By Nhất Quán
Death is the temporary cessation of a temporary phenomenon. Death is not the complete cessation, death in this place but rebirth in another place.
The doctrine of Reincarnation is not a theory, but an indisputable fact. It is the basis of Buddhist doctrine. So, after knowing, understanding, and seeing how death and rebirth are, no Buddhist dares to do evil, but on the contrary, always does good deeds as a refuge for future lives. Through that, if you are still wandering in samsara, or because you are still enjoying the pleasures of this world, even though you have bought a Prajna boat, you do not want to cross the river of passion to reach the shore of liberation.
The bodhisattva's vows to practice and transform to the point of truth, goodness, and beauty are all based on this teaching of Rebirth. Only karma can constitute Rebirth. Due to past karma, there is the present Rebirth. Due to the combination of present karma with past karma, there is a future rebirth. The karma of the present is the offspring of the past and becomes the parents of the future.
According to Buddhism, you are born from your actions, your parents only give you the material basis. Thus, first, there must be living beings (parents), and then there are living beings (children). At conception, karma creates the first consciousness, the rebirth consciousness to nourish the fetus. The invisible power of karma created in the past life creates a mental phenomenon that combines the vital phenomenon in an existing physical phenomenon so that there are three factors Consciousness, Vitality, and Pregnancy. It is these three elements that make up a person. Therefore, in many suttas, the Buddha often taught that beings who do evil will be reborn in a miserable state after death, and those who do good will be reborn in a happy state. And the Buddha showed great compassion, so he often looked for people with predestined conditions to save, because he saw that you were creating sins that would adversely affect your future life.
In fact, many people think shallowly, thinking that death is the end, they often overlook doing good and easily do evil, leading to painful consequences for themselves, their families, and society. While a disciple of the Buddha practices the Dharma, having faith in karma and rebirth will reap many practical benefits for himself, his family, and the community.
Indeed, first of all, by properly understanding the Buddha's teaching that your present life is good, or suffering comes from actions created in your past life, you will easily accept the situation that you are suffering from, It means that you are happy to be responsible for the debt you have borrowed from your past life, not resentful of the people around you. And furthermore, by understanding the consequences of past actions leading to the present life, you can also be at peace with the disparity often called injustice in society. As well as understand the cause of the difference in intelligence, in health, in material life, in spirit ... of you and others.
As a Buddhist who deeply believes in the fair and reasonable law of cause and effect, that is, the thoughts, words, and deeds created in the past life are the elements that form your body and your present life. With such awareness, you certainly do not need to avoid the results of karma in the flow of samsara, on the contrary, it helps you to be careful with your thoughts, words, and deeds Buddha taught, it is inevitable to have a peaceful, happy, and liberated life in the present and in the future. Regarding death and rebirth, the Buddha taught, there are four causes of death as follows:
1- The End of Longevity.
What we usually understand is a natural death, that is, death when reaching old age, life expectancy has ended. Life expectancy depends on the realm, depending on each sentient being, there is no limit to any number. A person dies at the end of his life like a lamp goes out because the oil has run out. However, there are still cases where the life span ends but one's karma has not ended, for example, the oil has run out but the wick has not burned out, which means that if the energy of karma is still latent, one can continue living in that realm.
2- The Termination of Karma.
This is the end of the birth karma or the karma of rebirth in that life. Whether good or bad, the ability to pay the results of that karma can no longer progress, must give way to new birth karma, or new re-created karma. That new karma is the mental action created by that person at the time of death, has the power to govern rebirth. At that moment, when the old birth karma ended, death appeared. At that time a special power of new birth karma created a new life in a new realm.
          3- Longevity And Karma End Together.
          This is the case when a person dies in old age, and at the same time, his birth karma ends.
          If the first case is that the lamp is off due to running out of oil, the second case is because the wick is low, but the oil is still there, then the third case is out of oil and the wick is low.
          4- The Interference Of Karma.
          The intervening karma is a very heavy type of karma, capable of destroying the birth karma of sentient beings. These are usually bad deaths, due to the heavy killing karma from the past to the time of fruition. For example, death by explosion, stabbing knife, car crash, fire, drowning... including all kinds of deaths called accidental deaths.
