Facing Death

A forum for discussing aspects of dying and death. Please be mindful when posting in this section.
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Könchok Thrinley
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Facing Death

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Hello dear not yet departed (sorry I could not help it),

how do you face death and impermanence? How do you bring the thought of passing into your mind? How does that make you feel?

I hope this could become a semi-practical thread as in some ways the first step towards good death is noticing it and accepting it while we still have time.

I myself from time to time bring about the reality of me dying. Mostly imagining my last moments and think "how does that make me feel" to see how much attachment, fear, etc. I have. It is a rather strong thing to think about for me. However, I still notice how the reality of my own dying is ... or maybe rather makes everything rather surreal. It is a fact I know about, yet hard to believe. Only thing left is the hope for my compassionate gurus, the three jewels and buddha Amitabha to come and save me. Probably fools hope as there is no real saving from it, maybe saving from the fear of it. Anyway enough of my ramblings. Please share your ramblings. :anjali:
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Formerly known as Miroku.
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well wisher
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Re: Facing Death

Post by well wisher »

Facing impermanence is pretty simple; we have to deal with it every single day. No two days are exactly the same. Planning help sometimes, but it is impossible to be fully prepared for every single unexpected event and circumstances, at least for a regular human like me anyways.

I would think the best way to face death would be similar: with calmness & acceptance, without too much expectations, and try to live every day without any regrets, so as to die without any regrets. And IMO, one of the best way is to minimize any intentional harm & malice to others and self, while helping out others whenever reasonably feasible, and walk away from unnecessary conflicts, Avoid holding any grudges, forgive yourself and everyone else fully.

Whatever that cannot be done, just let it go, this Saha world is not worth clinging to anyways, with its many flaws & undesirable circumstances and Skandhas.
Anyways that is just my rambling too :tongue:
cjdevries
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Re: Facing Death

Post by cjdevries »

I have always been interested in death. In the last few years, I've regularly attended Death Cafes (which is a group that talks about death and end of life issues) and read a lot of information on death. But when it comes to actually being prepared for my own death, I am about a 3/10, maybe 4 on a good day. Letting go of the body is not an easy thing for me. I have gotten better at accepting death, but when I am really met with having to let go, I get a little overwhelmed. I have a chronic illness and there have been at least two times that I can recall when death was possible at any moment; the first time was peaceful and I was ready. I could feel the protection of the Buddhas/higher power and my mind was at peace. I had comforting thoughts and I was truly ready to go and mentally I was prepared. I felt like a warrior and was proud of myself. The second time I was more frightened and wasn't so ready to let go. It was sobering. I wasn't able to get as much into the warrior mindset and I was sad at the idea of not being there at dinner that night. I like this video by Yuttadhammo Bkikku: He talks about how you don't know how you will die. Obviously, we hope it's peaceful; but it's good to be prepared for different situations. He said it's best to train like a soldier trains; being ready for any eventuality. But really, may it be as peaceful as possible!

I really liked Dzongsar Rinpoche's book on dying, which is located in another thread. I think it's called Living is Dying. It's been helpful.
Reading the book Deathing by Anya Foos Graber has helped me tremendously. It gives you practices to do at the time of death and the time leading up to death to both prepare your body and mind and to direct your consciousness to your spiritual teacher. Now, when I feel weak or ill, I have practices I can do to train my mind; relaxation practices, meditation practices, breathing exercises, and vibration exercises (aum). So now I'm really trying to focus on those practices and letting those guide me at the time leading up to death.

I am always wary of the attitude of people who pretend like dying is going to be a picnic. I think it's good to consider the pain and suffering that goes into a lot of deaths so we are truly ready mentally. I say that, and even now I am quite a Polyanna about death. Sometimes I pretend like it's going to be easy. Then, two years ago I was in the hospital for a month after developing sepsis and it was an awful experience. I was getting weaker day by day, started hallucinating, having destructive thoughts, couldn't speak. I prepared myself mentally so that I was ready that I might die there. Every day I kept having worse hallucinations (I think it was caused by spirit attachment). When they finally discharged me I was conflicted. Part of me had been prepared to die there. It was so awful I just wanted to get it over with and done. But I was glad to be out, because after a few weeks the hallucinations went away, and my energy got more back to normal. I think for a lot of people dying is a lot of discomfort in the hospital.

