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I saw a dead person yesterday as part of a volunteer opportunity that I undertake in a local hospice. My role yesterday was to man the doors to keep other hospice patients from seeing the scene of this gentleman being wheeled from his room of bodily demise to the chapel a short distance up the corridor. He looked “like death” and much like I recollect my own mother looking on the occasion of her passing from cancer. The husk of his worldly knowing was eerily devoid of any life spirit, that vitality of soul that gives us all verve.

The Buddhist approach to those last moments before bodily death are focused on creating an ambience of peace and tranquility for the dying person. The condition of the mind at the point of death and shortly thereafter are deemed to have a significant impact on the outcome of a Karmic rebirth. Health professionals and relatives are urged not to disturb the deceased body for some hours afterwards in the hope that a tranquil passing is further encouraged. Whist I can see that the creation of a peaceful transition is the humane thing to do and that a person doesn’t die completely at their last breath, I’m not sure about rebirth.

Karma to me has a tangible impact in this life and positively impacts our journey through the temporal with all its attendant trials and tribulations. Doing good deeds and acts of kindness, as a general rule, reduces suffering to an individual and to the recipient of that human kindness. To suppose that there is a blueprint governing the rebirth, of what is euphemistically called the soul, based on a set of Karmic rules is fanciful or wishful thinking. Isn’t it? For me it’s seems more of a hope than a certainty that the mind out lives the body. I suppose you could say it’s a known unknown.

I’ve always wondered how the mind out lives the body as expressed by Buddhist teaching and is transitioned from one body to another. Being a technologist (which to be honest can be a big block in anyone’s spiritual development) I think of the brain as hardware and the mind as software. The mind is a set of algorithms, processes and sub-routines that have been developed over the course of a lifetime through the unremitting influences of nature, nurture and ultimately our own life experiences. So when the hardware gets turned off the software, in our case the contents of the mind, are lost. Unless of course it’s backed up on some cosmic backup tape. It’s then not a hard leap to suppose that there’s a natural cosmic process that governs rebirth or a restore of the energy of life. But why does my energy or what others term my life force naturally reassert itself in the same energy form e.g. a carbon based life form?

Lets go on to consider non-self. By convention I consider ‘Me’ as an identity to consist of that carbon based matter that I carry around with me at all times whilst termed alive. As soon as I get ride of the ‘Me’ or my ego as a concept then I can become part of ‘nature’ or maybe a cosmic vibration. ‘I’ at bodily death just become the resonance of a different cosmic tune. A different note(s) as it were. Impermanence moves the ‘Me’ that I and others have coalesced with for a short journey through time, that bundle of negative entropy that has bucked the general trend and once more causes a positive inflection of the general condition of entropy.

Not a very romantic view of the natural order of things is it. Humankind is always reaching for meaning and boy does that cause anxiety in us all. Maybe I should just accept and have ‘faith’ and take the shorter path to an understanding of human existence. The big problem that we all need to answer is the ‘why’ in terms of our journey through the condition we have come to know and grasp at as ‘Life’. Don’t ask ‘why’ and you have arrived, you have ‘faith’ and a full mind.

So if ‘faith’ isn’t the answer then ‘non-grasping’ may well hold some possibilities….

I’m after personal insights, any takers? Please feel free to comment. Kind Regards