Good Essay About The Power Of Death In Buddhism
Death is a constant fear in human society. In Buddhism, Buddhists are willing to do merit Karma, meaning good behavior, because they want to suffer less in next life and eventually achieve Nirvana where they will not reborn or suffer in human form anymore. They believe that life contains a lot of sufferings, but death is not liberation for them because they will reborn and suffer again after they die. Although, witnessing the loss of their loved ones is a terrible suffering, Buddhists still see the death as part of the impermanence of life. Even if the suffer caused by the death of someone you love is inevitable, they learn during the life to deal with it, understanding that is the nature of all phenomena, Buddhists doctrine being centered on the idea of acceptance and conformation with death.
The belief that Buddhism teaching is the resolution of death attracts most of the Buddhists. In Buddhist belief, there is no real death. The end of this life only leads to the start of next life. The circulation of lives is endless, which means the suffering is endless, unless one keeps doing good things in a fair amount of lives and one will become a Buddha and reach the extinction of rebirth at certain point. Since people hold on the belief that death is not the end of their existence in this world, they can thus face the death of themselves and their loved ones peacefully. However, no one wants to die and suffer over and over in endless life spans. Therefore, “belief in transmigration thus does not remove the sense of insecurity that accompanies death, and for that reason the goal of nirvana is often described as ‘deathless’ (amṛta) because it eliminates all such anxieties” (Death, 203). “Such anxieties” specifically means the anxiety of dying. In another word, though beings are reborn over and over, they still suffer in all their lives, so they are still anxious of death. This is why Buddhists creates Nirvana, a deathless world. Since Buddhists know that there is such a world that they can possibly enter by doing good behaviors, they will try their best to achieve Nirvana.
In ancient India, where medicine was not widely available, people suffered from disease and loss of relatives. When they underwent the pain and sorrow, they found Buddhism as a haven that promised them happiness in Nirvana. Due to the harsh living environment in ancient India, people were easily attracted by the idea that life was full of sufferings. In analyzing the early tradition of duḥkha, the sufferings that human need to overcome, “the last of the twelve ‘limbs’ in the PRATITYASAMUTPADA (dependent origination),” and the ‘three characteristics’ of all conditioned existence—ANITYA (impermanence), duhkha, and anatman (nonsubstantiality) we find that they all value death as a prominent suffering for human beings “because the deepest resonance of this truth is not the desire for permanent sources of happiness, but a permanent source of our own existence” (Doctrinal death and mythical roots, 203). Someone thinks rebirth ensures out permanent existence because the same person never really dies, but this sentence shows that in Buddhism there is still the desire of deathless. Therefore, we can see that the “own existence” in this sentence does not mean the rebirth of the same person, but a single life that never ends. Because though we know we are not disappeared after we die, but going to the next life, we do not want to give up our experience, knowledge, and love in this life and start over again. What Buddhists truly pursue is to live forever without suffering.
The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, gained support from people’s fear of dying. In legend, after seeing a corpse and an old sick man, Siddhartha left home to seek for religious knowledge because he was worried about dying. Buddha talked about this idea in his speech, “Furthermore, ordinary worldly persons are troubled and embarrassed by the sight of death in others and seek to avoid it, forgetting that they themselves are subject to it. But I know that I myself cannot escape death, so it would not be proper for me to avoid the sight of it in others” (Signs of Suffering, 10). In the beginning of the speech, Siddhartha said that he was a spoiled prince who had three palaces and six thousand wives. However, he found that even with such wealth and power, he still could not avoid death, nor could he avoid the sadness while seeing people suffer. Then he started his religious journey to look for a way to cease death and aging. Though he came from a much higher class than most people, he appealed the public by sharing the same goal with them and giving up his luxury lifestyle. Since the ordinary people were surprised by Siddhartha’s action and attracted by his religious achievement, the understanding of suffering and how to get into the deathless world, Buddha’s speech soon brought unquestionable power to Buddhism and thus converted a huge amount of people to Buddhism.
Impermanence concept is fundamental in all Buddhist schools because the idea of this concept relates to the idea of continuity. As an example, they sustained that everything that exist in this world is impermanent. Nothing remains unchanged, the natural flow passes over all things, both with suffering and with good things, making a person to go through all the emotional state of life to achieve knowledge, marking it as an individual persons. In the Buddhist conception the world has two ways two ways in which the change can be perceived. The first component that changes elements in this world and people is the time which is keep flowing, modeling what founds in its own way and the second component is related to the state of interdependence, in order to say that all the elements in this world are influenced one by another. Because people are emotional beings, they tend to attach to things and people causing them suffering due to the impermanence which put the things into a constant change. Facing with the inevitability of changing, a person who will cling on those things whose nature is impermanence, hoping that they will remain stable and unchanged will be into a continuously suffering. But also Buddhist considered that suffering is part of your life and is part of the path to enlightenment which cannot be achieved without it. Though Buddhism introduces the idea of suffering in people’s lifetime, the most essential suffering Buddhism considers is death, which is inevitable for everyone including the Buddha himself.
Buddhists believe that human will not only be reborn as human, but also animals, ghosts, or may be punished in the hell forever. By setting different realms for humans after they die, Buddhism creates a system of punishment and reward in order to encourage its believers to behave correctly. As is said by Strong, “What fascinated Buddhists, however, were the specifics of retribution, the particular acts committed and the particular sufferings or rewards that resulted from them” (Karma and Six Realms of Rebirth, 38). After one dies, he or she will be put into one of the six realms of rebirth according to one’s behaviors. Kindness and dedication to Buddhism are rewarded and evil behaviors are punished. For example, the worst punishment is the Hell Realm, in which people will be either killed again and again, “cut up with burning hot saws”, piled up and slaughtered, or “continuously burned by an intense fire.” according to their type of sins (Karma and Six Realms of Rebirth, 39). This realm is for the people who are greed or do harm to other lives. Though not many people have the hope to be rewarded in the Deity Realm, most people are threatened by the terrifying treatment in the Hell. Since no one can be positive about the conditions after death, people are most likely to trust the Buddha and thus death becomes a powerful tool in controlling Buddhists’ behaviors.
No one can be sure that there is or isn’t rebirth. Likewise, no one knows if anyone has achieved the deathless stage. Just like Kings who use their political power to control people by putting those who disobey them into death, Buddhism uses its religious power to threaten people that they will be terribly punished and force people to follow the rules and worship. Thus, for the people who dedicate to the religion, Buddhism attracts them by telling them that studying Buddha’s teaching and doing the things Buddha appreciates are the only ways to live forever without suffering. For the ones that break the rules, Buddhism threatens them with the constant suffer in their afterlife. In both case, death is used as a central power in Buddhism ruling.
Karma and Six Realms of Rebirth. [Tenth century]. [Dharmika Subhuti].
Translated from the Pali Sanskrit Sadgatikarika. Reprinted in The Experience of Buddhism (Third Edition). Edited by John S. Strong. Pp. 38-42. 2007. Belmont: Thomson, Wadsworth Publishing Co.
Signs of Suffering. [bodhisattva]. Translated from the Pali Anguttara Nikaya.
Reprinted in The Experience of Buddhism (Third Edition). Edited by John S. Strong. Pp. 9-10. 2007. Belmont: Thomson, Wadsworth Publishing Co.
Anderson, Carol S. 2004. "Death." Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Ed. Robert E.
Buswell, Jr. Vol. 1, 203-210. New York: Macmillan Reference USA.
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