I think dying is an individual thing. Each person's I think is going to be different. But, I think it needs a lot more attention than it gets. It's not as easy as saying yeah I'm comfortable with the idea of my dying. Like Ram Dass did and mentions in Still Here, I think it's best to think about the various ways you might die and consider what it will be like. That's the way that's worked best for me. I think that helps us to develop renunciation, detachment, and a healthy and realistic perspective about what death will actually be like. I would think that would make us more prepared.

I just read an excerpt from Lama Yeshe's letter when he was in the intensive care unit of the hospital and he said it was a lot of suffering. His mind became confused and he could feel the power of his mind degenerating. Finally, he decided to do stabilizing meditation "with great effort" and his state of mind improved.

I really like Claire Wineland's video on what it's like to die:
She had cystic fibrosis and passed away fairly recently. I love what she says: "From my personal experience with it, there was no amount of preparation, no amount of thinking about death, wondering what it felt like, coming to terms with what it means, questioning the great beyond, none of that meant jack sh*t when it came to actually dying"
"Every weed is a treasure" -Suzuki Roshi
"Please call me by my true names so I can wake up; so the door of my heart can be left open: the door of compassion." -Thich Nhat Hanh
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Vasana
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Re: Facing Death

Post by Vasana »

I used to be 'cool' with death, but now if I'm honest, I'm not quite 'ready'. Mentally, emotionally and also in terms of real assimilation of Dharma. I dont know about anyone else but when I'm even slightly ill my mood is much lower. I pile tons of mental suffering on top of even little bits of physical discomfort.I dread to think how smelly my mind will be facing a serious illness.

I also lament the thought of rebirth in this degenerate age. It's one thing to pass the threshold of illness and death, but then to think that we must start again in the next life is a bit harrowing for me sometimes. Sure our positive traces remain, but so do our negative ones. So do the many distractions and hindrances await that characterize this age. We must go through childhood and adolescence again and hope that we've built up enough positive force to be inclined towards the dharma and then be free of any ripening karmic obstacles to practice that...It's no small affair.

Aspirations to be born in a Buddhist family if my ticket to Sukhavati is faulty seem to lessen this anxiety somewhat.
ཨོཾ ་ མ ་ ཎི ་ པ ་ དྨེ ་ ཧཱུྃ ། འ ་ ཨ ་ ཧ ་ ཤ ་ ས ་ མ །
Om Mani Peme Hum ། 'A Ah Ha Sha Sa Ma
'When alone, watch your mind,When with others, watch your speech' - Old Kadampa saying
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well wisher
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Re: Facing Death

Post by well wisher »

Vasana wrote: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:39 pm I also lament the thought of rebirth in this degenerate age. It's one thing to pass the threshold of illness and death, but then to think that we must start again in the next life is a bit harrowing for me sometimes. Sure our positive traces remain, but so do our negative ones. So do the many distractions and hindrances await that characterize this age. We must go through childhood and adolescence again and hope that we've built up enough positive force to be inclined towards the dharma and then be free of any ripening karmic obstacles to practice that...It's no small affair.

Aspirations to be born in a Buddhist family if my ticket to Sukhavati is faulty seem to lessen this anxiety somewhat.
Well said Vasana, you are not the only who feel this way, I have similar sentiments as well. I absolutely dread the prospect of having forced to go through childhood and growing-up phases again in this world, especially in the current degenerate age, seeing how much excessive pressure and burden and hyper-competition is placed on child's shoulder to succeed in schools and tests...etc. This is true even in some families who label themselves as "Buddhist " too. It seems to me this is actually getting worser year after year, with all the excessive cravings and greed and money-obsession concepts that parents instilled to their children. Society is getting way too dependent and controlled by the monetary schemes, super-imposed by the big governments & big corporate banks, IMO.

