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The Teachings Of Great Master Yin Guang

Whether one is a layperson or has left the home- life, one should respect elders and be harmonious to those surrounding him. One should endure what others cannot, and practice what others cannot achieve


The Sweetest Smile Yet

As we come to the end of our treatise on Loving and Dying, I should make it clear that I do not at all claim to be an authority on living, loving or dying. But I have tried to share some thoughts on the subject with you, thoughts about how to live and die with love and understanding all along the way


A World Of Anomalies

Reading the newspapers and newsmagazines can give us much food for reflection. Besides the orbituaries, there are grim reminders of uffering all over the world, though we may have become quite numbed to it.


Contemplation On Death

While we are alive it is good to contemplate on death now and then. In fact it is good to do it daily. The Buddha recommends frequent contemplation on death because there are many benefits to be gained from such contemplation. Let's look at how we can benefit in contemplating on death.


Our Death Should Be Serene

All of us have to die one day. Our death should be serene and peaceful. Therefore when someone is about to die we should make it as serene and beautiful for him or her as possible. Yes, are you surprised that death can be beautiful? If you are, it is because we normally have dosa or aversion towards death. There is fear of pain and the uncertainty of what is to come after death. Then there is attachment to our loved ones which gives rise to much pain in our heart in having to part with them.


We Are Our Own Saviours

Sometimes as a monk I'm asked to go for funeral chanting. I do feel sorry for the bereaved ones but sometimes I also feel quite helpless because there is so much confusion as regards the role of a monk in funeral chanting.


Loving Is Understanding

o die well we must live well. If we have lived well we can die well. There will be no regrets. We can go peacefully, content that we have done what we could, that along the way we have spread understanding and happiness, that we have lived according to our principles and commitment to the ideals of love and compassion.


We Must Do Our Bit

Earlier I said that when I saw the sick, the dying and the dead, two resolutions arose in my mind. One is to be able to take pain and death with a smile, to be able to remain mindful and composed to the very end. Now I wish to touch on my second resolution.


Tribute To Kuai Chan

'd like to tell you about a brave yogi who died peacefully from lung cancer with the word, Nibbana, on her lips. Her name is Kuai Chan and she passed away on December 18,1992 at her home in Kuala Lumpur.


Coping With Disease The Right Attitude

We should not look on disease and suffering as something which will destroy us completely, and thereby giving in to despair and despondency. On the contrary, we (ie. in the case of Buddhists) can look upon it as a test of how well we have understood the Buddha's teachings, how well we can apply the understanding we have supposedly learnt.


Two Resolutions

As I'm writing now, I recall that just yesterday a fellow monk died. He had been suffering from terminal cancer for eight months. When I was by his side at the hospital a few days before his death, he was in pain. I tried to feed him some broth but he could not eat. He looked quite gaunt and grim. He could hardly speak.


Hello Death Goodbye Life

One day when I die, as I must, I'd like to die with a smile on my lips. I'd like to go peacefully, to greet death like a friend, to be able to say quite cheerfully: "Hello Death, Goodbye Life."



I have written this book to share some thoughts on death with anybody who may care to read it. Thoughts about how we can go about facing death - with courage and equanimity. With dignity. And if you like with a smile. Thoughts about how to cope with suffering, to live with wisdom and compassion, or with as much of it as we can muster, until we die.



I am very much indebted to: Santivara for all his hard work in doing the layout and design of this book; and to Tuck Loon for his cover art and illustrations.


Our Death Should Be Serene

Thứ hai - 30/09/2013 00:44
Illustration Image

Illustration Image

All of us have to die one day. Our death should be serene and peaceful. Therefore when someone is about to die we should make it as serene and beautiful for him or her as possible. Yes, are you surprised that death can be beautiful? If you are, it is because we normally have dosa or aversion towards death. There is fear of pain and the uncertainty of what is to come after death. Then there is attachment to our loved ones which gives rise to much pain in our heart in having to part with them.
Loving and Dying

By Visuddhacara

Illustration by Hor Tuck Loon



All of us have to die one day. Our death should be serene and peaceful. Therefore when someone is about to die we should make it as serene and beautiful for him or her as possible. Yes, are you surprised that death can be beautiful? If you are, it is because we normally have dosa or aversion towards death. There is fear of pain and the uncertainty of what is to come after death. Then there is attachment to our loved ones which gives rise to much pain in our heart in having to part with them.

