Life is uncertain death is certain



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LIFE IS UNCERTAIN - DEATH IS CERTAIN

by Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda

A Publication of the

Buddhist Missionary Society

Buddhist Maha Vihara,

123, Jalan Berhala,

50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

(C) 1995 by the author

All rights reserved

Prepared at BuddhaNet

for free distribution 1996


CONTENTS
Life is uncertain - Death is certain

Fear of Death

Illness and Death

Man's Influence Persists

Buddhist Philosophy

Cause of Sorrow

Death is Universal

The Five Aggregates

Rebirth


A Bundle of Elements and Energies

Causes of Death

Face Facts

Death is Inevitable

Our Duties and Responsibilities

Craving and Ignorance

Contemplation on Death

Death is Part of Life

Living Consciously

Dying Good Death

Peaceful Death

I Died Today

"Life is uncertain - Death is certain": This is a well

known saying in Buddhism. Knowing very well that death

is certain and it is a natural phenomenon that everyone

has to face, we should not be afraid of death. Yet,

instinctively, all of us fear death because we do not

know how to think of its inevitability. We like to cling

to our life and body and so develop too much craving and

attachment.


A child comes into this world bringing joy and happiness

unto all near and dear ones. Even the mother who had to

bear extreme labour pains is pleased and delighted to

behold her new-born child. She feels that all the

trouble and pain borne by her were well worth it.

However, by crying, the child seems to suggest it too

has its share of suffering for coming into this world.
The child grows into an adolescent and later into an

adult, performing all sorts of good and bad deeds. He

eventually grows old and finally bids farewell to this

world leaving his kith and kin in deep sorrow. Such is

the nature of existence of a human being.
People try to evade and escape from the clutches of death but no one

is able to do so. At the moment of death, they have

their minds hovering over their hoard of acquired

wealth, unduly worrying about their dear children

surrounding them. Last but not least, they keep evincing

much concern over their own precious bodies, which,

despite the tender care and attention lavished by them

are now worn out, decaying and exhausted. It grieves

one's heart to separate oneself from the body. It is

unbearable though unavoidable. This is the way most

people take leave of this world - with moans and groans.

The pangs of death are considered dreadful, an attitude

fed by ignorance.

Fear of Death


Men are disturbed not by external things, but by beliefs

and imaginations they conjure up in their minds with

regard to the form of their future lives. Death, for

example, is not by itself dreadful: the dread or terror

exists only in our minds. It is not often that we are

brave enough to come face to face with the thought of

our own mortality. Insistence upon the truth of

suffering may seem horrible and unacceptable to the mind

which is unable to face realities, but it certainly

helps to reduce or eliminate the dread of fear by

knowing how to face death. Once life is launched, like a

bullet it rushes to its destination - death. Realizing

thus, we must bravely face that natural occurrence. To

be considered free in life, we must also be free from

the fear of death. Fear only comes to those who are not

able to comprehend the laws of Nature. "Wheresoever fear

arises, it arises in the fool, not in the wise man,"

says the Buddha in the Anguttara Nikaya. Fears are

nothing more than states of mind. Remember what science

teaches us about the process of dying? It is only a

physiological erosion of the human body. We needlessly

frighten ourselves with imagined or anticipated horrors

which never come to pass. As a famous physician, Sir

William Osler puts it:- "In my wide clinical experience,

most human beings die really without pain or fear."
A veteran nurse once said: "It has always seemed to me a

major tragedy that so many people go through life

haunted by the fear of death - only to find when it

comes that it's as natural as life itself. For few are

afraid to die when they get to the very end. In all my

experience only one seemed to feel any terror - a woman

who had done her sister a wicked thing which it was too

late to put right."


"Something strange and beautiful happens to men and

women when they come to the end of the road. All fear,

all horror disappears. I have often watched a look of

happy wonder dawn in their eyes when they realise this

is true. It is all part of the goodness of Nature."
Attachment to life on earth creates the unnatural fear

of death. It creates strong anxiety on life; the man who

will never take risks even for what is right. He lives

in fear worrying that some illness or accident might

snuff out the precious little life he cherishes.

