Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

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Mr. G
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Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Mr. G » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:09 pm

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1 ... 12590/full

Abstract:

It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self, one should be less concerned with the death of the future self (Parfit, 1984). This paper examines the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist populations (Lay Tibetan, Lay Bhutanese, and monastic Tibetans). Compared with other groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a lower fear of death and greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order to extend the life of another.
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Mantrik » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:27 pm

It seems logical. If your belief is that your 'self' continues to the next life you worry less about losing it.
This is reinforced by beliefs that your family and friends will also be with you.
It must be hugely comforting.

I've always found part of the rebirth principle confusing. If a Lama recognises their mala, for example, from their past life, does it not contradict the idea that the mental continuum does not carry such things from life to life? Yet Lamas have a real need to be recognised as someone wonderful if they want an easier ride this time round, I blaspheme. I'm not raising the old 'fake tulku' debate, but wonder how it squares with the idea that all ends except the mental continuum and what it carries. If Tibetan monastics knew that after death 'they' would wake up in a new Lama's body maybe their fear would be so much less.
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Boomerang » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:58 am

I heard about this research a few years ago through a podcast posted on reddit and found it bizarre. Anyone who knew the preliminary teachings would suspect Tibetan monks to fear death more than Christians or Hindus. Contemplating impermanence is a core practice; the lower realms are large; God won't save you. But Nichols spoke like the results were a total surprise and more was needed research to understand why Buddhists fear death. I hope he learned what the four thoughts are between the time he did the podcast and the time he published this article.

How did he get research money, spend time interviewing Tibetan monks, and never learn what the lamrim teachings are? Seems like a huge embarrassment to me. Is it normal for academics to not know the basics of a religion before (and during) research?

The podcast:

http://philosophybites.com/2015/04/shau ... -self.html
Last edited by Boomerang on Fri Jan 26, 2018 4:48 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by amanitamusc » Fri Jan 26, 2018 4:30 am

Mantrik wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:27 pm
It seems logical. If your belief is that your 'self' continues to the next life you worry less about losing it.
This is reinforced by beliefs that your family and friends will also be with you.
It must be hugely comforting.

I've always found part of the rebirth principle confusing. If a Lama recognises their mala, for example, from their past life, does it not contradict the idea that the mental continuum does not carry such things from life to life? Yet Lamas have a real need to be recognised as someone wonderful if they want an easier ride this time round, I blaspheme. I'm not raising the old 'fake tulku' debate, but wonder how it squares with the idea that all ends except the mental continuum and what it carries. If Tibetan monastics knew that after death 'they' would wake up in a new Lama's body maybe their fear would be so much less.
Could these Rinpoche's be one of many emanations?

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Ogaf » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:01 am

I attended one of his lectures on this subject three or four years ago. During the Q&A at the end I pointed out the Four Thoughts and six worlds and how these would likely influence the results of his study. He seemed most interested and asked to speak afterwards. We did, but it was clear he wasn't that keen to understand he'd completely missed such obvious factors in his study. Unsurprisingly, the monastics had greater fear than the lay Tibetans. The only surprising thing he discovered with this study was his own ignorance of such a major obvious part of the tradition. Is he still flogging this dead horse? :soapbox:

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:55 am

Mantrik wrote:I've always found part of the rebirth principle confusing. If a Lama recognises their mala, for example, from their past life, does it not contradict the idea that the mental continuum does not carry such things from life to life?
I sometimes reflect on that. I have read that when re-incarnated lamas are located they are shown items from their previous life as part of the validation process. But there is said to be no self that travels from life to life. It seems contradictory. But the view of 'eternalism', according to the Brahmajāla Sutta, is that 'eternalists' are those who posit an 'eternally existing self' that never changes, that is reborn and can be reborn forever, in perpetuity. So, recall, Buddhism doesn't reject 'rebirth' but the idea that there is a constant, unchanging self that is reborn. Hence the idea of there being a 'mind-stream' rather than a fixed, invariable entity.
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by MiphamFan » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:44 am

Ogaf wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:01 am
I attended one of his lectures on this subject three or four years ago. During the Q&A at the end I pointed out the Four Thoughts and six worlds and how these would likely influence the results of his study. He seemed most interested and asked to speak afterwards. We did, but it was clear he wasn't that keen to understand he'd completely missed such obvious factors in his study. Unsurprisingly, the monastics had greater fear than the lay Tibetans. The only surprising thing he discovered with this study was his own ignorance of such a major obvious part of the tradition. Is he still flogging this dead horse? :soapbox:
Interesting. So it seems like a intellectual yet idiot did this study.