We should however realize that our wrong understanding and attitude is the cause of our suffering. We have not understood the Dhamma deeply enough. We have not  understood and penetrated the nature of mind and body as impermanence, suffering and no- self. We have not learned how to let go gracefully, how to submit to the inevitable.
When the Buddha's stepmother Maha Pajapati Gotami was about to die at the ripe old age of 120, Ananda and the nuns cried. Maha Pajapati Gotami gently reproached them: "But why should you cry, my son and daughters. Don't you see this body of mine has become old and decrepit? It is like a haunt of snakes, a seat of diseases, a resort of old age and death, a house of suffering. Weary have I grown with this corpse of a body. It has been nothing but a great burden to me. Long have I aspired for the liberation of  Nibbana. And today my wish is about to be realized. Truly my death is a happy thing. It is the time for me to beat the drum of satisfaction and joy. Why then should you cry?

The Buddha's last words were: "All conditioned things are subject to dissolution. You should strive on with diligence.

The Buddha, as he was dying amidst natural  urroundings under two sal trees in the forest, also told Ananda not to cry at his death. He said one must with wisdom and equanimity accept the fact that death and separation from all that we love is inevitable. The Buddha reminded that we must practise mindfulness meditation to attain the wisdom that can enable us to face death with serenity. He told the monks: "Thus must you train yourselves: We must meet our death mindful and composed." And the Buddha's last words were: "All conditioned things are subject to dissolution. You should strive on with diligence."

People who have lived beautiful lives can die beautifully. The other day I came across a very touching In Memoriam in the newspaper: "As she breathed her last and entered into eternal life, her face lit up and her lips broke into a lovely smile. Sister F., on seeing this, exclaimed: 'Look, she's seeing God ... " It so happened I know this lady, a  hristian, who had died such a beautiful death. She had a very gentle and kind nature and was always concerned for the welfare of others. I was told that as a school teacher she used to seek out the especially weak students and gave them special coaching and encouragement. She was deeply loved and cherished by her family and by all those whose lives had. been touched by hers. I am told that she had always been such a gentle and loving person to everybody that verily her life was just like that of a saint.Having lived such a beautiful life, it is no wonder that she died a beautiful death. Our religions may vary but as the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, puts it: "Compassion is the essence of all religions." It is my firm belief that if we have lived a good life, then when we die we will die a beautiful death whether we are Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims or of whatever views or beliefs. As the Buddha says, it is deeds that maketh a person. In this context I used to tell Buddhists that it is better to be a good Christian or good Muslim than to be a bad Buddhist. Thus, good Christians when they die may see their God or the light. Buddhists too may see mental images of the Buddha, arahants, devas or heavenly realms and radiant light.

Jack Kornfield, the American Vipassana meditation teacher, once related in the Inquiring Mind journal how he visited Howard Nudleman, a very kind surgeon and meditator a day before the latter died of cancer. He recollected how walking into Howard's room was like walking into a temple. And when he looked at Howard, Howard gave him a smile, a smile of such incredible sweetness, that he (Kornfield) would never be able to forget it for the rest of his life.

Yes, I am sure touching stories about beautiful deaths of beautiful people abound. Therefore, death too can be a beautiful experience. When we have lived a good life and this body has become frail and broken down, we can face death gracefully, knowing that we have lived a good life and that it is time for us to move on.

So when a loved one is about to die, we should understand and allow him (or her) to go peacefully. We should make it as serene and beautiful for him as possible. Obviously, we shouldn't be crying or wailing. That would only make it more difficult for the dying person. Of course if he is an understanding Buddhist and there is still strength in him to speak, he might, just like the Buddha, gently chide you: "But my dear why should you cry? Has not the Buddha taught us in many a way that separation is inevitable in life? How can it be that what is subject to dissolution should not dissolve? That is not possible. Therefore we should contemplate deeply on the Dhamma. This body, my dear, is not ours. This mind too is not ours. They arise and pass away according to conditions. We must practise mindfulness deeply to see this, so that, clinging no more, we can be liberated from birth and death. My dear, be strong. Even as I take my leave of you I will like to remind you of the Buddha's last words to us all: 'All conditioned phenomena are subject to dissolution. Therefore, I exhort you, strive on with diligence."