Realizing that death is inevitable, the one who loves

life on earth will go into a devout prayer expressing

the hope that his soul will survive in heaven. No man

can be happy in such a tempest of fear and hope. Yet it

is hard to despise or ignore these manifestations of the

instinct for self-preservation. There is however a

method of overcoming this fear. Forget the concept of

self; turn one's love of the inward outwards, i.e.

provide humanitarian service and to shower love on

others. Whoever constantly keeps in mind the fact that

he would someday be subjected to death and that death is

inevitable, would be eager to fulfil his duties to his

fellow human beings before death, and this would

certainly make him heedful in respect of this world and

the next. Being engrossed in service to others, you will

soon release yourself from the heavy selfish

attachments, hopes, vanity, pride and

self-righteousness.

Illness and Death


Both illness and death are natural happenings in our

lives and must be accepted as such with understanding.

According to modern psychological theory, undue mental

stress is caused by our refusal to face and accept

life's realities. This undue stress, unless overcome or

subdued, actually causes grave physical illness.

Maintaining a sense of undue worry and despair over an

illness will certainly make it worse. As for death, it

must never be feared by those who are pure in heart and

action. We are all a combination of mind and matter and

as such there is actually no individual self to die. The

kammic reactions arising from past evil deeds may linger

with us on our rebirth thus causing us to shoulder the

kammic sufferings in a new life. Such an eventuality can

be obviated if we make every effort to acquire merit by

leading a virtuous life and doing meritorious deeds

wherever and whenever possible. By doing so we can face

death bravely and realistically since in accordance with

the teachings of Buddhism there is no 'saviour' upon

whom we could entrust our burdens in order to relieve

ourselves from the consequences of our wrong actions. We

should constantly remind ourselves of the Buddha's

advice: "Be ye refuges and islands unto yourselves;

labour on with diligence." Buddhists should not go into

grief and deep mourning over the deaths of relatives and

friends. There can be no halting of the wheel of

circumstance. When a man dies, the kammic sequence of

his conduct passes on into a new being. Kith and kin,

friends and relatives can accompany the dead body up to

the grave, but not further. Only a man's deeds, good or

bad, go forth with him. Those left behind should bear

their bereavement with calmness and understanding. Death

is an inevitable process of this world. That is the one

thing which is certain in this universe. Forests may be

turned into cities and cities into sand dunes. Where

mountains exist, a lake may be formed. Uncertainty

exists everywhere but death is certain. All else is

momentary. We had our forefathers, and they in turn had

their own, but where are they all now? They have all

passed away.


Let not the sophisticated assume that a pessimistic view

of life is being presented here. This is the most

realistic view of all realisms. Why should we be

unrealistic and blind our eyes to real facts? For does

not death consume everything? It certainly does. Let

this not be forgotten. The role of death is to make

every man aware of his destiny; that however high he may

be placed, whatever advanced aid in technology or

medical science he may have, his end is all the same,

either in a coffin or merely reduced to a handful of

ashes. The sequence of birth and death is a continuing

process until we become perfect.

Man's Influence Persists
The Buddha said: "Man's body turns to dust, but his name

or influence persists." The influence of a past life is

sometimes more far-reaching, more potent than that held

by the living body with certain limitations. We

occasionally act on thoughts inspired by personalities

whose mortal remains have turned to dust. In our

accomplishments, such thoughts also play an important

role. Every living person is deemed a composite of all

his ancestors who have gone before him. In this sense,

we may assume that the past heroes, great philosophers,

sages, poets and musicians of every race are still with

us. As we link our selves to the past martyrs and

thinkers, we are able to share their wise thoughts,

their noble ideals and even the imperishable music of

the ages. Even though their bodies are dead, their

influence lives on. The body is nothing but an abstract

generalisation for a constantly changing combination of

chemical constituents. Man must realize that his life is

but a drop in an ever-flowing river and must be happy to

contribute his part to the great stream which is called

life.
Not knowing the nature of his life, man is sunk in the

mud of ignorance of this world. He weeps and wails. But

when he realises what his true nature is, he renounces

all transient things and seeks the Eternal state. Prior

to achieving the Eternal state he will have to face

death again and again. Since death itself is

meaningless, man should not try to overcome the

continuous repeated births and deaths.


