The Buddhist View of Life after Death

Life and Death
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These concepts provided the basis for Christian evangelism to this day.

The Catholic tradition added the concept of purgatory which moderated the intensity of the concepts of heaven and hell. There was a way to heaven through purification in purgatory with assistance provided by indulgences or merits created by family and friends through masses for the dead.

The origin of the western idea of the dualism of heaven and hell appears to have originated in Persia with the teaching of the prophet Zoroaster. This concept was absorbed together with the concept of a Last Judgment by the Jewish exiles in Babylonia and Persia ca.

Rebirth and Consciousness

There was to be a Last Judgment, after a general resurrection, where all their ancient enemies would get their just deserts. This later came to be an important feature of the Christian view, though correlated with belief or rejection of Jesus. Where the focus of Jewish belief was more on the people as a whole, the Christian view centered on individual belief or unbelief. Islamic belief was influenced by Christian teaching and focused on the individual. An aspect of Christian belief was that after bodily Resurrection and the Last Judgment, the evil people would be cast into a lake of fire for eternity.

Believers would be brought to heaven where they would dwell with God eternally. However, Christian permeation of the Mediterranean Hellenistic-Graeco-Roman world led to changes in the conception of the afterlife. The Judaic view supported a Resurrection and Judgment. Those who had passed away waited in their graves till the call of God aroused them from their sleep to face Judgment. Early Christianity lived in the expectation of the second coming of Jesus and a general Resurrection and Final Judgment.

However the Greek view maintained belief in an eternal soul which, when the body was discarded, would live for eternity in an Elysian paradise. This understanding was absorbed gradually into Christianity with belief in Immortality following death dominating over the idea of Resurrection. It is presently quite common belief that when people die, they immediately go to heaven to be with Jesus and their loved ones. However, the belief in the second coming of Jesus and a final judgment, which presuppose Resurrection, persists. A problem in the Christian belief in Afterlife is the issue of the punishment fitting the crime.

There are no gradations or levels in the concept of hell. Despite the fact that the evils or sins which disbelieving people commit vary in their degree and kind, the punishment is uniform for unbelievers and all receive the same retribution. Consignment to hell is eternal without let-up. In recent times, the negative aspect of Afterlife has been downplayed and the more positive feature of eternal life in the presence of God emphasized. Rather than burning in a literal hell, the idea of separation from God and ultimate loneliness is often emphasized.

Buddhism arose within the context of Indian religion about the sixth century B. The mythology of heavens and hells was already present.

Initially the Buddha taught the principle of karma and transmigration, but unlike Indian religion, he rejected the concept of an eternal soul or essence in beings and things. There is no eternal soul as in Hinduism or Christianity. The state of mind at the time of death is regarded as extremely important, because this plays a vital part in the situation one is reborn into.

This is one reason why suicide is regarded in Buddhism as very unfortunate, because the state of mind of the person who commits suicide is usually depressed and negative and is likely to throw them into a lower rebirth. Also, it doesn't end the suffering, it just postpones it to another life. When considering the spiritual care of the dying, it can be helpful to divide people into several different categories, because the category they are in will determine the most useful approach to use.

These categories are: 1 whether the person is conscious or unconscious, and 2 whether they have a religious belief or not. In terms of the first category, if the person is conscious they can do the practices themselves or someone can assist them, but if they are unconscious someone has to do the practices for them.

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For the second category, if a person has specific religious beliefs, these can be utilised to help them. For a spiritual practitioner, it is helpful to encourage them to have thoughts such as love, compassion, remembering their spiritual teacher.

Dharma World Buddhist magazine

It is beneficial also to have an image in the room of Jesus, Mary, Buddha, or some other spiritual figure that may have meaning for the dying person. It may be helpful for those who are with the dying person to say some prayers, recite mantras etc. However, one needs to be very sensitive to the needs of the dying person. The most important thing is to keep the mind of the person happy and calm.

Nothing should be done including certain spiritual practices if this causes the person to be annoyed or irritated. Because the death process is so important, it is best not to disturb the dying person with noise or shows of emotion. Expressing attachment and clinging to the dying person can disturb the mind and therefore the death process, so it is more helpful to mentally let the person go, to encourage them to move on to the next life without fear.

It is important not to deny death or to push it away, just to be with the dying person as fully and openly as possible, trying to have an open and deep sharing of the person's fear, pain, joy, love, etc. As mentioned previously, when a person is dying, their mind becomes much more subtle, and they are more open to receiving mental messages from those people close to them. So silent communication and prayer can be very helpful. It is not necessary to talk much.