          The first three types of death are called timely death, the fourth and last type are called untimely death. The first three types of death are compared to running out of oil, the wick is exhausted, the wick and the oil are exhausted, the fourth type of karmic cessation is likened to the wind blowing out while the oil is not exhausted and the wick is still there!
          Those who are about to die, due to the power of karma, are affected by one of the following four karmas:
          - Extreme karma means very powerful karma.
          - Habits of karma means doing things every day.
          - Accumulation of karma is the type of karma due to accumulation, containing groups from time to time not often.
          - Near-death karma means karma at the time of death.
If it is extremely serious karma, whether good or bad, immediately the dying person is affected by this karma, no karma can interfere. The next order is karmic habits, due to habits by actions often done in daily life. Accumulating karma, doing karma from time to time, if gathered to form a tendency, a personality can also lead to birth consciousness leaving rebirth. And if there is karma done before the end of the breath called near-death karma, then this karma determines the realm of rebirth.
         However, regardless of the karma, the dying person will be governed by the signs of karma and the signs of the realms as follows:
          1- Signs of karma
          It is the actions that one has created and practiced in daily life that have become inertia, which automatically appears very clearly in the consciousness of the dying person. For example:
          - Blood pot, knife... for the butcher.
          - Pictures of patients, needles, medicines... for physicians.
          - Flower vases, sutras, relic boxes... for a person with a spiritual mind
          - The smell of incense, the scent of flowers... for those who often set up an altar to the Buddha.
          - A beautiful book, an elegant collection of poems... for writers and poets.
          - A landscape of mountains, mountains, and water, sentient... for the hermit.
          When the marks of karma as above appear, immediately afterward the signs of bad realms also appear.
           2- The Realms of Karma.
          This is the appearance of the realm of rebirth. Appearances of the realm of rebirth depending on good or evil, purity or pollution... they will appear in the will of the dying person. For example:
          - Seeing the forest of fire, the sea of blood, the tunnel of knives, the tunnel of thorns... This is the symbol, the manifestation of hell.
          - Seeing the deep tunnel, fishy, foul... is the symbol, the appearance of entering the animal's womb.
          - Seeing the way to the high clouds with brilliant and glorious colors... is the symbol, the manifestation of the way to the heavenly scenes...
          In these moments, how the marks of karma appear, the rebirth consciousness will depend, immediately attach to that realm. Therefore, this moment of death is very important, so you can create good near-death karma to support the dying person by using forms such as Buddha statues, scriptures, or sounds such as chanting or reciting Buddha's name… to suggest, remind the mind of the dying person to remember the good karma that he or she created when he or she was still alive..
          It is because of the intimate relationship of Life, Death, and Rebirth that continues on the continuous stream of human life, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva has reminded you to practice, how to be reborn in the realms that you know in advance, you will not fall into the miserable states.
          Indeed, knowing your past life is knowing what you did in your previous life. If you have done meritorious deeds in your previous life, so in this life, you will have a life of abundance, peace, and happiness, then you should continue to do more virtuous deeds. If you know that you have committed many sins in your previous life, so this life will suffer like this, but if you still have some good roots to escape from hell, then you have to be afraid and not make the same mistake again. At the same time, you also have to work hard to be patient, endure the current difficult living situation and strive to overcome it so as not to fall back to hell, gradually you will also reap good results.
          You make every effort to practice the Buddha's teachings in every thought, in every deed, to make a good condition for each rebirth to practice the Bodhisattva path. For wisdom and morality to always sublimate, together with sentient beings of the same direction, to make a vow, to jointly build a solid house of Dharma. To be a refuge for all those who are predestined to live together, to practice together to make each person's heart bloom with flowers of compassion, flowers of wisdom, flowers of peace, flowers of liberation.
      The Buddhist theory of cause and effect, karma, and rebirth emphasizes the responsibility of man for his life in this life and the next. Therefore, it also calls people to have a full sense of responsibility for all their actions, words, and thoughts every day, every hour, even in every moment of life. Encourage people to always think good, do good, avoid all unwholesome thoughts, words and deeds. It can be said that the theory of cause and effect, karma, and rebirth encourages people to always strive to live a good and ethical life.