According to Buddhism, this is not the first and last

life we have in this world. If you do good with

confidence, you can have a better future life. On the

other hand, if you feel that you do not want to be

reborn again and again, you should work towards this end

by making every effort to develop the mind by

eradicating all craving and other mental impurities.

Buddhist Philosophy


The Noble saint who has attained the stage of highest

perfection does not weep at the passing away of those

dear and near to him as he has completely eradicated his

emotional feelings. Ven. Anuruddha, who was an Arahant,

did not weep at the passing away of the Buddha. However,

Ven. Ananda, who was at that time only a Sotapanna,

having attained only the first stage of sainthood, could

not but express his deep sorrow. The weeping bhikkhu had

to be reminded of the Buddha's view on situations of

this nature, as follows:-


"Has not the Buddha told us, Ananda, that what is born,

what comes to being, and what is put together, is

subject to dissolution? That is the nature of all

conditioned formations; to arise and pass away - Having

once arisen they must pass away - And when such

formations cease completely, then comes Peace Supreme."


These words describe the foundation on which the

structure of Buddhist philosophy is built.

Cause of Sorrow
The cause of our grief and sorrow is Attachment in all

its various forms. If we want to overcome sorrow, we

have to give up attachment - attachment not only to

persons but also to possessions. This is the ultimate

truth; this is the lesson that death signifies.

Attachment provides us many things to satisfy our

emotion and to lead a worldly life. But the same

attachment becomes in the end the cause of all our

sorrows. Unless we learn this lesson, death can strike

us and fill us with terror. The fact is beautifully

illustrated by the Buddha, who said: - "Death will take

away a man though he is attached to his children and his

possessions, just as a great flood takes away a sleeping

village."


This saying implies that if the village had not been

asleep but remained awake and alert, the havoc created

by the flood could have been avoided.

Death is Universal


Let us now examine how the Buddha solved this problem

for two persons who, through attachment, were both

deeply grieved by death. One person was Kisagotami. Her

only child had died after being attacked by a serpent.

She went to the Buddha carrying the dead child in her

arms to ask for help. The Buddha asked her to bring a

few mustard seeds from a family where no one had died.

But she could not find such a family. Every house she

visited was either in mourning or had mourned over a

death at one time or another. Then she realized the

bitter truth; that death is universal. Death strikes all

and spares none. Sorrow is the heritage of everyone.


The other person whom the Buddha advised was Patacara.

Her case was sadder. Within a short period she lost her

two children, husband, brother, parents, and all her

possessions. Losing her senses, she ran naked and wild

in the streets until she met the Buddha. The Buddha

brought her back to sanity by explaining that death is

to be expected as a natural phenomenon in all living

beings.
"You have suffered from similar situations, not once,

Patacara, but many times during your previous

existences. For a long time you suffered due to the

deaths of a father, a mother, children or relatives.

While you were thus suffering, you indeed shed more

tears than there is water in the ocean."
At the end of the talk, Patacara realised the

uncertainty of life. Both Patacara and Kisagotami

comprehended suffering and each learned through their

tragic experiences. By deeply understanding the First

Noble Truth of "suffering," the other three Noble Truths

were also understood. "Whoso monks, comprehends

suffering," said the Buddha, "also comprehends the

arising of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and

the path leading to the cessation of suffering."

The Five Aggregates


Death is the dissolution of //Khandhas//. The Khandhas

are the five aggregates of perception, sensation, mental

formations, consciousness and corporeality or matter.

The first four are mental aggregates or //nama//,

forming the unit of consciousness. The fifth, //rupa//

is the material or physical aggregate. This

psycho-physical combination is conventionally named an

individual, person or ego. Therefore what entities that

exist are not individuals as such, but the two primary

constituents of mind and matter, which are rare

phenomena. We do not see the five aggregates as

phenomena but as an entity because of our deluded minds,

and our innate desire to treat these as a self in order

to pander to our self-importance.


