Our Last Moments

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Ceisiwr
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Our Last Moments

Post by Ceisiwr »

For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
"I have stopped, Aṅgulimāla … I have stopped for ever"

Aṅgulimāla Sutta
coconut
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by coconut »

I don't think it really matters for a lay person. The Buddha said that it's best that one dies mindfully, but even if one doesn't something will still draw them back to the dhamma in the next life, and then gave a list of situations on how one returns to the dhamma.

"Mindfuly" could mean with clear comprehension or in jhanas.

One of the outcomes is a deva in a next life bringing you back to the dhamma like what happened to Bahiya. For most devas, time goes by very slow, so for them the Buddha's death 2500 years ago was last week, so they know the dhamma well.
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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
The former. It would also help if one requested loved ones ahead of time to be quiet and for any sobbing types to leave the room. Also instruct the quiet ones beforehand to mentally pray or meditate too.
Dhamma is against the stream of common thought, deep, subtle, difficult, delicate, unseen by passion’s slaves cloaked in the murk of ignorance. Vipassī Buddha
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SDC
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Re: Our Last Moments

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Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
How would we know it is our last moment? Like if we were terminally ill? Trapped in a burning house? That sort of death?
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too, both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
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Sam Vara
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Sam Vara »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
To be honest, I don't think we get much choice in the matter, having observed people dying.

For example, a good friend of mine had been a monk for twenty-odd years before disrobing. Had spent a lot of time with Ajahn Chah and was one of the "first wave" of Westerners to Wat Pah Nanachat, along with Sumedho. Maintained a very consistent and rigorous practice, which is how I met him. He got pancreatic cancer. He was very concerned that he would keep a clear mind up until the end, as per the usual instructions. His partner, a nurse, told him that this would likely be impossible. He would be on painkillers. He refused them for a time, but then had to take them. He died unconscious, after a very large dose.

Something similar happened to a Catholic convert friend. She wanted to stay lucid until the end (in her case, it was malnutrition that took her). She didn't manage it.

There is this from Ajahn Chah:
It is unlikely that we can really affect the state of mind of a dying person very much, either positively or adversely. It's like if I took a hot iron bar and poked you in the chest with it, and then I held out a piece of candy with my other hand. How much could the candy distract you? We should treat dying people with love and compassion and look after them as best we can, but if we don't turn it inwards to contemplate our own inevitable death, there is little real benefit for us.
From A Tree in the Forest.

We do the best we can when the time comes, I guess.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Ceisiwr »

Sam Vara wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:03 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
To be honest, I don't think we get much choice in the matter, having observed people dying.

For example, a good friend of mine had been a monk for twenty-odd years before disrobing. Had spent a lot of time with Ajahn Chah and was one of the "first wave" of Westerners to Wat Pah Nanachat, along with Sumedho. Maintained a very consistent and rigorous practice, which is how I met him. He got pancreatic cancer. He was very concerned that he would keep a clear mind up until the end, as per the usual instructions. His partner, a nurse, told him that this would likely be impossible. He would be on painkillers. He refused them for a time, but then had to take them. He died unconscious, after a very large dose.

Something similar happened to a Catholic convert friend. She wanted to stay lucid until the end (in her case, it was malnutrition that took her). She didn't manage it.

There is this from Ajahn Chah:
It is unlikely that we can really affect the state of mind of a dying person very much, either positively or adversely. It's like if I took a hot iron bar and poked you in the chest with it, and then I held out a piece of candy with my other hand. How much could the candy distract you? We should treat dying people with love and compassion and look after them as best we can, but if we don't turn it inwards to contemplate our own inevitable death, there is little real benefit for us.
From A Tree in the Forest.

We do the best we can when the time comes, I guess.
I guess we really need to put in the effort before our time.
"I have stopped, Aṅgulimāla … I have stopped for ever"

Aṅgulimāla Sutta
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Ceisiwr »

SDC wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 2:56 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
How would we know it is our last moment? Like if we were terminally ill? Trapped in a burning house? That sort of death?
Some people do know. Sometimes dying is drawn out for months.
"I have stopped, Aṅgulimāla … I have stopped for ever"

Aṅgulimāla Sutta
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Sam Vara
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Sam Vara »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:05 pm
I guess we really need to put in the effort before our time.
:thumbsup: :anjali:
"Lord, this Kapilavatthu is rich & prosperous, populous & crowded, its alleys congested. Sometimes, when I enter Kapilavatthu in the evening after visiting with the Blessed One or with the monks who inspire the mind, I meet up with a runaway elephant, a runaway horse, a runaway chariot, a runaway cart, or a runaway person. At times like that my mindfulness with regard to the Blessed One gets muddled, my mindfulness with regard to the Dhamma... the Sangha gets muddled. The thought occurs to me, 'If I were to die at this moment, what would be my destination? What would be my future course?"

"Have no fear, Mahanama! Have no fear! Your death will not be a bad one, your demise will not be bad. A disciple of the noble ones, when endowed with four qualities, leans toward Unbinding, slants toward Unbinding, inclines toward Unbinding. Which four?

"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.'

"He/she is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: 'The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.'