Yes, all Buddhists should remember that the Buddha's last reminder to us was to strive on untiringly to attain the wisdom that can liberate us from birth and death. A meditator should meditate to the very end. He can observe his in-breath or out- breath or the rising and falling of the abdomen as he breathes in and out. If he experiences any difficulties he can be aware of them, noting them as they are, without any fear or anxiety, but with calmness and steadiness of mind. He can observe painful sensations and bear them even if they are intense. He can remind imself that they are merely sensations, albeit difficult ones. He can see too that they are impermanent, that they continually arise and pass away. He can understand and not cling or be attached to the body. He knows that both the body and mind arise and pass away according to conditions. He can reflect:  "This mind and body are not mine. They have never belonged to me. They arise because of conditions and, according to conditions, they will pass away. Accordingly, this eye is not mine, this ear is not mine, this nose is not mine ..... This body is made up of the four elements of earth, fire, water and air which represent the qualities of matter, the  ualities of hardness, softness, pressure, tension, heat, cold and so on. As long as there is kammic energy to sustain my lifespan for this life, this body will survive. When the kammic energy for this life expires, then this body dies, and a new mind conditioned by the old mind at the moment of death, arises in a new body. If I had attained arahatship,  there is no need for anymore rebirth. If I have not but has, nevertheless, lived a good life, I am not afraid of a new rebirth. I can take on a new existence as a well-endowed and intelligent human or a heavenly being and from there continue my path of development until I attain the ultimate Nibbana, the end of birth and death." Reflecting in this way, a  meditator can become very calm and steady. He can become very peaceful. He can even smile at his pain and at the people that may be gathered around him. With his mind  being so peaceful, painful bodily sensations too can cease. He can die in serenity and peace, gently breathing his last.


This body is not mine...
This mind is not mine...


When Anathapindika, the philanthropist and great benefactor of the Sangha, was dying, Sariputta, the Buddha's chief disciple, preached a discourse on non-attachment to him. Sariputta reminded Anathapindika that life was merely a process dependent on conditions, and that in this transient mind and body there is nothing which is worth clinging to. Sariputta went through a whole list of what life constitutes, showing that they are all ephemeral conditions which cannot be clung to. Therefore Anathapindika should not grasp after visual forms and the eye, sound and the ear, scent and the nose, taste and the tongue, touch and the body, and the consciousness that is dependent on all of these. Anathapindika should not grasp after seeing consciousness, hearing consciousness, smelling consciousness, tasting consciousness, touching consciousness and thinking consciousness. He should understand their impermanent nature and observe their arising and passing away, without clinging to or being averse to them.

Similarly Anathapindika should not grasp after the contact dependent on eye and form, ear and sound and so on. He should not grasp after the feeling, whether pleasant or unpleasant, that arose dependent on the contact. He was to treat them all with equanimity, understanding their true nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and no-self. The body is made up of the four elements of extension, oscillation, cohesion and temperature. The mind is made of feeling, perception, mental activities and consciousness. They are all impermanent and changing all the time. Anathapindika, Sariputta exhorted, should not be attached to any of these. There is nothing in the world which can be called a permanent self. There is, in the ultimate sense, no self in this mind and body. And therefore there is nothing for Anathapindika to cling to.
On hearing this profound Dhamma, a great peace and joy came over Anathapindika. And he cried. The Buddha's attendant monk, Ananda, who was present was taken aback and asked Anathapindika why he cried. "Was it because he was not able to bear up with his pain?" "No," Anathapindika replied. It was not that. But rather it was because the discourse was so beautiful that it had touched him very deeply. "I have never felt so touched in my life. That is why I cried," he told Ananda and Sariputta. His tears were not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy - joy at hearing and understanding such profound Dhamma.


