Sunday, January 16, 2011
Death is part of life, we are all born with our death certificate in our hands and nobody can change that, then why is when we see death coming, we all try to run away like headless chickens?
To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our consciousness will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma.
This would lead to the person to be reborn in one of 6 realms which are; heaven, human beings, Asura, hungry ghost, animal and hell. But to break a misunderstanding right now, is not that you are going to be born and animal or a hungry ghost, but you will go through a mental state that reflects a life just like that. When you are a miser, you will live like a hungry ghost and never be satisfied, when you live a life without wants and mostly happy, you are a god.
Realms, according to the severity of ones karmic actions, Buddhists believe however, none of these places are permanent and one does not remain in any place indefinitely. So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth. But what many fear is to cease to be existent and losing ones identity and foothold in the world. We are so afraid of what is going to happen with my money, my loved ones, and my position.
To clarify again, we don’t believe in a permanent heaven or hell. If we do, how are we going to change and improve?
Buddhist customs during death: Through Buddhist doctrine we are told that the final moment of our consciousness is paramount, the most important moment of all. If the ill person is in hospital and the diagnosis is grim that the person cannot possibly survived, the family should call in the Buddhist priest to pray for the loved one so that at the final moment, the right state of mind has been generated within the person and they can find their way into a higher state of rebirth as they leave the present lives.
The nurses and family members are not supposed to touch the corpse, having to wait 3-8 hours after breathing ceases before touching the body for any preparation after the death. We Buddhists believe that the spirit of a person will linger on for sometime and can be affected by what happened to the corpse. It is important that the body is treated gently and with respect and that the priest can help the spirit continues its journey calmly to higher states, not causing the spirit to becoming angry and confused and may be more likely to be reborn into the lower realms.
Before the person goes to his next rebirth, they go to the Bardo, a Tibetan word that means “Gap”. The intermediate existence between death and rebirth -- a stage varying from hours to forty-nine days, after which the Karmic body from previous lives will certainly be reborn.
In the Mahayana Buddhism, especially, Vietnamese tradition we pray for the dead for 49 days after passing away, 49 being the estimated time it takes for the spirit to be reborn again into a new life. Some spirits are reborn 3 days, 21 days, 49 days or 100 days after death and in some cases even 7 years.
Buddhists believe that when a person dies, rebirth will take place somewhere else according to his good or bad actions. As long as the person possesses the craving for existence, he must experience rebirth. Only the people who have gone beyond all passions will have no more rebirths and so after their death, they will attain their final goal Nirvana.
Buddhists are not very particular regarding the burial or cremation of a dead body. In many Buddhist countries, cremation is customary. For hygienic and economic reasons, it is advisable to cremate. Today, the population in the world is increasing and if we continue to have dead bodies occupying valuable land, then one day all remaining available land will be occupied by the dead and the living will have no place to live.
Buddhists do not believe that one day someone will come and awaken the departed person’s spirits from their graveyards or the ashes from their urns and decide who should go to heaven and who should go to hell. The consciousness or mental energy of the departed person has no connection with the body left behind or his skeleton or his ashes. Many people believe that if the deceased is not given a proper burial or if a sanctified tombstone is not placed on the grave, then the soul of the deceased will wander to the four corners of the world and weep and wail and sometimes even return to disturb the relatives.
Such a belief cannot be found anywhere in Buddhism.