Divergent Views about Death
This essay tackles the paradox of death by comparing beliefs of Christianity and Buddhism about death through examining religious materials and relevant source to ascertain why and how the two religions differs about the ever-present element, death. Through the above thesis statement, the essay will provide reliable information about the view of death in Christianity and Buddhism. There are many religions in the world as a result of differing opinions about important aspects of life. There are many aspects that lack clarity arousing different believes and arguments. One area that has remained as a great paradox among all the world religions is death. Different religions have differed greatly about death and even life after death. However, all religions agree that death is a present element that humanity cannot escape and therefore we cannot overlook its presence and believes across the religions.
Death from Christian Perspective
The origin of death in Christian perspective finds its root from the genesis of Humanity. Christianity purports that death came through one man; Adam, who was the first man to be created by God according to creation theory. God in His supremacy created man and put him in the garden of Ede (International Version, Gen 1.27). Later, God created woman to become the man’s helper in the Garden of Eden. In the garden, there were many trees with good fruits but the man and the woman were forbidden from taking the fruits from the tree of life by God. However, the snake mislead the woman who also mislead the man to take the fruits from the forbidden tree and this subjected them to God’s punishment inform of curse, which is referred to as death (New International Version, Gen 3.1). In Christianity, death came as a consequence of sin and disobedience of the first man to God (Meyer 39). It would not be wrong to claim that there would be no death in world if the first man did not sin from a Christian perspective (Meyer 43).
In order to view death from Christian perspective, it is important to understand there are different groups within Christianity that tend to project different thoughts and arguments about different issues. The divergence in Christian subsets is about the particular place that the “good people” will eventually go (Shuman 195). Some thinks that people who lives to God’s expectation, and in this case, the Christians will go to “heaven” while others talk of “paradise”, which will be the new earth. However, the aspect of death shares a common view among the majority in Christianity. In Christianity, death is a necessary transition that ushers a person to his/her eternity (Jones 157). In eternity, the flesh does not play any role and therefore there is need for the transition to take place in order to be able to acquire the new form that is acceptable in eternity. The Christians believes that eternity has two sides, either the heaven or hell. A person’s eternity is determined by his/her conduct on earth. Good people or the “saved” are expected to join the better side of eternity, which is the new heaven, while the evil or the sinners are expected to join the worst side of eternity, which is the Hell (New International Version, Rev.20.15). Due to this believe, Christians find comfort in death as it is not the end of life, there is better life after death.
The event of death in Christianity involves a transformational process in human beings (Shuman 195). The biblical view of life relates the Immortal and the mortal. Human being is considered a spirit that has a soul and sheltering in the flesh (Jones 158). The spirit possesses a unique characteristic of immortality and does not yield to death. The spirits is the “breath of God” that is deposited to a human being by God Himself. It is expected that at the end of persons life on earth, the Spirit goes to await for judgment while the flesh dies and gets converted to its original form, which is the soil. During the creation, the first man was created from the soil. The bibles declares that were the body came from will be the same place where the body will go at the end of life on earth.
The Biblical perspective about how events will unfold after in the eternity is unique from other religions. All human beings will be raised again for what is termed as judgment (New International Version, Eccl 12:14). This judgment will be the determinant of where the people will spend their eternity. Those who lived as per the biblical prescriptions will be saved to spend eternity with their God while those that did not obey the biblical instructions will be doomed to spend eternity in the “lake of fire”, the Hell. The aspect of consecrating the body before burial features in some Christian groups like Catholics and Orthodox Christians, which is normally done before burial. Though there is believe that the body goes to waste, however, some group tends to believe that rituals can alter the destiny of the deceased (Shuman 195). Most Christian believes in burying the body rather than cremation, which lack biblical foundation.
Death from Buddhist Perspective
Buddhism is one of the religions that strongly believe in the re-birth procedure of reincarnation. In this religion, the death of physical body is inevitable; however, it is a portion of the cycle re-incarnation. After death, a person undergoes significant transformation, which depends on his/her character when he was alive (Becker 8). This transformation may take time before the rebirth of the person take place. Once a person has been identified as dead, his or her body is subjected to the process of cremation, whereby it is reduce to ashes through super heating by fire or intense heat (Gouin 13). Normally, there is certain duration of mourning, probably 49-day period, during which prayers are made for the deceased for the vital transformation take place. Normally, the first week after death is quite important period where major prayers and rituals are conducted. Normally, the living persons are subjected to Meditation on death in order to acquaint themselves with the terror of death and be able to view death from a better perspective. This ritual is normally done to make the people quite at ease with death, and better still to replace the fear and terror of death with comfort and hope. Because of the uncertainties of what a person expect at the end of life, different ritual are made for the deceased to give them a soft landing in the unknown world. The day of person’s death is treated with great reverence. Normally, as per the Buddhist rituals
According the Tibetan Buddhist believes, immediately a person dies, it is thought his/her personality gets into a trance for 4 days (Gouin 21). In such period, the deceased persons are not aware of their situation and the worst still is that they do not know if they are dead. Special verses are read to the dead person believing that at the end of the period the deceased will see a brilliant light, which either scares the person away or attract the dead person. It is believed that once the dead person is not terrified by the brilliant light but instead welcomes it he/she will not be reborn. However, if the deceased is terrified, the light fades away and the person subjected to undergoes the re-birth process (Gouin 16). At some instances, the deceased becomes conscious of his/her death and thereby begin what is referred to as the Second Bardo. In this period all the thing that the dead person used to do are revealed. The Buddhist believes that death is inevitable and the only best approach about it is to prepare for it in advance (Cuevas 4). The life that a person lives on earth determines what he/she will reincarnate to after death. Death is considered a necessary break from the world of pleasure. The consequences of life after death is determined by the persons conduct while he or she was alive. When a person’s death is predictable, the family members of that person begin to prepare in advance for death through reciting relevant scriptures and Matra. It is believed that by conducting such ritual they help the dying person to enter into peaceful state of his or her mind (Cuevas 2). Buddhism asserts that the particular things that keep the people bound to process of death and re-birth is their human desires. This desires manifest through craving for things that belong to this world. However, through Nirvana, it is possible for a person to be liberated from the all manner of craving. Most of the rituals believes in the Buddhism about death are borrowed from Hinduism. The belief of reincarnation draws great peace and self-assurance to the Buddhist because of the consolation it provides about life after death.
It is quite certain that Christianity and Buddhism view death from very different perspective. The only region where the two religions find a common ground is in the certainty its inevitable occurrence. However, the ritual that are conducted when a person die are consequences of the beliefs that the religions believes about life after death. Both believes about life after death ushers some comfort to humanity and reduces the tensions that are created by the terror that is created by death.
Becker, Carl B. Breaking the Circle: Death and the Afterlife in Buddhism. Carbondale u.a: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1993. Print.
Cuevas, Bryan J. The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2007. Print.
Gouin, Margaret E. Tibetan rituals of death: Buddhist funerary practices. Vol. 54. Taylor & Francis, 2010.
Jones, Lindsay. Encyclopedia of Religion: 1. New York: Macmillan. 2005. Print.
Meyer, John C. Christian Beliefs and Teachings. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 1997. Print.
New International Version. [Colorado Springs]: Biblica, 2011. BibleGateway.com. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
Shuman, Joel James. “The Christian Art Of Dying: Learning From Jesus – By Allen Verhey.” Modern Theology 29.1 (2013): 194-196. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.