What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby Tex » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:48 am

A dear friend of mine is going to lose her father tomorrow. He's old and his health has been failing for a long time -- no need for euthanasia discussion as her family's mind is set on this, they are putting him out of his misery.

I know many other traditions will say prayers (or mantras?) for the dying.

From the Theravadin point of view, is there any point in saying/thinking/wishing "May so-and-so have a fortunate rebirth"? His rebirth is directed by his own kamma, so can our well-wishes have any impact on that?

What about dedication of merit? Any special ritual for the dying?

Basically, what, if anything, can I do that might benefit him?...

Thanks in advance for any insight...
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Re: What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby mountain » Wed Feb 11, 2009 2:24 am

Tex,
Will you be able to be there during his passing. If so hold his hand and be as calm as you can be. I have attended on many dying people and I think for most people it is very fearful. So they need our support. our calmness and our strength. Would you consider if the family permits the recitation of Om Mani Padme Hum? Yes it is outside of Theravada but I have seen it help. Best wishes to you and to your friend. If I can help in anyway let me know. Though I am in New Mexico and you in Texas please remember that thought has wings.
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Re: What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 11, 2009 2:46 am

Hi Tex

I recommend that when you practice Metta Bhavana, in whichever method you use, you embrace your friend with your attention and extend thoughts of loving kindness, compassion, equanimity and sympathetic joy towards him, as with all other beings. As you do so, you may also extend the aspiration that your friend be filled with each of the four divine abodes in turn.
I would describe myself as a simple meditator so I am not familiar with some of the rituals within Theravada. What I do to dedicate my merits is to think of the family member, friend, unknown person and make the heart-felt aspiration that the person share in my merits, share in the Dhamma and may they become liberated.
You don't need to be in sitting meditation with closed eyes to practice this. In fact, during the next day if you have the opportunity to attend to your friend, do so while at his bedside.
I also suggest that you also make the object of your metta bhavana and merit sharing your friend's loved ones and friends - not least of all - yourself.
Maintain your daily practice of samatha/vipassana as you will need this to ground you during this volatile time. At anytime you feel yourself losing the balance of your mind, switch to your usual method of meditation and just observe
Also, I recommend that you be of service to your friend and his family and assisting with whatever is required. From either sitting by your friend's side or offering support to his nearest and dearest or providing meals etc.
All the best Tex. I attended my father during the last three days of his life. You will be in my thoughts.
Metta

Ben
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Re: What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby Tex » Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:17 am

Thanks both for your thoughts, that is helpful.

To clarify, I've never met the gentleman who is dying; I am close friends with his daughter. I won't be bedside, as they are in another state.

All I know of him is the daughter he raised, which makes me want to do any simple thing that I can for him. Being there for her will be easy.

I'll try an extended metta sitting for him tomorrow morning. Thanks for the input, and for any further input.

:buddha1:
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Re: What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby fijiNut » Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:18 am

Any chants, mantras that are alien to him will only add to his confused state of mind if he is not Buddhist.

Please help your friend die in a good and happy state of mind. Where he can reflect on his good deeds and achievements in life so that he is reminded of the wholesome kamma he has made in his life.

Bhikkhu Aggacitta suggests in his book "Preparing the mind for death":
So, to further increase the chances of a good death, family members or close friends
could make preparations to create circumstances conducive to arousing wholesome neardeath
kamma. Some suggestions follow.
·Impress on the dying person that death is a natural phenomenon that everyone has to
go through and that it can be accepted without fear or resistance.
·Persuade and help the dying person to let go of all attachments to her beloved ones
and possessions, grudges against anyone, and remorse over anything that has or has not
been done. To this end, the dying person’s beloved ones should be told not to wail and
lament at her deathbed, for this may consolidate her attachments or grief.
·Provide the dying person with the opportunity to perform a good deed, e.g. listening
to Pàli chanting if he understands or appreciates it, listening to Dhamma talks, making a
donation on his behalf, encouraging him to mentally recite the Three Refuges
continuously as a mantra, or to engage in any wholesome meditation practice he is most
familiar with.
·Remind the dying person of her past meritorious deeds. One could keep a special
notebook where the dates and nature of significant meritorious deeds one has
performed are recorded. Someone could read the list to the dying one.
·Gather Dhamma friends around the dying person and radiate loving-kindness to him,
thinking: “May you be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and
may you look after yourself with ease.”
Despite having lived an unethical and irreligious life, one could also die well and live
well in the next life if such fortuitous circumstances bring about a wholesome near-death
kamma. But of course, if you want the best assurance for a favourable hereafter, try to do
the utmost: live a morally upright and spiritually fulfilling life and associate with good
Dhamma friends who will be able to help create conditions conducive to a good death.


My thoughts are with you.

Link reference:
http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books7/Aggacitta_Bhikkhu_Preparing-the-Mind-for-Death.pdf
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Re: What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby Rui Sousa » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:57 am

From a text by Lily de Silva that resumes what I think is best ( Ministering to the Sick and the Terminally Ill http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/desilva/bl132.html):

t is appropriate to conclude this essay by giving thought to what we should do when we visit a terminally ill patient. Our normal attitude is one of sadness and pity, but Buddhism holds that it is wrong to entertain negative thoughts at such a moment. It is my opinion that it would be helpful to the terminally ill patient, and to any patient for that matter, if we radiate thoughts of metta, loving kindness to him. As the dying person's mind may be working at this crucial hour, unencumbered by the limitations imposed by the physical sense faculties, it is possible that the person's mind will be sensitive and receptive to the spiritual thought waves of those around him. If negative thought waves are generated by grief and lamentation the dying person may be adversely affected. But if gentle thoughts of love and kindness are extended, such thoughts may function as a subtle mental balm that allays the distress and anxiety brought on by the approach of death and envelops the dying person's mind in a warm protective cloak of consoling peace.


Your friend will need great support, so I suggest you to be compassiv and available.
With Metta
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Re: What can we do for the dying? (Urgent answers appreciated)

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:08 pm

I see everything I was going to sugest has been put, so I will leave you with this thought
May you and all beings be happy, free from suffering, and contented!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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