Dharma Teachings

Be Clear-minded When Dying

Be Clear-minded When Dying -MasterHsinTaoOnce, I visited a student who was at the terminal stage of cancer. He was terribly ill and frail along with the deteriorated health. His consciousness was unstable and he remained in dullness for more than half a year due to sickness. I said by his ears, "Stay mindful, life is not limited to this one. Although this body is no longer in a good shape, we shouldn’t blame nor be troubled. Be at ease, untroubled, and patient. Do not get caught in a negative mindset. When we are mindful, our future will turn out for the better."

Be Clear-minded When Dying -MasterHsinTaoCancer is a life sentence. Most people are extremely devastated and anxious when they learn that they’ve developed cancer. They’d blame that life is unfair, “Why me? How did I get this?” As they proceed with all sorts of treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, etc., they suffer gravely both mentally and physically. While people wish to go back in time so they don’t suffer anymore, they are also experiencing the uncertainty and fear of death passively. They don’t know what comes after death. The fear derived from uncertainty, panic, physical and mental suffering is too torturing for the patient and the family.

That’s why I’m always reminding people, “Are you ready to die?” Buddhadharma has already explained to us that the body is merely a composition of the four primary elements and karmic effects. It comes into presence and disintegrates by conditions. None of the arising or ceasing is eternal. Only the primordial wisdom is unchanging. It is free from arising and ceasing so we don't need to fixate on anything. The primordial awareness isn't on the left, the right, in the front, or the back – it is where it is and this moment. The body is like a wrecked house. We should be indifferent whether we have it or not.

Be Clear-minded When Dying -MasterHsinTaoAt the last moment of death, how can we return to a spiritual base and not be afraid of death? Dharma practice is the answer. Besides developing the habit of engaging in virtues, I’d also encourage students to do daily practice, recite the name of Amitabha, practice Chan, and recite the Great Compassion Mantra (Long Dharani) diligently on a daily basis. That way, we won’t panic when death strikes. Death is just a change in forms whereas life is made up of karmic memories. However, if we start the habit of reciting the name of Amitabha, we’ll be connected with the Pure Land of Amitabha. So, how can we stay clear-minded and be at ease in the last moment of death? Dharma practice is the ultimate path to liberation.