The dying person can be encouraged to let go into the light, into God's love etc. It can be very helpful to encourage the dying person to use breathing meditation - to let go of the thoughts and concentrate on the movement of the breath. This can be helpful for developing calmness, for pain control, for acceptance, for removing fear. It can help the dying person to get in touch with their inner stillness and peace and come to terms with their death.

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Learn about samsara and nirvana and how Buddhists believe we can Belief in life after death may be influenced by the meaning and purpose it gives to the. 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 .

This breathing technique can be especially useful when combined with a mantra, prayer, or affirmation i. One of the Tibetan lamas, Sogyal Rinpoche, says that for up to about twenty-one days after a person dies they are more connected to the previous life than to the next one. So for this period in particular the loved ones can be encouraged to continue their silent communication with the deceased person - to say their good-byes, finish any unfinished business, reassure the dead person, encourage them to let go of their old life and to move on to the next one. It can be reassuring even just to talk to the dead person and at some level to know that they are probably receiving your message.

The mind of the deceased person at this stage can still be subtle and receptive.

The Buddhist universe

For the more adept practitioners there is also the method of transference of consciousness at the time of death Tibetan: po-wa. With training, at the time of death, the practitioner can project his mind upwards from his heart centre through his crown directly to one of the Buddha pure realms, or at least to a higher rebirth.

Someone who has perfected this training can also assist others at the time of death to project their mind to a good rebirth. It is believed that if the consciousness leaves the body of the dead person through the crown or from a higher part of the body, it is likely to result in a good type of rebirth. Conversely, if the consciousness leaves from a lower part of the body this is likely to result in rebirth in one of the lower realms. For this reason, when a person dies it is believed that the first part of the body that should be touched is the crown. The crown is located about eight finger widths of the person being measured back from the original hairline.

To rub or tap this area or gently pull the crown hair after a person dies is regarded as very beneficial and may well help the person to obtain a higher rebirth. Their are special blessed pills po-wa pills that can be placed on the crown after death which also facilitates this process.

Once the consciousness has left the body which, as mentioned earlier, can take up to three days it doesn't matter how the body is disposed of or handled including the carrying out of a post-mortem examination because in effect it has just become an empty shell. However, if the body is disposed of before the consciousness has left, this will obviously be very disturbing for the person who is going through the final stages of psychological dissolution. This raises the question of whether or not it is advisable to donate one's organs after dying.

The usual answer given by the Tibetan lamas to this question is that if the wish to donate one's organs is done with the motivation of compassion, then any disturbance to the death process that this causes is far outweighed by the positive karma that one is creating by this act of giving.

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It is another way in which one can die with a positive and compassionate mind. A Tibetan tradition which is becoming more popular in the West is to get part of the remains of the deceased e.

Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on Death and Impermanence

These stupas for instance could be kept in the person's home, larger ones could be erected in a memorial garden. Making offerings to these or circumambulating them and so on is regarded as highly meritorious, both for the person who has died and for the loved ones. There are also rituals for caring for the dead, for guiding the dead person through the intermediate state into a good rebirth. Pende Hawter Contemplation and meditation on death and impermanence are regarded as very important in Buddhism for two reasons : 1 it is only by recognising how precious and how short life is that we are most likely to make it meaningful and to live it fully and 2 by understanding the death process and familiarizing ourself with it, we can remove fear at the time of death and ensure a good rebirth.

The first of these meditations is known as the nine-round death meditation, in which we contemplate the three roots, the nine reasonings, and the three convictions, as described below: A. Worldly possessions such as wealth, position, money can't help 8. Abide in a state of abiding peacefulness and bliss. With the motivation to help others to achieve freedom, Tibetan Buddhism sets out a path to complete enlightenment. In short, death presents us with a choice. Not one which will be decided by an external deity.

Instead, one which is determined by our own actions. Most beings are unaware that such a choice exists, so unknowingly perpetuate an endless cycle of birth, ageing, sickness and death. But every act of body, speech and mind conditions our mental continuum for future experiences, whether inside this cycle — or out. I have more about this in future blogs.

I would urge you to investigate the nature of consciousness for yourself through meditation.

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To read the accounts of meditation masters who go beyond death and return to share their experiences Incarnation by Tulku Thondup. A human life has been described as being like a visit to an island of jewels — the opportunities we have for personal growth, compared with other beings, are abundant and easy to find. It is up to us not to waste our precious time being overwhelmed by mundane pursuits. We can instead choose to focus on what is of ultimate importance. Each one of us already possesses the potential for freedom and transcendence — it is implicit in the nature of our own minds.

We only need discover this liberating reality for ourselves. I hope you found this blog useful!