Sunday, May 22, 2011

Buddha's Responses to Questions about Death: q. 7, 8, & 9

Question 1
Questions 2,3,4
Questions 5 & 6

The next 2 question are directed towards dedications made to the deceased.  Question 9 then asks about instructions and secret from the deceased to the surviving family members.

Question Seven: O Bhagawan! Those who are left behind -- such as relatives, etc. -- give away food and drink, no matter how little it may be, and dedicate that to the deceased; they believe such resources will last unexhausted for eons for the deceased to partake of. Such is the understanding of ordinary people. Is this true?

Response 1: Have you ever seen or heard of sentient beings, from the world system of four continents to the first thousand-fold world system, the second thousand-fold world system, the third thousand-fold world system and the limitless, unimaginable world systems, who partake of food and drink, bit by bit, for ever, or for several eons? There are none.

Response 2: A Universal Monarch possesses a wish-fulfilling gem which is the result of his having accumulated a limitless collection of merit many eons ago. It neither falls from the sky nor does it emerge suddenly. Thus, it is not possible for beings to partake of such small amount of food and drink till the end of eons without exhaustion because there is no cause for these resources to last forever.

Response 3: Even among parents, children, and siblings still alive but far from each other, no matter how much they wish to dedicate food and drink to benefit the other, the other ones do not even see these gifts in dreams, let alone being able to actually partake of them. If this is the case, how feasible would it be for those who have passed away and are separated from their bodies to partake of food and drink dedicated to them by those still alive? It is not feasible.

Response 4: How would those who have passed away and are separated from their bodies and thus reduced to mind, which is non-substantial and non-physical, be able to take possession of substantial foods and drinks offered by their children and relatives? That is not feasible. For eatables and chewables react to efforts made by physical organs attached to a body. Does the mind possess the ability of a physical organ attached to a body?

Question Eight: O Bhagawan! If that is the case, does it then mean that all our acts of dedicating things of use in this life such as food, vehicles, clothes, and ornaments to the deceased are meaningless?

Response: To a deceased person who has yet to experience a maturing karmic result of whatever actions he or she may have committed, such as by taking rebirth in a realm of existence, any help extended to the deceased in the form of dedicated wholesome actions that would amount to an accumulation of merit undefiled by negativity would lead him or her to a higher birth and even to nirvana. If the deceased had already taken rebirth, any help extended to him or her in the form of wholesome actions that would amount to an accumulation of merit would enable the deceased to find wealth, reap good harvest, expand desired possessions, and receive respect and devotion from all others. It is not that the deceased never take rebirth and instead remain forever in the Kingdom of Death9 using that food and drink, and those vehicles, clothes, and ornaments.

Question Nine: O Bhagawan! Whatever words and secrets sentient beings share with their relatives, etc., and whatever physical features they may have at the verge of death will be spoken and shown to relatives, and accordingly their living relatives shall hear and witness them subsequent to death. Such is the understanding of ordinary people. Is this true?

Response 1: Speech is made in dependence upon the physical organs of mouth and tongue attached to a body. Since the body of the deceased was left behind, how could a formless being ever speak? It is only upon taking rebirth that one hears of the deceased possessing a body. For that parents are required. Thus, there is no such thing as a perennial Death Kingdom.

Response 2: What worldly beings speak of in terms of the lingering signs and evidences of the deceased is all the handiwork of a class of scent-eaters called ‘Pervasive’. Just as a strong storm instantly engulfs a wide expanse of ground and water, likewise there are scent-eaters called Vicana, malignant spirits (yakshas) belonging to the class of ‘Willing-to-Utter’, and evil spirits (bhūtas) called ‘All-Searching’ (Parahinta) who immediately pervade the consciousness10 of the deceased, and by mimicking his or her mannerisms and speech, deceive ordinary beings by means of those skills.

9 This points to such a kingdom only hypothetically, suggesting there is no such kingdom in actuality.
10 This is only indicative of their intention to overpower the deceased and master their mannerisms to deceive their
living relatives.