There are three possible answers to this question. Those who believe in a god or gods usually claim that before an individual is created, he/she does not exist, then he/she comes into being through the will of a god. He/she lives their life and then, according to what they believe or do in their life, they either go to eternal heaven or hell.
A few months ago, in sun-drenched, seemingly timeless July, my eighty-eight year old mother-in-law, Norma, entertained her long-time friend, Marvin, also an octogenarian and a recent widower. The setting was the front porch of an old homestead in a small village in northern New York where both had lived for more than half a century.
This teaching appears in the March-April, 1997 issue of Mandala, the newsmagazine of the FPMT. Reflecting on impermanence and death in itself is not really a big deal, but thinking about it because of what follows after the death is important. If there is negative karma, then there are the lower realms of unimaginable sufferings, and this is something that can be stopped immediately.
This is a study of the practices that Vietnamese lay Buddhists make to prepare their next life. It recounts two personal stories of my parents, whose deaths reflect the two traditional practices among of ordinary Vietnamese Buddhists. As a result, the stories of my parents’ deaths mirror the major issues that Vietnamese Buddhists in general face in their preparation for the next life. Their lives and religious practices not only underline some of the teachings generally seen in East Asian Buddhism, but also reflect the basic beliefs of Pure Land Buddhism which widely practiced in Vietnam. Their stories, in one way, are a personal matter the family members may keep in their private memories. Yet, looking on the broadest perspective, they reflect two major elements commonly seen in Vietnamese Buddhist communities.
As a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, working as a Buddhist chaplain at several of Melbourne's hospitals and as well as Melbourne assessment prison, I have witnessed many personal tragedies faced by the living and of course the very process of dying and that of death and many of these poor people faced their death with fear, with misery and pain before departing this world. With the images of all these in my mind, on this occasion, I wish to share my view from the perspective of a Buddhist and we hope that people would feel far more relaxed in facing this inevitable end since it is really not the end of life, according to our belief.
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
No matter who we are – pop star, nurse, teacher, real estate magnate, gardener, atheist, CEO, secretary, road sweeper, agnostic, film critic, Buddhist, home maker – each and every one of us will die. We have no choice, no alternative option, no wiggle room. Death is inevitable. So why do so few of us even think about death, let alone make any effort to prepare ourselves for it?
In his new book, 'Living is Dying', Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche offers a broad spectrum of advice about how to prepare for dying, death and beyond no matter who you are. Inspired by nearly one hundred questions that were put to him by friends and students, Rinpoche describes how to:
prepare for our own death
help, comfort and guide a dying friend or loved one
approach the moment of death
navigate the bardos (intermediate states)
guide the dead
help loved ones who have died
We acknowledge that Mr. Williams (Bill) Brian Williams, who was born in Philip Island, Victoria, Australia, on October 19, 2017, aged 80 years old, will be sadly missed and has contributed significantly to your families.
On behalf of Quang Duc Monastery, we want to share your families' sorrow and wish to convey our support and sympathy during this sad time for your mother, Mrs Kay Williams and your family.
The grief you are experiencing is hard to bear at any time, but please remember that we are with you, and anxious to help lighten your load.
May your father be reborn in Sukhavati, Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, may you be filled with faith and hope even in the midst of inescapable grief. This is the prayer of your masters and friends.