Special Topics

Q8: My health is deteriorating, and I feel like there is not much time left for me. How should I prepare myself for death?

A: Even though there is not much time left for you, you can still bring peace both to yourself and others using simple methods. How can we make the most of the rest of our life? We can recite the Buddha's name. Having a human body allows us to practice Buddhism; however, spiritual cultivation doesn't necessarily require reading many Buddhist scriptures. Even reciting the Buddha's name once is beneficial. Some people make vows to recite thousands or tens of thousands times of the Buddha's name or even more in a day, which is commendable. However, it is important to first understand why we should recite the Buddha's name, its overall benefits, and how to do it properly.
When reciting Buddha's name, we shouldn't overly attach importance to the quantity; otherwise, our mind would only focus on counting the number of recitations, rather than on reciting the Buddha's name itself. We should recite the Buddha's name clearly, while attentively listening to it. We should recite the Buddha's name as many times as our available time allows, without caring too much about the number of recitations. The most important is to recite the Buddha's name with a concentrated mind.
The course of illness can also be a time for reflection on one's own life. We should affirm the patient's past accomplishments, particularly telling elderly patients that they actually have great karmic blessings to be able to enjoy longevity. Among family members, in addition to expressing gratitude, it is also important to apologize. If we had made some mistakes for which we felt embarrassed to apologize at that time, we should bravely say "I'm sorry" to resolve our emotional struggles while the patient can still hear and interact with us, thereby avoiding lifelong regrets.
Even though the patient is already in a coma, family members should also show gratitude, apologize, express love, and bid farewell to the patient. Many people assume that patients in a coma are unconscious, but, in fact, they are not. They can still hear and feel us, but just may not be able to respond or interact with us in a normal way. The same is true for patients in intensive care units. Although they may be with multiple tubes and attachments or in a deep state of coma, family members should never discuss their condition or engage in negative conversations while beside them. Therefore, we shouldn't think that there is no much hope because there is not much time left for the patient. It is still important to use positive words and words of blessing to bring peace both to ourselves and to the patient.

Extended Reading:

Taking illness as teacher and learning to live well with illness

Buddha's Teachings on Suffering from Illness

Practicing the Dharma While Ill

Q1: Why am I getting this illness?

Q2: I've been in and out of the hospital so many times. When will I recover?

Q3: Why do some infants get sick immediately after birth? How does Buddhism view this?

Q4: What can be done if someone is sick in bed for a very long time and feels hopeless about life?

Q5: I have recited the Buddha's name, practiced generosity, and performed good deeds, so why do I still get sick?

Q6: When a family member of mine is suffering from an illness, what can I do to alleviate his fear and pain?

Q7: If the body is in unbearable pain, isn't reciting Buddha's name an additional burden?

Q8: My health is deteriorating, and I feel like there is not much time left for me. How should I prepare myself for death?

Resource: Issue 380 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 380 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation 
(Photos painted by 劉建志)
Translation: Olivia
Editing: Keith Brown, YKL