For a Buddhist’s Death
How to help a Buddhist before,
during and after death
Produced by Ecie Hursthouse, Managing Director
Amitabha Hospice, 44 Powell St, Avondale, Auckland, NZ
Who was Buddha?
Born 563 BC, in Lumbini, Nepal. Family
name was Gautama, rulers of the Sakya
Predicted to become either a great political
leader or a great religious leader.
Left the rich life seeking truth, tried
asceticism, took middle way, meditated
under ‘Bodhi’ tree achieved ‘awakening’.
Spread of
11th cent - died out
in India after the
Moslem incursions.
20th cent - The spread of Communism
almost obliterated Buddhism in China,
Vietnam and Tibet, where it had been
strongly established.
Buddhism Today
Now resurgence in India,
Sri Lanka, Nepal, China.
Increasing popularity in
Australia, New Zealand, Europe & the
Thriving in Malaysia, Singapore, Burma,
Thailand, Korea and Japan.
Philosophy of Buddhism
The Buddha is founder and guide
Take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the
Do not believe that the universe is created and
ruled by a God
Believe that the purpose of life is to develop
compassion for all living beings without
discrimination and to work for their welfare
and peace; and to develop wisdom leading
to the realization of Ultimate Truth
Philosophy of Buddhism
The Four Noble Truths: namely Suffering,
the Cause of suffering, the Cessation of
suffering, and the Path to the cessation
of suffering
The law of cause and effect
All conditioned things are impermanent
and have no self-existance.
Different practices in different countries
do not contradict the teachings of the
The Meaning of Death
Life is practice for death – cultivating
positive, happy virtuous states of mind
and abandoning non-virtuous, harmful,
suffering states of mind.
Death is definite but the time of death is
indefinite so a Buddhist aspires to be
ready for death.
Death is:
An opportunity for
great achievement
during the death process.
Most important to die with a calm, peaceful
mind; with strong spiritual / positive thoughts
The separation of body (physical form) and the
“mind” formless, clear, luminous and
Death is:
Not the cessation of breathing or
A process with stages:
The dissolution of the four elements in
sequence - namely earth (hard
substances of the body), water (fluids),
fire (heat), wind/air (energy, movement
with external signs and internal visions.
Helping a Buddhist Die Well
Listen and acknowledge without judgment.
Acknowledge “regrets” as lessons learned but
discourage guilt, which is destructive.
Support acceptance and contentment, feeling
happy to leave the life one has known, to “let
go” everything, even unfinished business,
plans and dreams and giving up all
Support Spiritual Confidence
Focus on the positive memories,
celebrate achievements and rejoice in
one’s virtues.
Encourage gratefulness in everyone’s
Rejoicing and gratitude lifts the mind and
increases one’s spiritual strength.
As Death Begins
Corroborate faith, devotion & remind the
Buddhist of his / her spiritual teachers
and meditation practices.
Encourage expansive altruism and
universal compassion with inspirational
prayers and visualisation.
Put Buddhist pictures or statues in their
view. Read or play Buddhist recordings.
As Dying Progresses
Do not touch the body.
Generate strong good wishes and
peaceful thoughts.
Provide a quiet place away from the body
for relatives and friends to express
Allow the body to remain untouched as
long as possible after breath stops.
Before the Body is Removed
Keep chanting recordings playing
and / or prayers to be said.
If no one else present remind the
deceased about Buddha, their
guru or Amitabha’s pure land.
Firmly touch crown of head before
touching other parts of body.
Avoid touching body until all heat
has left the body, unless
absolutely necessary.
© Amitabha Hospice
Service Trust 2011