        The Theory of Reincarnation asserts that man, like all sentient beings, does not live only one life but has lived many lives, and after this life, will continue to live many more lives. And the power to lead people to live over and over again for so many lives is due to the power of karma. The fruits of all your deeds in this life form a force called the force of karma of rebirth, which will propel you to a new life, another life, in which your status and the circumstances of your life are determined by the results of the karmas of this life.
        The theory of reincarnation and the theory of karma are of great importance to personal and social life. It tells, where does the current man come from, and where will he go after he dies? It also tells what the meaning of life is. Why do humans exist in this world? Why is it that even though they are the same human species, their status is so different?
        Those are very basic, very important issues; but modern people, living a chaotic life, burying their heads in the pursuit of power, money, and beauty... almost never care, what can be said about liberation from birth and death, reincarnation...
        Only when death is near, or when encountering a great misfortune, do people in life come to their senses, suddenly realizing that they have squandered almost a whole life in pursuit of unreal values, just water bubbles, floating duckweed..etc...
        Therefore, to have good baggage for rebirth, to be born in a good realm, you must now know how to live an honest life. The creation of karma comes from within the mind, so good or bad thoughts create your karma. If you can't control your mind, it's hard to avoid creating bad karma. The mind is always in danger of thinking unwholesome things.
        Watch your mind. Make sure you always practice the Four Noble Truths. That is the best thing you can do for yourself, to achieve good karma.
        From the mind arise speech and action. You cannot speak without forethought, cannot act without the mind to do it. Even though sometimes it seems that you speak or act so instinctively that you are not aware that the thought has run through your head. But that does not mean that they are not present in the mind first. It is there, but because you don't have mindfulness and clear understanding, you think it's not.
       The mind is the most precious asset you have. There is no gold, silver, or jewel that can be compared with it, for the mind contains the seed of enlightenment. If you do not use it for the right purpose, you have foolishly buried the treasure in the black earth. However, sentient beings often do so, because they are not advised to guide them in the right direction.
         When you realize that you already possess this precious jewel mind, you should keep it so that it doesn't lose its brilliance, so that it stays pure, illuminating to create wholesome karma.
        Everything you do with the good intention of Right Thought is the second factor of the Eightfold Path that is your guide. Karma is created according to the mind, and the pure mind depends on meditation. If you practice regularly, diligently, gradually you will see what is going on in your mind clearly. Some people are completely satisfied even if they achieve only a little peace, even so, it is an advantage and progress. If you can observe the mind in your practice, you will also learn to observe the mind in your daily life. Then you will have many opportunities to create good karma.
If you live an honest life, you will have a good rebirth. If the mind is in a wholesome state at the time of death, the karma of rebirth will be good. You can be reborn in the heavenly realm, or the human realm, which is one of two relatively good realms. If you live a sinful life, then bad rebirth will go to one of the four states of suffering: hell, hungry ghost, animal, or Asura. But no matter where you are reborn, you will not stay there forever, because when the life span there expires, death happens and it will take you to be reborn in a new realm. So life in hell or hungry ghosts is not permanent. There is hope for an opportunity, although it may take an incalculable time to get it. So it's better that you don't fall into places of misery, once you're in there no one knows how long they'll have to stay there. Can seem endless! Likewise, life in the heavens is not permanent. When life there is finished, it is possible to fall into a lower realm. Only arahants who have shed all desire for rebirth, have removed all the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion, will not have to be reborn again.
In addition, in order to have good luggage, to support the relatives, by doing good deeds such as:
- Donate food and necessary items to monks and nuns, sponsor the printing of sutras and give alms to charity, such as accommodation for the elderly, charity hospitals, and facilities for the disabled. ….
What can be done should be done immediately, do not wait. The offering of the Three Jewels, such as when asking monks and nuns to pray for the deceased, should not be considered as payment for monks and nuns to recite prayers, but rather as an offering to pray for blessings for the deceased. This in itself is a good deed, the doer does not lose any merit but also gets more because sharing and the act of sharing is another meritorious act. So when doing that good deed, the person who does the good deed has two merits:
- The first is to perform a good behavior
- And the second is sharing the merit.
The presence of monks and nuns to chant and pray for the deceased is also great spiritual support for the families who have just lost their loved ones. By the way, monks and nuns can remind living relatives of the Buddha's teachings on impermanence, suffering, and non-self. If you understand and accept the Buddhist concept of immediate rebirth karma, then you will understand how important it is to practice good deeds while you are alive. Because doing good deeds, you will have good karma.
