The greatest event in our life is death and most of us aren’t prepared for it.
However, Buddhism is rich with knowledge and resources on this inevitable milestone in life. These knowledges will be useful and I think it will be good to share.
Let us start this series with the below conversation between a Thai monk (Ajaan Suchart Abhijāto) and his students.
Layperson: Please accept our deepest sympathies on the loss of your mother.
Than Ajahn: Thank you. My mother didn’t die. She went into another realm. She departed from her old body and she would come back with a new body. She’s actually doing some body transplanting. So, there is no need to be sad. She’s right now in a state of sleep and is dreaming. If she had made a lot of good kamma, she would have good dreams. If she had made a lot of bad kamma, she would have bad dreams. Nobody can help her. This is the way it is. So, believe the Buddha and try to do only good kamma and stop doing bad kamma. Then, no matter whether you live or die, you will always be happy.
I find Ajahn Than’s reply assuring and comfortable because he describes death as going into a deep sleep. The dream-like state that he mentioned sounds very similar to the bardo state that is being narrated in Tibetan Buddhism too. If we examine our current existence, we need to sleep everyday. Each time we fall asleep, we loose our consciousness.
We tend to dream during our sleep and I believe our dreams are closely aligned with the state of our mind. Our dream reflects the delusion that is troubling our mind. If we want to prepare for death, I think we can start by examining our nightly “death” and daily “rebirth” every morning. Therefore, our human life allows us lots of practices. (Animals do not have our intelligence)
If we look at death in this manner, it becomes less frightening. Similarly, this narrative can also bring comfort to a dying person. This is very important because fear is a very negative emotion and we do not want our mind to be afflicted by fear at our death bed. In my previous post on Metta, I had shared that going to sleep with Metta in our mind is a wonderful practice. Instead of having fear, we should practice to have loving kindness instead.
Buddhism believes in an afterlife. If we have many good karma, we will find ourselves waking up into a wonderful new existence. We can be reborn into heavens and if we are reborn as human again, we will be born into a favorable situations.
According to Ajahn’s advice, it is important for us to create many good karma when we are alive. Do good deeds, practice good speech (no abusive words) and think good thoughts. If we are habitually good, then we need not be afraid of death. It is like falling asleep and we will wake up again.
This post deals with the fear of death. The next one will discuss attachment to our current life.
May all be well and happy