Zen Wisdom 237



How does Buddhism explain death? What happens between death and the next life? What carries over from one life to the next? How should one practice in the face of death? Are there certain changes one should make?


For most human beings, death is very frightening to face. It is an inevitable event all of us must come to grips with. However, the ways ordinary sentient beings and enlightened beings view death are different. Furthermore, conventional Buddhism and Ch'an have different perspectives on death.

Conventional Buddhism speaks of two types of death ─ that for ordinary sentient beings and that for saints. Accumulated karma determines to what life an ordinary sentient being will be reborn. to. If bad karma overwhelmingly dominates, then the being will likely be reborn either in a hellish, ghost, or animal realm. If good karma overwhelmingly dominates, the being will be reborn in a heavenly realm. If good and bad karma are relatively balanced, then the being will be reborn in the human realm.