Appreciating Life and Death: The Right View in Facing Death

The late Venerable Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, once said: “Death is neither a happy occasion nor a cause for mourning; it is but a solemn Buddhist event”. In an effort to establish the right view on life and death, DDM Zhaiming Branch Monastery invited Ven. Guo Kae from DDM to deliver a lecture titled “Appreciating Life and Death” at 9 a.m. on September 27, 2014; this lecture attracted an audience of about 400.

Ven. Guo Kae began by explaining the perception of monastics towards life and death, why she becomes a monastic as well as the purpose of this lecture. Her determination to deliver this lecture stemmed from its benefits to the listeners, who in turn could aid others. She also humbly stated that she is just passing on the message in the sutras expounded by the Buddha as well as the ideas conveyed by the late Venerable Master Sheng Yen.

Most people are apprehensive of death and even refrain from saying this word in hopes of escaping it. However, Ven. Guo Kae stressed that death is not to be feared as long as we understand the nature of life and death; in fact, the Buddha explained that we have countless past lives as well as future ones. A clear understanding of our countless existences enables us to be more receptive to present events in addition to making the most out of it.

“We should strive to face death peacefully and help others do so as the process of dying is no different from going through an obstacle course”. Ven. Guo Kae explained that most people expect to be at ease and have a serene final moment. However, this is not so as our daily lives and conduct have a great effect on our final moment; one with a hectic and chaotic life can hardly be calm when dying. Thus, it is imperative that we cultivate a peaceful attitude to ensuring a peaceful death.

Ven. Guo Kae pointed out that the spiritual consciousness of the deceased remains in the body for up to 8 through 12 hours. During this time, family members should reassure the deceased that he/she is not alone, to recall and thank the deceased for all the good deeds performed; it is also time to remind the deceased to let go of all attachment and to mindfully chant the Buddha’s name.

It is not unusual to be stressed and distressed by the death of a family member, even for Ven. Guo Kae who has been ordained for about 20 years. As such, she plans a series of lectures designed to better equip those facing death, either their own or someone close to them. All these lectures apply the Buddhist scriptures; for example, the next lecture is based on the Diamond Sutra to explore the truth of life. She hopes that these lectures will enable everyone to form right views in regards to death instead of panicking and distressed by such notion.

(Translated by Tom Hsieh/Edited by Leefah)

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