Advice to a Dying Man: Anāthapindikovāda Sutta (Majjhima Nikāya, 143)
This systematic exploration of the phenomenal field of human experience is a powerful exercise in non-attachment. No need to wait until lying on your death bed to undertake it. Put aside an hour, find a quiet place, and try working through this map of the inner landscape, step by step.
On one occasion the householder Anāthapindika was afflicted, suffering, and gravely ill.
The venerable Sāriputta dressed, and taking his bowl and outer robe, went to the residence of Anāthapindika with Ānanda as his attendant.
Having gone there, he sat down on a seat made ready and said to Anāthapindika: “I hope you are getting well, I hope you are comfortable. I hope your painful feelings are not increasing.”
“Venerable Sāriputta, I am not getting well, I am not comfortable. My painful feelings are increasing, not subsiding.
Just as if a strong man were splitting my head open with a sharp sword, so too violent winds cut through my head.
Just as if a strong man were tightening a tough leather strap around my head as a headband, so too there are violent pains in my head.
Just as if a skilled butcher or his apprentice were to carve up an ox’s belly with a sharp butcher’s knife, so too violent winds are carving up my belly.
Just as if two strong men were to seize a weaker man by both arms and roast him over a pit of hot coals, so too there is a violent burning in my body.
I am not getting well, I am not comfortable. My painful feelings are increasing, not subsiding.”
“Then, householder, [said Sāriputta,] you should train thus:
When this was said, Anāthapindika wept and shed tears.
Then Ānanda asked him, “Are you foundering, householder, are you sinking?”
“I am not foundering, Ānanda, I am not sinking. But although I have long waited upon the Teacher and bhikkhus worthy of esteem, never before have I heard such a talk on the Dhamma.”
“Such talk on the Dhamma is not given to lay people clothed in white, but only to those who have gone forth.”
“Well, then, Sāriputta, let such talk on the Dhamma be given to lay people clothed in white.
There are people with little dust in their eyes who are wasting away through not hearing such talk on the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand.”
Then, after giving Anāthapindika this advice, Sāriputta and Ānanda rose from their seats and departed.
Soon after they had left, the householder Anāthapindika died and reappeared in the Tushita heaven.