Candia Ludy posted an update: 2 years, 2 months ago
After Death – A Buddhist Perspective
Since many Japanese turn to Buddhist rituals for those who have died, there have been questions about Buddhist practices done for the dead and the Buddhist view of what happens after that last breath has finished. I am writing from my understanding gained over 30 years of studying and practicing Buddhism.
Dying is not the end of your life. Death is a separation of your mind and your body. At death the body returns to the five elements which are earth, water, fire, wind, and space. The mind continues on to its next life. There is an intermediate state, called the Bardo in Tibetan, between the dissolving of this life and the beginning of the next life. This usually lasts 49 days.
For most people there is a period of blacking out that last about 3 days. Then they awaken. In the beginning the person who has died will often return to their homes, loved ones, and familiar places. Especially if it is a sudden death, the person who has died may not know they are dead. There they discover that no one can see them, hear them, or feel their touch. They have a mental body which to them looks like their body. They have their five senses that, to them, are functioning. They can see others who have also died and those still living.
Now it is as in a dream. In a dream all our senses work just fine. We walk, we talk, we think, we have emotional content, and we can do many things. Fast shifts of ”reality” occur and content can be mixed up. We lay asleep in our beds going here and there in our dreams. So it is for the dead in this Bardo state. Because their body is a mental one as fast as their mind thinks they are there. This can be very frightening because the experiences are so different from their ”normal” ones.
Prayers and rituals are considered to be good actions bringing benefit to those who have died and assisting them as they journey to their next life. This is why you will often find Buddhists engaging in many ritual activities when there has been a death. Each country has developed rituals to use. The basis of all of these rituals is to generate compassion, loving-kindness, a wish that the ones who have passed on will have a better next life, and to offer what help can be given.
Tibetan Buddhist culture, for example, will practice the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara, which is OM MANI PADME HUM while generating compassion and a wish that all beings who are in the Bardo will have a positive rebirth.