We will be able to see things as they truly are if we

only have patience and the will to do so. If we turn

inwards to the recesses of our own minds and note with

just that bare attention, note objectively without

projecting an ego in the process, and then cultivate

this practice for a sufficient length of time, as laid

down by the Buddha in the Sati Patthana Sutta, then we

will see these five aggregates, not as an entity, but as

a series of physical and mental processes. Then we will

not mistake the superficial for the real. We will then

see that these aggregates arise and disappear in rapid

succession, never being the same for two consecutive

moments, never static but always in flux, never

//being// but always //becoming//.

Rebirth
The four mental aggregates, viz., consciousness and the

three other groups of mental factors forming Nama or the

unit of consciousness, go on uninterruptedly, arising

and disappearing as before, but not in the same setting,

because that setting is no more. They have to find

immediately a fresh physical base as it were, with which

to function - a fresh material layer appropriate and

suitable for all the aggregates to function in harmony.

Kamma acts as a law and this law operates to re-set the

aggregates after death. The result is "re-birth".

A Bundle of Elements and Energies
In brief, the combination of the five aggregates is

called birth. Existence of these aggregates as a bundle

is called life. Dissolution of these things is called

death. And recombination of these aggregates is called

rebirth. However, it is not easy for an ordinary man to

understand how these so called aggregates could

recombine. A proper understanding of the nature of

elements, mental energies and the law of Kamma and

co-operation of cosmic energies is important in this

respect. To some, this is a simple and natural

occurrence. To them death means the separation of the

five elements and thereafter nothing remains. To some,

it means transmigration of the soul from one body to

another; and to others, it means indefinite suspension

of the soul; in other words, waiting for the Day of

Judgment. To Buddhists, however, death is nothing but a

temporary end of a temporary phenomenon. It is not the

complete annihilation of this so-called being.

Causes of Death
According to Buddhism, Death can occur in any one of

these four ways.


i. it can be due to the exhaustion of the life span

assigned to beings of that particular species. This type

of death is called Ayukkhaya;
ii. it can be due to the exhaustion of the Kammic energy

that caused the birth of the deceased. This is called

Kamma-kkhaya;
iii. it can be due to the simultaneous exhaustion of the

above mentioned two causes - Ubhayakkhaya; and


iv. Lastly, it can be due to external circumstances,

viz, accidents, untimely happenings - working of natural

phenomena or due to a Kamma of a previous existence not

referred to in (ii). This is called Upacchedake.

There is an excellent analogy to explain these four

types of death. It is the analogy of the oil lamp. The

light in the oil lamp can be extinguished due to any one

of four causes:-


i. The wick in the lamp burns up. This is likened to

death through the exhaustion of the life span;


ii. The consummation of the oil in the lamp is likened

to death through exhaustion of the Kammic energy;


iii. The consummation of the oil in the lamp and the

burning off of the wick at the same time - is likened to

death occurring through the combination of causes

described in (i) and (ii) occurring simultaneously; and


iv. The effect of external factors such as the wind

blowing out the light - is likened to death caused

through external factors.

Therefore, Kamma alone is not the cause of death. There

are external contributory causes also. The Buddha's

teaching categorically states that Kamma does not

explain all happenings in our lives.

Face Facts


How should one best face this unavoidable occurrence? By

being forewarned - that is, by reflecting that death

will, and must come sooner or later. This does not mean

that Buddhists should view life with gloom. Death is

real, and has to be faced - and Buddhism is a religion

or reason that trains its followers to face facts,

however unpleasant they may be. The Founder of the Sikh

religion Guru Nanak said "The world is afraid of death,

to me it brings bliss." It clearly shows that great and

noble people are not afraid of death but are prepared to

accept it. Many great people have sacrificed their lives

for the welfare of others. Their names are recorded in

the history of the world in golden letters for

posterity.

Death is Inevitable
It is rather paradoxical that although we so often see

death taking its toll of lives, we seldom pause to

reflect that we too can similarly sooner or later be

victims of death. With our strong attachment to life, we

are disinclined to carry with us the morbid thought,

although a reality, that death is an absolute certainty.

We prefer to put off this awful thought behind us as far

away as possible - deluding ourselves that death is a

far-away phenomenon, something not to be worried about.

We should be courageous enough to face facts. We must be

prepared to face stark reality. Death is a factual

happening. If we appreciate such eventualities and equip

ourselves with the realisation that death is inevitable;

even that has to be accepted as a normal occurrence and

not as a dreaded event which we should be able to face

when it eventually comes, with calmness, courage and

confidence.

Our Duties and Responsibilities


With the certain knowledge that death will ultimately

overtake us one day, we should decide, with the same

calmness, courage and confidence, to discharge our

duties and responsibilities towards our immediate

dependants. We should not procrastinate our responsible

duties. We should not leave things for tomorrow when

they can be done today. We should make good use of time

and spend our lives usefully. Our duties to our wives,

husbands and children deserve priority and should be

performed in due time. We should execute our last will

and testament, without waiting for the last moment, so

that we may not cause undue distress, difficulties and

problems to our families due to our neglect. Death may

call at any time - it is no respecter of person or time.

We should be able to face this ultimate event bravely

with hope and confidence if we prepare for the next

existence.

Craving and Ignorance


Can death be overcome? The answer is - Yes! Death exists

because of birth. This repetition of countless births is

called Samsara. If this cycle of existence is to be

stopped, it can be cut off only at the stage of Avijja

(Ignorance) and Tanha (Craving) - These are the roots in

this cycle of births and have to be exterminated.

Therefore, if we cut off Craving and Ignorance - birth

is overcome, death conquered, Samsara is transcended and

Nibbana attained.
We should try to understand that everything in this

universe is uncertain. Existence is only a vision. When

we analyse everything either scientifically or

philosophically, in the end we find nothing but void.


"To be afraid of dying is like being afraid of

discarding an old worn-out garment". (Gandhi)


It is hard to bear the loss of people whom we love

because of our attachment to them. This happened to

Visakha a well-known lady devotee during the time of the

Buddha. When she lost her beloved grand-daughter she

visited the Buddha to seek advice in her sorrow.
"Visakha, would you like to have as many sons and

grandsons as there are children in this town?" asked the

Buddha. 'Yes, Sir, I would indeed!'
'Then, Visakha, in such a case would you cry for all of

them when they die? Visakha, those who have a hundred

things beloved, they have a hundred sorrows. He who has

nothing beloved, has no sorrow. Such persons are free

from sorrow.'
When we develop attachment, we also must be prepared to

pay the price of sorrow when separation takes place.


The love of life can sometimes develop into a morbid

fear of death. We will not take any risks even for a

rightful cause. We live in fear that an illness or

accident will put an end to our seemingly precious life.

Realising that death is a certainty, we hope and pray

for the survival of the soul in heaven for our own

security and preservation. Such beliefs are based on

strong craving for continued existence.


Each and every individual should be aware of the role of

death in his or her destiny. Whether royalty or

commoner, rich or poor, strong or weak, a man's final

resting place for his body is either in a coffin lying

buried six feet underground or in an urn or in the

water.
All human beings face and share the same fate. Due to

ignorance of the true nature of life, we often weep and

wail. When once we realise the true nature of life, we

can face the impermanence of all component things and

seek liberation. Until and unless we achieve our

liberation from worldly conditions, we will have to face

death over and over again. And in this respect, too, the

role of death is very clear. If a person finds death to

be unbearable, then he should make every endeavour to

overcome this cycle of birth and death.

Contemplation on Death


Why should we think about death? Why should we

contemplate it? Not only did the Buddha encourage us to

speak about death, he also encouraged us to contemplate

it and reflect on it regularly. That which is born will

die. The mind and body which arise at the time of

conception develop, grow and mature. In other words,

they follow the process of ageing. We call it growing up

at first, then growing old, but it is just a single

process of maturing, developing, and evolving ultimately

towards inevitable death.


