Fear of death. Why?

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Fear of death. Why?

Postby Admiral » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:08 pm

Hi everybody :hug:

I was reading some of Ian Stevenson works today, when I thought : "Why are we afraid to die?"
I mean, I do believe in rebirth. One of the goals, in buddhism, is to reach nibbana, which stop us to rebirth again and again.
So actually, the only real "death" is nibbana ! But thinking about it, nibbana doesn't scare me at all (it's actually more of something attractive)
but "normal" death (followed by rebirth, so - life again) scares people.

So, why do we all have this fear of death? :|
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Goedert » Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:16 am

Self
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:42 am

Admiral wrote:So, why do we all have this fear of death? :|

Because the older parts of our brains rule the newer parts.
If our reptilian ancestors hadn't feared death and loved sex, they couldn't have become our ancestors. They did, and they live on in us in a very real way. Deep down, way underneath all the warm and furry mammalian afterthoughts, we're dinosaurs.
Deeper still, we're dinosaur ancestors - but I can't remember my past lives that far back :tongue:

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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby ground » Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:58 am

Admiral wrote:So, why do we all have this fear of death? :|


I dont' think that "we all" have fear of death but depending on conduct there is reason or there is no reason to fear death according to the words of the Buddha.

Kind regards
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Northernbuck » Thu Aug 12, 2010 4:07 am

The way I look at it is that I am not afraid of the sunrise or sunset, I know these will happen, so, I am not afraid of death because that will happen too. Plus, I've come close enough not to have any fear of it.
But if this neutral feeling that has arisen is conditioned by the body which is impermanent, compounded and dependently arisen, how could such a neutral feeling be permanent? - SN 36.7
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:26 am

Awhile ago I had a thought relevant to this. I was thinking about the experience of death (that is, the cessation of the aggregates/running under the assumption of no post-mortem rebirth) and I realized I had the tendency to imagine that after everything else had ceased, that there would be something of the mind remaining to perceive the lack of experience, like being shut in a dark room with no way out. This lack of experience is what primarily is scary about death, I think, separation from this world that we're so attached to.

I realized that this was a completely flawed way to think about it, since the mind is not some constantly conscious separate observer apart from everything else. The coming and going of sight, hearing, smell and the rest are all not too difficult to understand, the physical sense bases are dependent upon the body, and with the meeting of these and "external" objects there is consciousness/viññāṇa and contact/phassa, which comes and goes as objects and attention change and shift, there is nothing constant about it. But the origination of what we might call the mental-base for mind-contact is not as obvious, or, wasn't for me. By not understanding the origination of the mind I had been falling into assuming something constant there.

But I realized that I've never had any mental experiences or occurrences of mind-contact that were not based on the raw material of previous experiences, contacts, of the other 5 senses of this same body. Feeling/vedanā and perception/saññā arise due to previous conditioning of past experience, dependent upon either new experiences as they come and go or on old material "recycled" by the mind, and all of that is the material that memory, imagination, association, and all those other mental processes work with.

Which means, that there is no reason to assume that this mind and all of it's wriggling are based upon anything but this body (just talking experientially, nothing metaphysical intended), and no reason to assume that something of the mind could remain when everything else has stopped. There would be no piece of the mind trapped there to be tortured by nothingness, nothing remaining to perceive the lack of experience. No consciousness or any other mental process could remain. And so, no cause for distress at all.

It would, in fact, be the most complete peace possible. No possibility of an ounce of dukkha in any form, ever. In this way I think I now understand how it is that parinibbāṇa, the ending of the aggregates, is not something to be feared. I've had some tension about that in the past, based upon that same old unanalyzed delusion of mental constancy, that there is some "thing" to be separated from the world.

I'm not saying we should kill ourselves, just that when you really think about it, there is no grounds for fear of death as we usually tend to think of it.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby dude » Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:34 am

If you were looking at a door and had no way of knowing what was behind it, would you not be afraid to walk through it?
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Shonin » Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:51 am

Kenshou wrote: There would be no piece of the mind trapped there to be tortured by nothingness, nothing remaining to perceive the lack of experience.


And not even a lack of experience presumably.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:13 am

Yep, that is what I was trying to get at. Sort of a tricky thing to talk about.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby shjohnk » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:29 am

From my own experience of a 'western' upbringing, I think we fear it because it's so taboo to talk about: Like if you have a relative who goes to prison no-one talks about them, and it seems to be the same about people who die, like they've let us down or something. Also there's the fear of the unknown aspect that several other posters have referred to, and the hangover from monotheistic religion that spooks many of us (before we discover the Dhamma at least :jumping: ) that we might be headed for the fiery pit and neverending damnation when we shuffle off. ALSO (gosh I am longwinded, but I reckon one could write a thesis on this topic) there's our popular culture where death is often portrayed, in the words of Stephen King, as 'when the monsters get you', which ain't no fun. I mean if you're anything like me your first thousand or so exposures to the concept of dying were people being shot, stabbed, strangled, eaten, beheaded etc. on the TV and movie screen, which is enough to spook anyone :rolleye:

On a positive note, the one time I was confronted with imminent death of myself in this life I was petrified (only three years ago :toilet: ), but now, having survived that, with my dhamma practice I honestly feel I am not afraid of the inevitability of my own end. That can only be a good thing!
Last edited by shjohnk on Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:33 am

Its not just Monotheistic religions that talk of hell states. That's a form of social control popular among some Buddhists too.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby shjohnk » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:39 am

PeterB wrote:Its not just Monotheistic religions that talk of hell states. That's a form of social control popular among some Buddhists too.


True. and i believe there are Hell realms, but, as Ajahn Brahm often states 'You put yourself there and you can leave anytime'. rather fairer and more logical than eternal damnation for backing the wrong deity.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:42 am

Are there any other differences between them and the Hotel California ?
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Fede » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:00 am

Torment me and put me in the hell realm by playing me that song....I absolutely loathe it, I have no idea why, I just can't stand it.

And now - there it is, playing in my head.

Thanks peter.

Your mission today is accomplished, your work here is done.

I am now officially, on a downer.....



:jumping:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Fede » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:01 am

I find that if I think about death, and dying, continuously - the fear of it becomes insignificant, and I feel perfectly 'ordinary' about it.

I think what many people fear, is not so much the dying - but the way in which they will die.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:04 am

Fede wrote:Torment me and put me in the hell realm by playing me that song....I absolutely loathe it, I have no idea why, I just can't stand it.

And now - there it is, playing in my head.

Thanks peter.

Your mission today is accomplished, your work here is done.

I am now officially, on a downer.....



:jumping:

You mean Fede....gasp...that you can check out anytime you like, but you can.......
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:12 am

Fede wrote:I think what many people fear, is not so much the dying - but the way in which they will die.


Oh man, I think the fear of the absolute unknown/self-destruction (I know I know, don't jump on me about anatta!) is way more frightening than the way it occurs.

The fear of the absolute annihilation of one's self is the most absolute terror I can think of, and the thing that lead to my consideration of Buddhism, but I suppose I can only speak for myself.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby shjohnk » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:20 am

Kenshou wrote:
Fede wrote:I think what many people fear, is not so much the dying - but the way in which they will die.


Oh man, I think the fear of the absolute unknown/self-destruction (I know I know, don't jump on me about anatta!) is way more frightening than the way it occurs.

The fear of the absolute annihilation of one's self is the most absolute terror I can think of, and the thing that lead to my consideration of Buddhism, but I suppose I can only speak for myself.


I remember hearing a talk by a monk who had disrobed (He is still a committed Buddhist) where he mentioned that he had reached states in his meditation at his monastery where he felt 'himself' beginning to disappear, and he was afraid, so he disrobed. I think this touches on what you are saying, kenshou.
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Fede » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:29 am

Peter, you really know how to hurt a gal when she's down (in reception, arguing with the manager over the mini fridge contents....!)

There is the story of the monk, a great master, who is approaching death, and his followers come to him for final words of wisdom, and he obliges them by saying:
"I don't want to die...."

They leave, confused....this is not what they had expected.... they had awaited profound and meaningful words of unfathomable sagacity, with which to remember his last dignified moments, by....
so they elected one monk, braver than the rest, to go back, and to question the Master, and seek clarification, or at least further, better words of Wisdom....

He makes his approach....

"Master, surely, we seek words to remember you by... we wish you to give us an insight into how deep your meditative thoughts are, right now.... could you elaborate?"

The master replies -
"I really don't want to die!"
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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Re: Fear of death. Why?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:31 am

shjohnk wrote:I remember hearing a talk by a monk who had disrobed (He is still a committed Buddhist) where he mentioned that he had reached states in his meditation at his monastery where he felt 'himself' beginning to disappear, and he was afraid, so he disrobed. I think this touches on what you are saying, kenshou.


Silly goose, he should have kept going!
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