For me though, after my death, if I cannot get into Sukhavati or any Buddha's pureland (where a living fully qualified Buddha resides and available to teach).
Then as a backup, Nihilism/ black hole/realm of nothingness would be much better alternative to me, than to be forced to rebirth in any of the 6 realms filled with Samsara (including this current human Saha world/Earth).
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Könchok Thrinley
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Re: Facing Death

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Yes, great one Vasana (and also others! :twothumbsup: )!

I think Amitabha is a really one of the best ways to go, even for vajrayana folks or zen, or anyone really. I can understand why Garchen Rinpoche's teacher Khenpo Munsel advised him to spread the practice of Amitabha. It is definitely wiser to do one's best and then going to the pure land than to go through it all again, or worse getting lost in the bardo.

Today it is actually exactly 7 years since my father's passing. And sitting here after my daily prayers thinking back how horrible the stroke was and imagining myself going through it too makes me realize that death is not as easy as some like to believe (tho they do have a point that it is not much use to stress over it too much since there is not a single human that has failed to die). I like to read stories of pure land buddhists who have died. Quite often according ot those accounts it is more of a joyful beginning of a willing adventure than anything. Quite remarkable and humbling read.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Formerly known as Miroku.
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Könchok Thrinley
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Re: Facing Death

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

well wisher wrote: Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:10 pm Then as a backup, Nihilism/ black hole/realm of nothingness would be much better alternative to me, than to be forced to rebirth in any of the 6 realms filled with Samsara (including this current human Saha world/Earth).
Is that why your avatar is a deep dark well and your nick refers to a wish being reborn in the nihilistic darkness of it? :D
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Formerly known as Miroku.
Simon E.
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Re: Facing Death

Post by Simon E. »

Vasana wrote: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:39 pm I used to be 'cool' with death, but now if I'm honest, I'm not quite 'ready'. Mentally, emotionally and also in terms of real assimilation of Dharma. I dont know about anyone else but when I'm even slightly ill my mood is much lower. I pile tons of mental suffering on top of even little bits of physical discomfort.I dread to think how smelly my mind will be facing a serious illness.

I also lament the thought of rebirth in this degenerate age. It's one thing to pass the threshold of illness and death, but then to think that we must start again in the next life is a bit harrowing for me sometimes. Sure our positive traces remain, but so do our negative ones. So do the many distractions and hindrances await that characterize this age. We must go through childhood and adolescence again and hope that we've built up enough positive force to be inclined towards the dharma and then be free of any ripening karmic obstacles to practice that...It's no small affair.

Aspirations to be born in a Buddhist family if my ticket to Sukhavati is faulty seem to lessen this anxiety somewhat.
:namaste:
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.
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well wisher
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Re: Facing Death

Post by well wisher »

Miroku wrote: Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:41 pm
well wisher wrote: Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:10 pm Then as a backup, Nihilism/ black hole/realm of nothingness would be much better alternative to me, than to be forced to rebirth in any of the 6 realms filled with Samsara (including this current human Saha world/Earth).
Is that why your avatar is a deep dark well and your nick refers to a wish being reborn in the nihilistic darkness of it? :D
Hahaha you are joking, right Miroku? Are you?
Seriously though, I meant that as a BACKUP wish. My current thinking are: right after my current human life, it is either the Buddha's purelands, or nihilistic darkness (but with total freedom!). Nothing else would be acceptable for me. Go big or go bust! ;)

(P.S. I do not think our current Earth matches the description of a Buddhist pureland. For starters, we have multiple deceased Buddha as per the Buddhavamsa, including the great Shakyamuni himself. And we have lots of Buddhist followers bickering with each other over what is the right teaching or canon or not. Plus all the Skhandas and uncontrollable factors leading to vast amounts of sufferings...etc.. )
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