Today, according to a world record, about 200,000 people

die, on the average, everyday. Apparently about 70

million people die every year.
We are not used to contemplate death or come to terms

with it. What we usually do is to avoid it and live as

if we were never going to die. As long as there is fear

of death, life itself is not being lived to its fullest

and at its best. So one of the very fundamental reasons

for contemplating death, for making this reality fully

conscious, is that of overcoming fear. The contemplation

of death is not for making us depressed or morbid; it is

rather for the purpose of helping to free ourselves from

fear. The second reason is that contemplation of death

will change the way we live and our attitudes towards

life. The values that we have in life will change quite

drastically once we stop living as if we are going to

live forever, and we will start living in a quite

different way.
The third reason is to develop the ability to approach

and face death in the right and peaceful way.


The contemplation of death has three-fold benefits:
- relieving fear;

- bringing a new quality to our lives, enabling us to

live our lives with proper values; and

- enabling us to die in dignity.

It enables us to live a good life and die a good

death. What else do we need?


The contemplation on the following factors are

encouraged in Buddhism:

- I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond

ageing;


- I am of the nature to sicken, I have not gone beyond

sickness;

- I am subjected to my own kamma and I am not free from

kammic effects;

- I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond

dying; and

- All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will change,

will become otherwise, will become separated from me.


When we contemplate this reality with a peaceful mind

and bring it into consciousness, it has a powerful

effect in overcoming the fear of old age, sickness,

death and separation. It is not for making us morbid,

rather it is for freeing ourselves from fear. That is

why we contemplate death; it is not that we are eagerly

looking forward to dying, but that we want to live and

die without fear.

Death is Part of Life
Death comes to all and is part of our life cycle. Some

die in their prime, others in old age, but all must

inevitably die. Uninvited we came into this world and

unbidden we leave it. Inevitably I am going to die - so

does everybody, every plant, every form, every living

being, which follows the same path. Soon it will be

autumn, the leaves will fall off the trees. We do not

cry, it is natural, that is what the leaves are supposed

to do at the end of the season. Human beings experience

the same thing.


Religious people usually have less fear of death than

very materialistic people, because materialists are

particularly interested only in this life to satisfy

their five-fold senses.


But from the Buddhist perspective, death is not the end

and each birth too is not the beginning of a life. In

fact death is the beginning of life and conversely birth

is the ending of life. It is just one part of a whole

process, a whole cyclic process of birth, death, rebirth

and dying again. If one has some understanding of this

on-going process, death begins to lose its ability to

create morbid terror, because it is not so final after

all. It is only the end of a cycle; just one cycle along

the way and then the way continues ad infinitum with

other cycles. The leaves fall off the trees, but it is

not the end. They go back to the soil and nourish the

roots; next year the tree has new leaves. The same can

be said of human life. Conditioned by the moment of

death is rebirth. An understanding of this basic

principle helps to relieve ourselves of the fear about

death.

Living Consciously


We live our lives in many foolish ways without even

considering how much time we waste for nothing. How much

time have we wasted today worrying about next year,

about the next twenty years, thinking about the future,

to the extent that we have not been fully living even

this very day?


And our values in life will change. What is important in

life? What is motivating us? What is the driving factor

in our lives? If we really contemplate death it may

cause us to reconsider our values. It does not matter

how much money we have for we cannot take any of it with

us. Even our own body has to be left behind for others

to dispose of in one way or another; it is just a heap

of refuse left behind. We cannot take our precious body

with us when we leave this world.
The quality of life is more important than mere material

acquisitions. The quality of life is primarily the

quality of our minds. How we are living today may be

more important to us than many other external things.

But the condition for rebirth, and that of rebirth is

conditioned by death and the quality of the mind. This

is one thing we take with us. This is the one

inheritance that we do not leave behind for others:


I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma,
Born of my kamma, related to my kamma,

abide supported by my kamma,


Whatever kamma I shall do, for good or for ill,

of that I will be the heir.

All that which will follow us will be the qualities that

we develop within us, the qualities of mind, the

spiritual qualities and the good or bad qualities. These

are all what we inherit. These are the conditions which

will determine our rebirth and shape the future. These

in turn will give rise to a new value in our lives. We

may enjoy the millions we have already gained but it is

more important that we live more peacefully and start to

build up some virtuous qualities. It can have a very

good effect on the way we live our lives and on the

values we develop. It is not just a matter of being

successful; it is how we become successful.