Karma is your real legacy, for only action or karma can follow you. After death, burning paper houses, paper cars, paper money, etc., does not help the dead person. Doing this goes against the logic of karma. What's more, you can't decide what burning here can turn into what's on the other side of the world. What is burned is only burning; it's still the burnt one. When reborn, sentient beings will live with food suitable to the conditions and circumstances of life there.
What the Buddha taught as explained before, doing some good deeds is to remember the dead and share the merit by chanting prayers and dedicating the merit done, and praying for the dead, with the only wish that the deceased will be reborn in a good realm through this blessing.
To properly prepare for rebirth, when meeting a dying person, you should absolutely avoid disturbing them. Especially not to make them angry or cry so that they develop attachment. On the contrary, you must remind them to practice, practice at the last moment, for example, visualize images of Buddhas, or certain teaching according to their beliefs. If the person does not follow any religion, it is advisable to help them die in peace and quiet.
          When the dying person becomes comatose, if you are a practitioner, remind the dying person what he or she practices every day. If relatives want to do good to the dying person, they can recite the chant by themselves or invite the monks to come home to chant and pray. In case there are no monks to guide, family members can recite Buddha's name together. After the funeral, the family continues to pray and chant until the 49th day to cultivate merit as a preparation for the soul to easily find a way to be reborn in a good realm.
          For the dying, and the recently deceased, the best way you want to help is to generate your own compassion towards the dying person. Your love and compassion are very beneficial to the dying person because it arises from your heart so it is easy to show that person the unconditional compassion that the dying person desperately needs. Your true compassion will create a peaceful atmosphere for the dying person to think about their high spiritual dimension and future path of rebirth. Another important thing is that you do not alienate and leave the dying person alone. Death is the truth and the most terrible fear for the man. Therefore, you should be by their side, offer comfort, or look them in the eye with sympathy. The body also has a love language, use it, and don't be afraid lest they stink, get dirty, or fear they'll take you along. If you can show such affectionate gestures, you will bring the dying person the greatest peace at the end of their life.
        When you are sure that the person is dead, you still maintain your boundless compassion and together with everyone around the dead person chant loudly the names of the buddhas such as Medicine Buddha, Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha A Amitabha ..... As mentioned, if you recite the Buddha's name with your boundless compassion, this will be valuable baggage to give to the dying person on the path of rebirth.
        There are two categories of people to consider here. The first is people of faith. The second is a person who does not follow a particular religion. If the dying person is a Buddhist, we chant sutras and recite the Buddha's name to help them transcend. If the person has no religion, the best thing to do to help them is to advise them to think of the good people and the best things in life. When a person is dying and in that moment of confusion, there is nothing better than giving them that feeling of peace and warmth of human affection, this feeling is very beneficial to their consciousness for a second, minute of rebirth.
        For Buddhists, you can remind them to dedicate themselves to what they used to do and practice. You can remind them about generating bodhicitta, awakening mind, pure mind, and concentrating on reciting the Buddha's name... This is very beneficial for a Buddhist. For non-believers, you can advise them to think:
        - May everyone be happy, may all souls be happy, pray for all sentient beings to be free from their sufferings.
          Ideas for the good of others are very helpful to the dying.
          For Buddhists who are about to die, you should remind them of the Buddha's deeds, remember the image of a certain Buddha, maybe put a Buddha image in their room... This is very helpful and is a condition for the spirit to be reborn in the pure land. Immediately after the person dies, it is very important to note that the body of the dead person should not be touched, as this is the time of the seven great dissociations that cause great pain to the dead person's body. If you touch it, it will make the dead body even more painful. At this time, even though a dead person can't talk to you, when the body is in pain, the soul will get angry, because the soul only remembers anger, so many good deeds done while alive forget all, immediately fall into evil.
          Once you have determined that the person will die, it is important that you fulfill all their wishes. If the person who is about to die is always angry, then you should do something to stop that person's anger, to keep him or her in a calm and peaceful state. Avoid making noise and move around often with that person. If the dying person is too attached to relatives such as spouses, parents, and children, then it is best not to let these relatives come near. Try to do this to end the dying person's attachment. If it is certain that the person is going to die, then you should give the person food or drink that will keep him or her happy and satisfied, even if food has been abstained during treatment. On the contrary, if the dying person likes to eat and drink, but you do not satisfy their desire, this will make the dying person angry and cause the person to fall into the hungry ghost species. If you try to speak Dharma to a dying person but he or she doesn't like to hear it, you'd better not say it, because this will make the dying person aversion to the Dharma.