Anyway the fear is based on IMO on the way the lower realms and precious human rebirth is taught in Lam Rim manuals. For me personally I felt despair at not being able to devote my time to dharma at one point but it was precisely the commitment to a path that might potentially take aeons that helped me get past it, as in Khenpo Kunpal's commentary to the Bodhicaryavatara.

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Punya » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:59 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:55 am
Mantrik wrote:I've always found part of the rebirth principle confusing. If a Lama recognises their mala, for example, from their past life, does it not contradict the idea that the mental continuum does not carry such things from life to life?
I sometimes reflect on that. I have read that when re-incarnated lamas are located they are shown items from their previous life as part of the validation process. But there is said to be no self that travels from life to life. It seems contradictory. But the view of 'eternalism', according to the Brahmajāla Sutta, is that 'eternalists' are those who posit an 'eternally existing self' that never changes, that is reborn and can be reborn forever, in perpetuity. So, recall, Buddhism doesn't reject 'rebirth' but the idea that there is a constant, unchanging self that is reborn. Hence the idea of there being a 'mind-stream' rather than a fixed, invariable entity.
I've been told by a Khenpo that memory is relative and while memories from the defiled mind do not fit into the alaya, memories from the neutral mind do. This carries from one life to the next and explains how a Lama recognises their mala.

More discussion about this viewtopic.php?f=77&t=19010&start=100
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Mantrik » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:07 am

Punya wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:59 am
Wayfarer wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:55 am
Mantrik wrote:I've always found part of the rebirth principle confusing. If a Lama recognises their mala, for example, from their past life, does it not contradict the idea that the mental continuum does not carry such things from life to life?
I sometimes reflect on that. I have read that when re-incarnated lamas are located they are shown items from their previous life as part of the validation process. But there is said to be no self that travels from life to life. It seems contradictory. But the view of 'eternalism', according to the Brahmajāla Sutta, is that 'eternalists' are those who posit an 'eternally existing self' that never changes, that is reborn and can be reborn forever, in perpetuity. So, recall, Buddhism doesn't reject 'rebirth' but the idea that there is a constant, unchanging self that is reborn. Hence the idea of there being a 'mind-stream' rather than a fixed, invariable entity.
I've been told by a Khenpo that memory is relative and while memories from the defiled mind do not fit into the alaya, memories from the neutral mind do. This carries from one life to the next and explains how a Lama recognises their mala.

More discussion about this viewtopic.php?f=77&t=19010&start=100
Thanks. Yes, samadhi makes sense. Without any authority to back me up, I always thought of two posibilities - that the continuum carries the seed of the past life memory, or that the Lama recognises the energy of his past-life mala as 'his', rather than remembering in a more conventional sense. On a cruder level, we are capable of very fine scent discrimination and this may also play a part, even with a baby.
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Mantrik » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:12 am

amanitamusc wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 4:30 am
Mantrik wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:27 pm
It seems logical. If your belief is that your 'self' continues to the next life you worry less about losing it.
This is reinforced by beliefs that your family and friends will also be with you.
It must be hugely comforting.

I've always found part of the rebirth principle confusing. If a Lama recognises their mala, for example, from their past life, does it not contradict the idea that the mental continuum does not carry such things from life to life? Yet Lamas have a real need to be recognised as someone wonderful if they want an easier ride this time round, I blaspheme. I'm not raising the old 'fake tulku' debate, but wonder how it squares with the idea that all ends except the mental continuum and what it carries. If Tibetan monastics knew that after death 'they' would wake up in a new Lama's body maybe their fear would be so much less.
Could these Rinpoche's be one of many emanations?
If they are of the same mental continuum within a samsaric cycle, there could only be one at a time I guess, but could still be an emanation of course, or one of many appearing at the same time as difefrent beings.
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Thanno Garuda Prachodayath

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Queequeg » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:59 pm

Prof. Jacqueline Stone has written about death practices in Japan, particularly focused on the moment of death. I recall the description of a society composed of monastics and lay people who had committed to daily practice and to support one another at the moment of death. The whole point was to maintain the correct mind at the moment of death to ensure a good bardo/rebirth (in Sukhavati), but my impression was that the emphasis on that moment didn't sound like it made for a very good final moment, especially with all these supporters attending and asking questions as one was trying to die peacefully. This is probably not exactly on point, but I thought it might relate to the fear monastics feel about death. Once you start considering all the things that could go wrong and studying them in detail... is it not better to just die peacefully, ignorant of what comes?

