24 Jan I Am Not In Here by Thich Nhat Hanh
I have a disciple in Vietnam who wants to build a stupa for my ashes when I die. He and others want to put a plaque with the words, “Here lies my beloved teacher.” I told them not to waste the temple land.
“Do not put me in a small pot and put me in there” I said. “I don’t want to continue like that. It would be better to scatter the ashes outside to help the trees to grow.”
I suggested that, if they still insist on building a stupa, they have the plaque say, “I am not in here.” But in case people don’t get it, they could add a second plaque, “I am not out there either.” If still people don’t understand, then you can write on the third and last plaque, “I may be found in your way of breathing and walking.”
This body of mine will disintegrate, but my actions will continue me. In my daily life I always practice to see my continuation all around me. We don’t need to wait until the total dissolution of this body to continue—we continue in every moment.
If you think that I am only this body, then you have not truly seen me. When you look at my friends, you see my continuation. When you see someone walking with compassion, you know he is my continuation.
I don’t see why we have to say “I will die,” because I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.
Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for a cloud to die. It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to continue. There’s no beginning and no end. I will never die. There will be a dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death.
I will continue, always.
Excerpted from Thich Nhat Hanh “At Home in the World: Stories & Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life” (2015)