"He/she is endowed with verified confidence in the Sangha: 'The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well...who have practiced straight-forwardly...who have practiced methodically...who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types of noble disciples when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.'

"He/she is endowed with virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, leading to concentration.

"Suppose a tree were leaning toward the east, slanting toward the east, inclining toward the east. When its root is cut, which way would it fall?"

"In whichever way it was leaning, slanting, and inclining, lord."

"In the same way, Mahanama, a disciple of the noble ones, when endowed with four qualities, leans toward Unbinding, slants toward Unbinding, inclines toward Unbinding."
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by form »

Sam Vara wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:03 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
To be honest, I don't think we get much choice in the matter, having observed people dying.

For example, a good friend of mine had been a monk for twenty-odd years before disrobing. Had spent a lot of time with Ajahn Chah and was one of the "first wave" of Westerners to Wat Pah Nanachat, along with Sumedho. Maintained a very consistent and rigorous practice, which is how I met him. He got pancreatic cancer. He was very concerned that he would keep a clear mind up until the end, as per the usual instructions. His partner, a nurse, told him that this would likely be impossible. He would be on painkillers. He refused them for a time, but then had to take them. He died unconscious, after a very large dose.

Something similar happened to a Catholic convert friend. She wanted to stay lucid until the end (in her case, it was malnutrition that took her). She didn't manage it.

There is this from Ajahn Chah:
It is unlikely that we can really affect the state of mind of a dying person very much, either positively or adversely. It's like if I took a hot iron bar and poked you in the chest with it, and then I held out a piece of candy with my other hand. How much could the candy distract you? We should treat dying people with love and compassion and look after them as best we can, but if we don't turn it inwards to contemplate our own inevitable death, there is little real benefit for us.
From A Tree in the Forest.

We do the best we can when the time comes, I guess.
Then the accumulative effect of their long term training in the past will be their best bet.
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Sam Vara
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Sam Vara »

form wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:26 pm
Then the accumulative effect of their long term training in the past will be their best bet.
Yes, it would seem so. See the advice given by the Buddha to Mahanama, above.
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by SteRo »

Sam Vara wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:03 pm ...
We do the best we can when the time comes, I guess.
before the time comes might be even more appropriate.
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ It's definitely not science but science may provide guidelines nevertheless.
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by confusedlayman »

just attain jhanas and supermundane based on jhana, thats ur best bet
I may be slow learner but im at least learning...
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by Ceisiwr »

confusedlayman wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:46 pm just attain jhanas and supermundane based on jhana, thats ur best bet
It’s rare to obtain even the 1st Jhana and even then we might not get the opportunity as outlined above.
"I have stopped, Aṅgulimāla … I have stopped for ever"

Aṅgulimāla Sutta
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by form »

Sam Vara wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:33 pm
form wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:26 pm
Then the accumulative effect of their long term training in the past will be their best bet.
Yes, it would seem so. See the advice given by the Buddha to Mahanama, above.
U r really right on your earlier observation. After posting a reply, I recalled both my parents died unconscious. One on pain killers and another in coma.
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SDC
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Re: Our Last Moments

Post by SDC »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 3:05 pm
SDC wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 2:56 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:44 pm For those of us who do not die suddenly or in our sleep, is it best to spend our last moments in meditation or in conversation with our loved ones?
How would we know it is our last moment? Like if we were terminally ill? Trapped in a burning house? That sort of death?
Some people do know. Sometimes dying is drawn out for months.
Absolutely. Just making sure I'm understanding the criteria.

A suicidal person for instance, is in the unique position of contemplating the significance of engaging the act of death while under the assumption that death is not yet imminent. In the same way, someone who is healthy, and not suicidal, lives - as the suttas say - intoxicated with health, with death assumed also not imminent. Both fail to realize that death is always imminent and an absolute certainty always.

I guess my point is that our entire lives are that last moment, it just happens to be so drawn out that people take up the option to ignore it. Ajahn Nyanamoli, in a talk about mindfulness of death, had an interesting scenario about the context of death always being there (may have been from the suttas, and I'm paraphrasing): say you are given an offer to enter a place for certain period of time (say a few hours), to do whatever you want with no consequences, gain every pleasure, but in the end you would die. Would you go into that place just to have that freedom to act as you wish even though death is certain? Of course not. Not worth the trouble, right? How could you enjoy yourself knowing death is guaranteed?

That got me thinking, what if someone forced you into that place even though it didn't seem appealing, and you knew that no matter what you chose to do, once you are done, you are going to die? How could you enjoy anything? That is literally our lives. Born without say so, with a body we didn't choose, in conditions that we couldn't decide. We can literally try to do whatever we want from there. Try to think however we want. Live however we want. Obviously within the confines of physical limitations of our bodies and the laws of you country (if we want to stay safe from abrupt change), but in the end, no matter what we do, it ends in death. Considering that is the overall context at all times, no matter how healthy or safe you think you are, it seems that practicing the Dhamma right now is the best option.

Mindfulness of death is pretty heavy, and it is easy to see why the Buddha did not recommend it to everyone. It can strike a sense of urgency, but really bring about a lot of anxiety.
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too, both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
Pārāpariya | Phussa | Subhā of Jīvaka’s Mango Grove | Kappa
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