:shrug:
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Mantrik » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:04 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:59 pm
Prof. Jacqueline Stone has written about death practices in Japan, particularly focused on the moment of death. I recall the description of a society composed of monastics and lay people who had committed to daily practice and to support one another at the moment of death. The whole point was to maintain the correct mind at the moment of death to ensure a good bardo/rebirth (in Sukhavati), but my impression was that the emphasis on that moment didn't sound like it made for a very good final moment, especially with all these supporters attending and asking questions as one was trying to die peacefully. This is probably not exactly on point, but I thought it might relate to the fear monastics feel about death. Once you start considering all the things that could go wrong and studying them in detail... is it not better to just die peacefully, ignorant of what comes?

:shrug:
Sounds similar to Phowa. Someone trained in Phowa should not have fear.
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by krodha » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:26 pm

Tibetans negate the continuity of a self but still uphold a causal process of transmigration that is dependent upon the degree of karmic imprints in the mindstream.

Thus if you die a regular sentient being without having made a sufficient impression on your continuum then there is reason to be concerned to a certain extent.

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Grigoris » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:37 pm

Personally I fear death more than tacos, call me a chicken, but...
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:09 pm

I'm not sure this is a thing that is being accurately measured.

The "amount" one fears death is really inconsequential, it's how one contextualizes and approaches that fear which matters, they are asking the wrong question, and don't quite understand their own premise IMO.
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:54 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:59 pm
Prof. Jacqueline Stone has written about death practices in Japan, particularly focused on the moment of death. I recall the description of a society composed of monastics and lay people who had committed to daily practice and to support one another at the moment of death. The whole point was to maintain the correct mind at the moment of death to ensure a good bardo/rebirth (in Sukhavati), but my impression was that the emphasis on that moment didn't sound like it made for a very good final moment, especially with all these supporters attending and asking questions as one was trying to die peacefully. This is probably not exactly on point, but I thought it might relate to the fear monastics feel about death. Once you start considering all the things that could go wrong and studying them in detail... is it not better to just die peacefully, ignorant of what comes?

:shrug:
What time period was her writing about? This doesn't sound like a modern day Shin or Jodoshu approach to the final moments, or a Chinese Pure Land one where supportive chanting of Amitabha's name for a dying person is still practiced.
Amitābha!
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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:08 am

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:59 pm
Once you start considering all the things that could go wrong and studying them in detail... is it not better to just die peacefully, ignorant of what comes?
In the Dzogchen tradition, with all of the bardo teachings, I don't think so. A Dzogchen practitioner would surely want to be liberated in the bardo. And being ignorant of the bardos would make that basically impossible. One would just be carried through the bardos by their karma and reborn again in Samsara, possibly in the lower realms. This is of course assuming a non-East Asian Pure Land practitioner.

I think perhaps fear might not necessarily be a bad thing here. For one, I suspect it would heighten one's awareness and you would be paying more attention to what's going on. That would likely make it more certain that you would be able to recognize the bardos and visions while they're happening. Now, fear might indicate there is excessive attachment and mental rigidity going on, which would be counter-productive. If that is the case, I guess it is a problem.

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by Queequeg » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:21 am

Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:54 pm
What time period was her writing about? This doesn't sound like a modern day Shin or Jodoshu approach to the final moments, or a Chinese Pure Land one where supportive chanting of Amitabha's name for a dying person is still practiced.
Medieval period, IIRC. Not to open a can of worms, there are are numerous accounts of some far out, morbid death rituals relating to the story in the Lotus Sutra involving self-immolation, as well as preemptive suicides as public spectacle related to Pure Land devotion. What they have in common is that they were intentional efforts to choose the time and circumstances of death to ensure a focused mind. There are some f'ed up stories of suicides gone wrong, last minute too late regrets followed by agonizing deaths... some unhinged folks thinking about this stuff a little too hard in the wrong ways.

I think you can find some articles on Prof. Stone's page at princeton.edu. George Tanabe also has written on this stuff.
Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:08 am
In the Dzogchen tradition, with all of the bardo teachings, I don't think so. A Dzogchen practitioner would surely want to be liberated in the bardo. And being ignorant of the bardos would make that basically impossible. One would just be carried through the bardos by their karma and reborn again in Samsara, possibly in the lower realms.