Anathapindika shed tears of joy on hearing the profound Dhamma preached by Sariputta


Anathapindika asked why such Dhamma was not often preached to the lay-people. Sariputta replied it was because the lay-people normally found it difficult to appreciate such deep Dhamma, being attached, as they were, to the very many sensual pleasures available in life. Anathapindika protested that there were those who would understand and appreciate the deep Dhamma and who, for not hearing it, would be lost. He urged Sariputta to preach often to others the discourse on non- attachment which Sariputta had just preached to him.

Shortly after Anathapindika died. As his end was peaceful and he had lived a good life, he was said by the Buddha to have been reborn in the Tusita heaven. As one who has attained the first stage of sainthood (sotapatti) it is believed that Anatha- pindika would, within seven lives, attain full enlightenment and thereby be liberated from rebirth.
There are stories too of how monks in the old days attained arahatship (full enlightenment) on their deathbed. So too yogis of today can meditate to the very end, so that for all they know they might realize insight knowledges, deepening their understanding of impermanence, suffering and no-self, and even attaining sainthood at the moment of death.

A yogi too can radiate metta, loving-kindness. Even as he is dying, he can radiate thoughts of loving-kindness to all beings. "Mayall beings be happy. May they be free from harm and danger. May they be free from mental suffering ..... physical suffering ..... may they take care of themselves happily." Dying with such noble thoughts of love for all beings is a noble way of dying. In the Visuddhimagga, a classic Buddhist meditation manual, it is stated that a person who is in the habit of radiating metta, will die very peacefUlly, as if falling into a pleasant sleep. And if he has not attained arahatship and has thus to be reborn, he may be reborn in a heavenly realm.

Yes, a yogi need not fear death. He can gracefully give up the body and mind knowing that life and death are just two sides of  the same coin, understanding that while we arealive we are already dying from moment to moment, dying to each passing moment and being reborn into each new moment. Mental and physical phenomena are constantly arising and passing away. Nothing stays the same even for a second. This has been proven too in quantum physics where it was found that subatomic particles vanish at a rate of 10 to the power of 22 times in just one second. The Buddha too said that mental and physical phenomena are constantly arising and dissolving. As long as we have not eliminated the karnmic-rebirth energy by uprooting the mental defilements of greed, anger and delusion, so long will we continue to take new birth. Dying in this life just means the end of the lifespan for the body and mind in this life. But immediately on expiry of the death-moment mind, without any interval, a new mind arises taking on a new body according to the kamma or deeds of the being in his previous life. So a yogi understanding that the death-moment mind is basically no different from that of any other mind-moment would have no fear. He can meet his end mindful and composed in line with the instruction of the Buddha.

Making the atmosphere serene

In making the atmosphere serene for a dying person, we should know his preferences, his likes and dislikes. For example, he may like flowers. Then we should have flowers in the room by his bedside. He would probably like to pass away in his own cosy room, in surroundings that are familiar and peaceful to him. So if it is possible, he should have his end at home rather than in a hospital. But if that is not possible and hospital care is required, we should try to make his surroundings in the hospital as private
and peaceful as possible. A private room is best but not all people may be able to afford it. Whatever the place may be, we should try  to make the atmosphere as peaceful as possible.

He might have a small Buddha image which he likes to gaze at. If so we can place the image beside the flowers at his bedside. The serene countenance of a Buddha image can be very reassuring. By looking at the image, one is reminded of the Buddha's wisdom and teaching. And that can give much comfort and peace, especially in times of need. The room too should be clean and cosy. The dying person might like his bed to be placed facing the window so he can see trees and plants which can be soothing to the heart. (The Buddha, for example, chose to pass away in natural surroundings, under two sal trees which were in bloom in Kusinara forest.)

If perchance the dying person should lose his steadiness and show signs of fear, anxiety or pain, relatives should reassure him. For example, a loved one can hold his hand or gently stroke his forehead, speaking in soothing and reassuring terms. She can remind him gently of the Dhamma, the need to keep the mind calm and to meditate. She can assure him not to worry about her or the children, that she has the teachings of the Buddha and that she will live by the teachings. She will know how to take care of herself and the children. She can remind him that property, loved ones and mind-and-body are ultimately not ours. Only our deeds are our true property that will follow us. She can remind him of the good life he had led, of the good care he had taken of the family, and of the many good deeds he had done. Recollecting thus, and understanding the Dhamma, he can become strong. He can smile and be at peace. Death is no more frightening to him.

