the Five Remembrances:
- I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.
- I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape ill health.
- I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape dying.
- All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. I cannot keep anything. I came here empty-handed, and I go empty-handed.
- My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
Consider this: If my actions reflect who I really am, then is what I am about to do in harmony with my deeper truth? What will I become if I act in this way?