What is death, exactly, and what does it mean to us as we are living? Throughout the world, death and the rituals that surround it are steeped in taboos. Death is celebrated, embraced and feared. Around death and the dead, cultures put in place diverse restrictions and practices associated with clothing, food and ritual.
For the Roman Catholic Church death is the "complete and final separation of the soul from the body". However the
Some Orthodox Jews, Native Americans, Muslims and fundamentalist Christians believe that as long as a heart is beating--even artificially, you are still alive. Followers of religions like Zen Buddhism, and Shintoism believe that the mind and body are integrated and have trouble accepting the brain death criteria to determine death.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, whose actual title is "The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State" or "Bardo Thodol", is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. The Bardo Thodol is a guide that is read aloud to the dead while they are in the state between death and reincarnation in order for them to recognize the nature of their mind and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Some think, however, this book is merely the esoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning is that it is death and rebirth of the ego that is described, not of the body. Either way, or perhaps for both, the death/rebirth process is examined.
A graduate of
What do YOU think?