Of course, what we have stated is just an example of one possible scenario. When the time comes there can be no prepared script. But if one understands the Dhamma one can respond intuitively and, according to the prevailing conditions, say and do just the right thing to help a loved one die peacefully.

During the Buddha's time, Nakulamata, the wife of Nakulapita, did just that: she reassured her husband when he was at one time close to dying. She told him: "My dear, do not die with any regret or attachment to anything. Our Lord, the Buddha, had said that it is unwise to die in such manner." Understanding her husband's nature, she continued: "My dear, you might think that when you are gone, I will not be able to support the children or keep the family together. But think not so; for I am deft at spinning cotton and carding wool. I can support the children and keep the family together. Therefore be at peace."

And she reassured her husband that she would remain virtuous and practise the Dhamma until she attained enlightenment. And if anyone should doubt this, let them go and ask the Buddha, who she was certain would express confidence in her. Hearing all these assurances, Nakulapita instead of dying felt very much better and recovered from his illness! Later, when the loving couple went to see the Buddha, the Lord told Nakulapita that he was very lucky to have a wife like Nakulamata. "You are very fortunate to have Nakulamata who had such love and compassion for you, who desire your happiness and who can counsel you in times of crisis."

Relatives too should give all the support they can to the dying. As has been said earlier, they should not cry as that would make it difficult for the dying person. But if they have difficulty in controlling themselves, then they too should contemplate on the Dhamma. They can contemplate that death is inseparable from life. When there is life there must be death. It is something we must accept gracefully. Besides when the body is decrepit or terminally ill, it is quite a relief to be "freed" from it. Taking on a new life, the person will be better off. Thinking in a wise way too, relatives can regain their composure and help give the dying person a dignified and serene departure.

The last thought moment

The last thought-moment or the death moment is said to be very vital. If one dies with fear, anger, craving or any other unwholesome mental state, then a bad rebirth will come about. But if one dies with peace and understanding, with mindfulness and equanimity, a good rebirth will come about. Usually if one has led a good life the last thought-moment will quite naturally be a wholesome one. The good deeds one has done may appear to the mind's eye. Or one may have visions of the destiny one is going to, such as the seeing of breathtaking heavenly scenery and beautiful people. Conversely, if one has led an evil life, then the evil deeds one has done may appear before one's eye, orvisions of hell-fire and other bad omens may be seen. In life though, we are not all good or all bad; there is a mixture of bad and good in us. But if on the whole we have been good, then we can be confident of getting a good rebirth.

If we have a good understanding of life and death, we can meet death with steadiness and equanimity. We can, as we have said, meditate to the very end, maintaining our mindfulness and composure. Having lived a generally good life and furthermore, being able to maintain mindfulness in the face of death, we can certainly be assured of a good rebirth - as a good human being again or as a deva, a heavenly being. Hopefully too we can quickly, in whatever rebirth we have taken, make an end of sam sara, the round of birth and death, so that subject no more to rebirth, we will attain the peace of Nibbana.

Sometimes the question may be asked: What if a person is unable to maintain mindfulness, especially if he has not undergone any meditation training? What if, let us say, he dies in a coma? Or what if he dies suddenly in an accident? From my understanding of the scriptures as taught by the Buddha, I would say that if one has led a good life, then chances are some good thought-moment will surface at the moment of death and a good rebirth can come about. Our kamma is our true refuge (kamma- patisarana), so accordingly the sum-weight of the good deeds we have done should lead us to a good rebirth. That is why we should lead a good life while we are alive, and not wait until we are near death, for it would be much too late then. But as in life we have done both some bad and good, there is the possibility that we might unskillfully recollect the bad deeds instead of the good ones at the moment of death. Therefore maintaining mindfulness is all important; it is very helpful. With mindfulness, unwholesome thoughts will not be able to enter our mind and we can pass away calmly, peacefully. Mindfulness being such a wonderful quality - being able to help us in both life and death - why then should we not cultivate and thoroughly deveiop it while we are alive?

Tác giả bài viết: Visuddhacara

Nguồn tin: Chùa Tịnh Luật

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