Death- An Integral Part of Tibetan Buddhism and Culture

Just from comparing the differences in the western

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throughout not only one’s life, but even their past lives (Sambhava 1994). Just from comparing the differences in the Western and Tibetan approach to death, one can see that Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism have a very distinctive set of connections in which Tibetan culture and the ideologies of Buddhism can come together to form something that is uniquely Tibetan Buddhism and unlike any other religion within this world.
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In addition to the scientific definition of death in Western society, however, there still are more non-concrete definitions, or rather, one’s general attitude towards death. Some of these views are that death is a “terminal state…a void that destroys life” for those who believe they are happy with the current state of their lives or that it is a “blessed final anesthesia” to those who are currently in a state of suffering (Sambhava 1994). It is, very simply put, a vast cultural difference which brings about these major discrepancies when talking about people who practice Tibetan Buddhism as opposed to people who grew up in the Western side of the world with certain privileges and upbringing in general. While Tibetan Buddhists don’t really see death as something to be afraid of or try to avoid, it is also not something that Tibetans would want happening to their loved ones (Duncan 1964). However, culturally, Tibetans are just generally more accepting of the idea that death is inevitable and that everything is heading towards its end. While Tibetans have a more open-minded approach to death and the rituals pertaining to it, that is not to say that they do not see death for what it is- a process in which one experiences extreme suffering and mental anxiety. This is further exemplified by a Kalachakra Tantra which says, “The old have the suffering of death, and again the fright of the six transmigrations…” (Hopkins 1996). However, the Tibetans have learned to deal with the sufferings of death as part of their way of life in the harsh terrain and difficult standards of living. Through Buddhism, they channeled their grief and fear of what was once “unknown” about death to the reassurance that death is only a part of the process in one’s life cycle in which rebirth is forthcoming. In fact the Buddhist teachings on rebirth and the Tibetan superstitions about the soul’s transference upon death show just how much the two have integrated together to become Tibetan Buddhism. This is further exemplified by the practice in which upon the soul leaving one’s body, the corpse is typically destroyed as rapidly as possible so the soul does not try to return to it (Duncan 1964).
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