Dying a Good Death
Having considered all of these, if dying becomes no

longer an alarming event but an actual experience, we

can with confidence face it. Not only that we can also

do a lot towards dying a good death. If we have led a

good life, dying is easier. But regardless of how we

have lived, we can still endeavour to die a good death.

To help in the dying process, we stress very much the

development of the same quality of fearlessness.


For many people, it's more the fear of pain and the fear

of separation from all their loved ones, more than

anything else, that is fearsome. At the time of dying,

encouragement and reassurance are most essential. For a

start you need to reassure yourself. The pain indeed

will be excruciating and will be difficult to bear, but

we are fortunate in that advances in modern medicines

make it possible to reduce the amount of physical pain a

human being has to experience before death. Pain need

not be such an overwhelming object of fear.


I usually reassure a dying person, such as someone who

is terminally ill, for example with cancer, that he will

not needlessly be allowed to suffer and, that prompt

treatment will be given to alleviate his pain. An

important result of this is that the patient can relax

and die more peacefully.


The other worry is the inevitable separation from one's

possessions. Of course, if we've contemplated this

before, it's a lot easier. We know that to come together

implies separation. If a dying person hasn't done this

kind of contemplation, then you need to gently encourage

and reassure him or her that the children and those left

behind will be well taken care of. They need to be

reassured that it's all right, that there are friends to

take care of them; they need to be encouraged to relax

and be peaceful, not to worry about other things, that

they'll all be taken care of.
The whole emphasis is on trying to encourage the dying

person to become more peaceful. How can one die a good

death? The Buddhist way is to maintain an atmosphere of

peace in the room where someone is dying. It's not very

conducive to have people shouting, screaming and crying.

What does that do to the poor person who has this very

important thing to do, to die? They make it very

difficult for the dying person to die peacefully. It's

good if friends and relatives who are present, show by

their presence that they care, that they love, that they

are willing to contribute something to support.
"Religious symbols are very useful and come in handy in

such situations. If the dying person is a Buddhist, then

a small Buddha statue, and possibly the presence of

Buddhist monks with soothing words of chanting will be

very beneficial so as to allow the dying person to pass

away with the greatest peace and dignity. It's a

wonderful thing for them to move into their new life in

the best possible way."

(Ajahn Jagaro)

Peaceful Death


Everyone hopes and desires to have a peaceful death

after having fulfilled his lifetime duties and

obligations. But how many have actually prepared

themselves for such an eventuality? How many, for

instance, have taken the trouble to fulfil their

obligations to their families, loved ones, friends,

country, religion and their own destiny? It will be

difficult for them to die peacefully if they have not

fulfilled any of these obligations.
We must learn to overcome the fear of death by realising

that the gods are also subjected to it. Those who have

allowed fleeting time to pass away frivolously will have

good cause to lament later on when they themselves are

nearing the end of their lives.
When people see their own lives as being only a drop in

an ever-flowing river, they will be moved to contribute

even their little part to the great stream of life. The

wise know that to live they have to work for their

liberation by avoiding evil, doing good and purifying

their minds. People who understand life according to the

Teachings of the Buddha never worry about death. Death

is no cause for sorrow, but it would indeed be sorrowful

if one dies without having done something for oneself

and for the world.

I Died Today
David Morris was a well known Western Buddhist scholar

who died at the age of 85. Soon after his death the

writer of this booklet received a letter from him

(obviously he had written it earlier with instructions

for it to be posted on his death.) It went like this,

'You will be happy to know that I died today. There are

two reasons for this. Firstly, you will be relieved to

know that my suffering from the sickness has finally

ended. And secondly, since I became a Buddhist I have

faithfully observed the five precepts. As a result you

know that my next life cannot be a miserable one'. Life

is like a dream. Death is a factual happening and

rebirth a natural occurrence. In preparing for that

eventuality one would either have to continue or to end

the repeated cycle of births and deaths so as to be free

from suffering and this is what human intelligence is



all about.



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