We avoid it. We deny it exists. We avert our eyes from its presence. We protect little children from observing it and dodge their questions about it. We speak of it only in whispers. We consider it horrible, ugly and grotesque.
We fear death because we love life, but a little too much, and often look at just the preferred side of it.
How to Help a Person Who Is Nearing Death
There is a story told of a woman who brought her dead child to Buddha and begged him to bring her child back to life. Buddha asked the woman to bring a mustard seed from a house where no one had ever died. Only then would he grant her wish. She of course, could not find a household saved from the pain of death and she was then struck by the universality of dying.
It is more important to Buddhists to care for the lives of the people all around them than to prolong or extend life when death is unavoidable.
Death for a Buddhist is a peaceful and natural process.
Those final moments are the Buddhist’s springboard into the next life. Some will want to lie on their right side, emulating the posture of the Reclining Buddha in order to better contemplate the Buddha and his passing. Having an image of the Buddha close by can also be comforting and conducive to good and peaceful thoughts.
Family and friends should reassure the person of the good deeds he has done and the good karma he has accumulated. A person accumulates karmic forces during his or her lifetime; upon death, those forces are activated, determining whether the next life will be auspicious.
Those who are present during the person’s last hours also can perform good deeds or give donations in the dying person’s name and share the merit with him.
If you are a practicing Buddhist, you can radiate loving-kindness to the person who is dying to help ease his suffering and boost his confidence.
Remain calm; do not weep or openly grieve in front of the dying person. You do not have to ignore or deny your grief, just keep your composure as you help your loved one face death with serenity.
When our final day comes, we need to accept it and not see it as something strange. There’s no other way.
If possible, Buddhist practitioners should use their time now to look ahead to their next lives. Bodhichitta practices and certain tantric practices are good for this. According to the tantric teachings, at the time of death there’s the eight-stage dissolution of the elements – the grosser levels of the elements of the body dissolve, and then the more subtle levels also dissolve. Tantric practitioners need to include this in their daily meditation.