PLT: Allen, in the light of Buddhism, how do you look at death?
AG: Well, I am really interested in what do you do with your mind at the moment of death, particularly after you stop breathing. I understand that if you are drowning, there is still about eight minutes wihout breath in which you can still be brought back. So there still must be some life. Obviously on your deathbed all the struggle and pain is over by the time you stop breathing. You are out, things have stopped, and there is nothing you can do anymore, but you are still conscious on some level. I am always interested in what consciousness is there. What recourse is there?
There is the traditional Buddhist view that at the time of death, Dharma will be my only refuge. Because I create karma, I must abandon evil deeds and always devote my life to virtuous action. Therefore, everyday I will examine myself so that it’s a continuous self-examination to make sure I’m not building up an indissoluble barrier that will make me panic because I didn’t get things right. Then the question is,what do you remember at the point of death? So many Buddhist practices are preparations for taking-off – not panicking, to being bound to look back and trying to rearrange your bookshelf – but going out with a clean slate…
And, elsewhere in their conversation:
PLT: What do you think would be your last words?
AG: I wouldn’t even… I haven’t thought of it. There’s a very interesting poem by Antler called “Last Words” in which he quotes the most interesting last words of everybody. Do you know that poem?
PLT: It’s a preoccupation with me – people’s last words
AG: Really? Look up this poem. It’s this great poem which is a great collection of last words, like “It is cooked already”, said somebody, or “Oops!” or “Is this happening to me?” or “Is it really me?”
PLT: Huidobro wanted to see his own image…
AG: Vincent Huidobro
PLT: Yes, he wanted to see his own image while he died. Asked for a mirror to be held up/
AG: No kidding, very conscious guy….