        If a person believes in the help of others and is also someone who has helped others in this life, you should remind him or her of good deeds and congratulate him on the good he has done. This makes one's mind happy and one will be reborn in a happy place. If you help the dying person's wish come true, that person will be very satisfied. This prevents the dying person's craving, anger, attachment, and other wrong views from arising, thus helping the dying person not to fall into a bad realm but to be reborn in a good realm. For Buddhists and those who have received and maintained certain dharma, it is very convenient if they are reminded of the ten things the Buddha taught before death as follows:
        1. You should not develop an attachment to all desires in this life, but should try and avoid directing attachment to your loved ones, because even if they meet again in the next life, they will have to part. In your dying moment, you have to leave everything behind. You should also not be attached to your body, because at the time of death you must also leave it. You don't miss things like food, clothes, or houses, because those things eventually give up on you.
          2. You should generate compassion and love for all sentient beings.
         3. You should stop all resentment and enmity, otherwise, it will harm you in the next life.
          4. All the precepts that you uphold, if you have violated them, you must try to repent for purity before you die.
         5. You must develop a strong mind in the future life and will maintain and keep the pure Dharma precepts.
          6. You must feel sorry for the negative karma that you have caused others in this life and must repent in order to easily be reborn.
          7. You must remember the merits that you have done in this life, the merits of others have done, and develop the intention to continue to do in the future.
         8. You should think it's time for you to leave for the next life, there's nothing to fear because that's the natural law of birth and death.
         9. You have to see that all phenomena are caused by causes and conditions and also by causes and conditions that destroy them.
         10. You must contemplate that all phenomena are selfless so that you can get rid of suffering and achieve peace.
          After the consciousness leaves the body and enters the intermediate body stage, that is, the life of the transitional period between this life and the next. This transitional period for a person to go to be reborn into a new body in a new world is seven weeks. Every seven days the bardo body dies and then is reborn in another bardo until it can contact the future parents to take rebirth.
          The reason the consciousness has to suffer in this intermediate process of birth and death is that the person's good and bad karma created in the previous life will determine to lead them to the right place, so it takes time to find out future life. Forty-nine days is a time shared by everyone, but there are many people who, after dying, immediately go to be reborn in another realm. But there are also some others who have to wait until the 49th day, at 24 o'clock, to go for rebirth.
          Usually, when a person is dying, you chant a prayer or remind them, they all hear it, even the unconscious person can too. Souls in the bardo also have the ability to hear, feel and understand when you do alert them. Therefore, the first seven weeks after death is a very important time for the living to do everything possible to assist the dead in being reborn.
          As I said once, not everyone who dies goes through the bardo. There are some people who practice enlightenment, lead a holy and beneficial life, and when they die they are directly reborn in a good realm and not through this intermediate stage. Similarly, a person who commits five serious sins such as: Killing his father, killing his mother, killing an Arhat, insulting the Buddha, destroying the Dharma, or having a negative, evil life, when he dies, he will fall into hell, or a certain bad realm but not through the intermediate body stage.
          In short, the best preparation for rebirth is to practice spirituality throughout your life. First of all, by getting rid of greed, hatred, and delusion and purifying the ten negative karmas if you have committed them in the past, you express your regrets and make a vow not to violate the precepts in the future. This is the teaching common to all sentient beings. For a person who has taken the vows to practice, or a practitioner with training, you must repent and purify all the precepts and vows that you have broken.
          In addition, if you want to be rich in the next life, you must practice generosity, if you want to be happy, you must observe morality, if you want to live a long life, you should abstain from killing, if you want to be admired and respected, you must practice patience. If you want to be liberated, practice the six actions of Bodhisattvas. In general, if you get rid of all negative karma, purify all negative karma, and turn to meritorious actions, it gives you a force of inner joy. When death comes to you, it is the energy of merit and virtue that will propel you to another life of safety and happiness. It is the best preparation for a meaningful rebirth.
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