I think perhaps fear might not necessarily be a bad thing here. For one, I suspect it would heighten one's awareness and you would be paying more attention to what's going on. That would likely make it more certain that you would be able to recognize the bardos and visions while they're happening. Now, fear might indicate there is excessive attachment and mental rigidity going on, which would be counter-productive. If that is the case, I guess it is a problem.
We'll all face it soon enough and we'll know if we've trained well enough for it. Everybody has a plan until the bullets start flying - or rather, a heruka comes barreling out of the ether and menacingly threatens to bite your head off.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by The Cicada » Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:47 am

Queequeg wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:21 am
Medieval period, IIRC. Not to open a can of worms, there are are numerous accounts of some far out, morbid death rituals relating to the story in the Lotus Sutra involving self-immolation, as well as preemptive suicides as public spectacle related to Pure Land devotion. What they have in common is that they were intentional efforts to choose the time and circumstances of death to ensure a focused mind. There are some f'ed up stories of suicides gone wrong, last minute too late regrets followed by agonizing deaths... some unhinged folks thinking about this stuff a little too hard in the wrong ways.
Well...



Not to go nudging that can open even further, but isn't there a long tradition within the Nichiren school of remonstrating with powerful people until they have the practitioner executed?

Just curiously nudging... Like a cat next to a container (perhaps a can?) placed on a table.

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Re: Monastic Tibetan Buddhists Fear Death More

Post by rory » Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:06 pm

Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:54 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:59 pm
Prof. Jacqueline Stone has written about death practices in Japan, particularly focused on the moment of death. I recall the description of a society composed of monastics and lay people who had committed to daily practice and to support one another at the moment of death. The whole point was to maintain the correct mind at the moment of death to ensure a good bardo/rebirth (in Sukhavati), but my impression was that the emphasis on that moment didn't sound like it made for a very good final moment, especially with all these supporters attending and asking questions as one was trying to die peacefully. This is probably not exactly on point, but I thought it might relate to the fear monastics feel about death. Once you start considering all the things that could go wrong and studying them in detail... is it not better to just die peacefully, ignorant of what comes?

:shrug:
What time period was her writing about? This doesn't sound like a modern day Shin or Jodoshu approach to the final moments, or a Chinese Pure Land one where supportive chanting of Amitabha's name for a dying person is still practiced.
In 2003, I woke up with double vision and a paralyzed eye and was rushed to the hospital in Dublin, (drs. thought brain tumor, anyeurism, 6th nerve palsy). There hooked up to an IV with a patch over my eye, I really understood I might die and I was scared. Then I started to do Pure Land practice, chant Nembutsu and pray to be born in Amida's Pure Land, I became calm and full of faith until I felt and saw myself surrounded by a golden light and experienced Amida's presence. I was no longer afraid and was calm and ready to go to the Pure Land. Then I realized i was selfish I couldn't abandon my elderly parents and I needed to tell others about how Pure Land practice really works.
The next day I got up from my sickbed and wheeling the IV drip visited the other seriously ill patients (never before did I really care about others) who were afraid to die.
I had been practicing Pure Land since 1996 under a Jodo monk and attending a Jodo Shinshu temple, and having read some great free Pure Land books such as The Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith from the wonderful Young Men's Buddhist Association of America;
https://www.ymba.org/free-books
You must do Pure Land practice every day, I chant nembutsu daily at my altar, in the street etc...and when the time comes you will be scared, but then the lifetime habit will take over and you will chant (or mentally chant if you have no voice) and I assure you that you will have a good death, seeing Amida and happily going with him.

2 years ago I chanted and did Pure Land practices for my elderly father to have a peaceful death: he peacefully died at home in his sleep at 91 without any illness. Last August I chanted for my chronically ill sister who was diagnosed with a painful stomach cancer. Within three weeks she died in her sleep. I chanted the Pure Land sutra for her birth and in both cases transferred the merit. I know both my father and sister are in the Western Pure Land.

Pure Land practice is true, frankly this was the most important experience of my life and I'm forever grateful for it. Whilst I was in in bed, between chanting, which gave me a calm mind, I easily understood that everyone gets sick (no why me), experienced interdependence (I was totally dependent on the actions of the nurses, aides, doctors) and that this illness was simply my karma. Buddhism truly is a giant support.
Namu Amida Butsu!
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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