The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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What is Death
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Although intellectually we all know that one day we shall die, generally we are so reluctant to think of our death that this knowledge does not touch our hearts, and we live our life as if we were going to be in this world forever. As a result the things of this world – such as material possessions, reputation, popularity, and the pleasures of the senses – become of paramount importance, so we devote almost all our time and energy to obtaining them and engage in many negative actions for their sake. We are so preoccupied with the concerns of this life that there is little room in our mind for genuine spiritual practice. When the time of death actually arrives we discover that by having ignored death all our life we are completely unprepared.What is death? Death is the cessation of the connection between our mind and our body. Most people believe that death takes place when the heart stops beating; but this does not mean that the person has died, because his subtle mind may still remain in his body. Death occurs when the subtle consciousness finally leaves the body to go to the next life. Our body is like a guesthouse and our mind like the guest; when we die our mind has to leave this body and enter the body of our next rebirth, like a guest leaving one guesthouse and travelling to another.
The mind is neither physical, nor a by-product of purely physical processes, but is a formless continuum that is a separate entity from the body. When the body disintegrates at death the mind does not cease. Although our superficial conscious mind ceases, it does so by dissolving into a deeper level of consciousness, the very subtle mind; and the continuum of the very subtle mind has no beginning and no end. It is this mind which, when thoroughly purified, transforms into the omniscient mind of a Buddha.