For most people, death is taken as a big issue and it is frightening to think about. We are clueless about when or how we are going to die but we are going to die one day and we don’t like to talk about it. In many cultures speaking of death is a taboo, which is why people don’t mention death or dying directly, instead words like passing or deceased are used to avoid confrontation with the concept of death. So, how do Buddhist teachings explain death?
Buddhism talks about truth of life, truth of nature because it describes Dhamma. The word Dhamma means “truth in the nature” or “truth of nature” or “reality”. It explains about how the nature of life processes from aging, sickness and death.
Buddhist teaching believes in rebirth. Death is not the end of a book but the end of a chapter in a book. We are going to reborn again and begin a new chapter again and again until we finish the book, it is when enlightenment or Nirvana is attained. When Buddhist teaching talks about death, it views death as a part of life. It is not about being pessimistic or optimistic but being realistic about life. The moment we embrace reality of nature, reality of life, we start to make different ways of living. It is important to reflect on the notion that death is real, though we don’t know when it’s going to happen, but at least by reminding ourselves that the time we have is the most precious one. We are fortunate enough to be alive and choose to think what can we do about it, because everything we do becomes karma, every karma will create these positive or negative energy that will give positive or negative outcome in life or future lives. By recalling the concept of death, we will be reminded to be more present and use our present in a more valuable way. So, talking about death is not being pessimistic, it’s about embracing reality.
Start by embracing each reality of life today because we are going to face it someday, so it won’t be upsetting or we won’t run away from reality like an ostrich who hides its head under the dirt. That doesn’t solve any problems. This is the nature so when it comes to Buddhist teaching about death, we talk about death by being realistic.
Be kind. Do good to yourself and others. Have good intention towards yourself and others, so you have nothing to fear about if there is an afterlife, because our good action in this life will help us reach better state in the afterlife. That is how we confront fear about death. By reminding ourselves that today we are very fortunate and we should use the time wisely. Question yourself, if I go to sleep today can I guarantee that I’m going to wake up tomorrow? If you don’t get up tomorrow that would mean today is the last day of your life. Basically, it means everyday we go to sleep, there is no guarantee that we are going to get up the next day. Every single day can be the last day of our life so if you know that today is the last day of your life, what are you going to do? Make money? Shop? A lot of time people live their life as if they could live forever. When we know that our time is limited, we use the time differently and that is the benefit of recollection of death. It will change the way we see life itself.
So when it comes to Buddhist teachings death, the first thing is to be realistic about it, embrace the reality. Secondly, prepare for it by keep purifying our mind to be good. Thirdly, make sure that our future destination will be a positive one by doing the good things in every moment of our life, so when the time comes, we can face it with our head held high.