For a Buddhist’s Death How to help a Buddhist before, during and after death Produced by Ecie Hursthouse, Managing Director Amitabha Hospice, 44 Powell St, Avondale, Auckland, NZ
Who was Buddha? Born 563 BC, in Lumbini, Nepal. Family name was Gautama, rulers of the Sakya clan. Predicted to become either a great political leader or a great religious leader. Left the rich life seeking truth, tried asceticism, took middle way, meditated under ‘Bodhi’ tree achieved ‘awakening’.
Spread of Buddhism 11th cent - died out in India after the Moslem incursions. 20th cent - The spread of Communism almost obliterated Buddhism in China, Vietnam and Tibet, where it had been strongly established.
Buddhism Today Now resurgence in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China. Increasing popularity in Australia, New Zealand, Europe & the Americas. Thriving in Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Korea and Japan.
Philosophy of Buddhism The Buddha is founder and guide Take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha Do not believe that the universe is created and ruled by a God Believe that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their welfare and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth
Philosophy of Buddhism The Four Noble Truths: namely Suffering, the Cause of suffering, the Cessation of suffering, and the Path to the cessation of suffering The law of cause and effect All conditioned things are impermanent and have no self-existance. Different practices in different countries do not contradict the teachings of the Buddha
The Meaning of Death Life is practice for death – cultivating positive, happy virtuous states of mind and abandoning non-virtuous, harmful, suffering states of mind. Death is definite but the time of death is indefinite so a Buddhist aspires to be ready for death.
Death is: An opportunity for great achievement during the death process. Most important to die with a calm, peaceful mind; with strong spiritual / positive thoughts prevailing. The separation of body (physical form) and the “mind” formless, clear, luminous and knowing.
Death is: Not the cessation of breathing or heartbeat. A process with stages: The dissolution of the four elements in sequence - namely earth (hard substances of the body), water (fluids), fire (heat), wind/air (energy, movement with external signs and internal visions.
Helping a Buddhist Die Well Listen and acknowledge without judgment. Acknowledge “regrets” as lessons learned but discourage guilt, which is destructive. Support acceptance and contentment, feeling happy to leave the life one has known, to “let go” everything, even unfinished business, plans and dreams and giving up all attachments.
Support Spiritual Confidence Focus on the positive memories, celebrate achievements and rejoice in one’s virtues. Encourage gratefulness in everyone’s kindness. Rejoicing and gratitude lifts the mind and increases one’s spiritual strength.
As Death Begins Corroborate faith, devotion & remind the Buddhist of his / her spiritual teachers and meditation practices. Encourage expansive altruism and universal compassion with inspirational prayers and visualisation. Put Buddhist pictures or statues in their view. Read or play Buddhist recordings.
As Dying Progresses Do not touch the body. Generate strong good wishes and peaceful thoughts. Provide a quiet place away from the body for relatives and friends to express emotions. Allow the body to remain untouched as long as possible after breath stops.
Before the Body is Removed Keep chanting recordings playing and / or prayers to be said. If no one else present remind the deceased about Buddha, their guru or Amitabha’s pure land. Firmly touch crown of head before touching other parts of body. Avoid touching body until all heat has left the body, unless absolutely necessary. © Amitabha Hospice Service Trust 2011