Why Is Death Referred to as Rebirth in Buddhism?
In Buddhism, death is called "going for rebirth", which implies that there is something beyond death-- that, indeed, death is not followed by nothing. Where can one be reborn to? Buddhists often wish to be reborn in the Pure Land of the Buddha. Or, instead of being reborn to one of the other-worldly pure lands, one can vow to be reborn back to the human world, to continue carrying out the Bodhisattva path. Therefore, a Buddhist shall not fear death, but, rather, face it with joy. Such an attitude has a profound meaning and tremendous calming power.
Life and Death are Two Sides of a Coin
Life and death are two sides of a coin. Both are phenomena that will certainly happen in the infinite span of space and time.
Cherish our life, and have no fear of death: When we are alive, we must accept it and utilize it. When life ends, we must face it and accept it. Master Sheng Yen encouraged last-stage cancer patients with these words: "Do not wait for death; do not fear death. Every day, every minute and every second alive is all good. Cherish the time alive." Both life and death are inevitable in the infinite span of time and space. When it is not the time to die, do not seek death. When it is time to die, it is of no use to crave living.
Life and death are closely intertwined: From the moment of birth, everyone faces the eventual coming of death. Death might happen in the family or onto oneself, and it could happen anytime. Therefore, we must be prepared with the proper mindset. Nobody knows when death will come. While knowing that death will certainly happen one day, we do not need to worry about its arrival. For every day we are alive, we should cherish the life we have, fulfill our responsibility, and strive to contribute ourselves.
The Meaning, Value, and Purpose of Life
Human life is a phase between birth and death-- a process in which the meaning, value, and purpose of life is realized.
The meaning of life: From a Buddhist's point of view, the meaning of life is to receive karmic retribution and complete previous wishes that life exists. One must always fulfill wishes made in the past; one must also receive retribution for karma accumulated in the past. That is, life exists due to f the reality of cause and effect.
The value of life: The value of life does not depend on objective evaluation or rectification from others. Instead, it lies in our taking and fulfilling our responsibilities of this lifetime. In this limited lifetime, we should strive to make the most contributions we can. Each of us plays many different roles in this world, and we must do our best to contribute our capabilities, without seeking reward. This is the value of life. To work hard to benefit ourselves and others is the Bodhisattva way.
The purpose of life: We need a general direction to guide us along in our lives. As Buddhists, we should share our peace and joy with others, and transfer all our merits to all sentient beings. We should always make vows to improve ourselves and to decrease our self-centeredness. With a thoughtful and ever-expanding mind, we contribute to benefit others without end. If we set such a goal in our life, it will be a life of great dignity regardless of its length.
Establish a Right View on Life and Death
Buddhists believe in past lives. Yet, we do not need to find out why we came to this world from our past life by seeking the help of supernatural powers. As our past lives are countless, there is no need to engage in endless investigation to these previous lives. Buddhism teaches us to practice by making the best use of the causes and conditions we have, and to contribute the best of ourselves to others, without concerning ourselves with the outcome.
Our present life is only one of infinite stages in the endless flow of life. Life's process is like an endless travel: one day in Taiwan, the next day in Japan, or still later in the US, constantly appearing then disappearing in different places. Life is just like that: as one stage of life ends, another stage of life is about to begin. Therefore, death is not the final result of life; rather, it is the beginning of a new life.
If we don't understand the meaning, value, and purpose of life, life and death are merely cycles of suffering in Samsara. On the other hand, every journey of life can be a wonderful process of fulfilling the purpose of life, wherever we go and whomever we meet.
50 Questions Concerning Life and Death (生死50問), Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation