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Dying at home vs dying at the hospital

If I understand the teachings on rebirth correctly, the last moments of your dying process are decisive in determining where are you will be reborn (of course the way you’ve lived your whole life is important but that seems to be important in the sense it obviously affects your last moments because you cannot radically change on the last days).

So if this is correct it probably means that being able to die at home in a peaceful place where you can practice meditation would be much preferable to being in a hospital where you might even share a room with other people and would have less opportunity for practising or in any case for being in a wholesome state (I think even if you’re a Christian and you don’t practise meditation you can still be praying and be more peaceful at home, which would be helpful).

I’m wondering what people think on this, and if there are any views on this subject in more traditional Buddhist societies

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This actually isn’t the case so much according to the EBT (early Buddhist texts). There are certainly cases where some action proceeding death controls where someone is reborn. But that’s normal. The suttas themselves don’t put a specific importance on it. Abhidhamma, yes. Suttas, not so much.

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Thanks! :pray: Do you have suttas ref for:

There are certainly cases where some action proceeding death controls where someone is reborn.

One of the reasons I thought the last moments of your dying process are decisive is that since consciousness is like a continuum in time it seems logical that after the dying process is over it will continue in a similar state and there won’t be like a discrete jump to a higher or a lower level if that make sense

I think you would see more thinking along these lines regarding bardo states and such within other traditions.

Also important to note; many things in the teachings defy “logic”, at least in my opinion. So, always good advice (that I received early on) to be wary of the logical, or scientific, mind.

thank you for your advice. :pray: perhaps logic was not the ideal term; I noticed some teachers give explanations based on extrapolations from phenomena we can experience.

So for example we experience that after a good meditation our mind is more light and pure; and vice versa when we experience negative feelings they tend to linger for a while afterwards. So I was extrapolating to the mind state after death, but indeed it is just a hypothesis

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Currently I think this is most important. I’m reminded of the lump of salt simile in AN3.100. It’s probably nice to die somewhere comfortable, where you can get in a bit of meditation, but I don’t think it’s going to substantially alter the trajectory of future existence at that point.

I’d be very interested in those too.

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If I remember correctly, Bhante Sujato debunks the dying moment argument in his course on kamma. I was very concerned about it too so am grateful for this and really it makes sense, how could the one moment before death be more important than all the practice, virtue and wisdom accumulated beforehand? Phew! :sweat_smile:

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One that comes to mind right away is Vv 4.9 Pīta Sutta.

Now, one thing I don’t agree with is the logic that because the Abhidhamma promotes the idea that the last mind state controls rebirth, that means anywhere we find this situation in the suttas indicates that the sutta must be somehow “late” in the canon. You can see in that sutta there is no statement that says anything about the last mind moment controlling rebirth. It’s just what happened in that case. And it’s good for instructional purposes.

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do you know where in particular please (there are a lot of videos!) or even better if there’s a sutta reference? I actually got the impression from another Ajahn teaching about kamma and rebirth that the last dying moments are important…

I’m sorry, I don’t know! It’s definitely in workshop I, during the myth busting section (could be part 2, 3 or 4…) The course outline is here

From the outline:

Here are some of the “myths” that we’ll be looking at. Find out which are true and
which need busting! If you have any other kamma “myths” you’d like us to look at,
please let us know well before the event, and we’ll try to include it.
• There is no in-between state.
• The realms of rebirth only refer to psychological states; rebirth is a matephor.
• It is better to be reborn as a human than as a god.
• Collective kamma.
• Everything is due to kamma.
• Your last mind moment determines your rebirth.
• Rituals are powerful kamma.
• You can burn off your kamma by meditating on pain.
• Mahāmoggallāna’s death.
• The law of attraction (good attracts good).
• The Buddha taught rebirth and kamma because of the cultural views at the
time.
• Consciousness enters the embryo at the moment of conception.
• Transference of merit.
• Birth as a woman is because of bad kamma.

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I’m sure you did! It’s a very commonly held belief. Just not one that is supported in the Pali suttas. Funny how that happens.

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Ajahn Brahmali addresses this belief here

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This is such a helpful issue to see discussed, I had also understood from a few (non EBT) sources that the last moment was so important that dying while unconscious should be avoided at all costs. I had even heard a story of a monk who had Covid-19 refusing to be put on a ventilator in order to avoid dying while sedated.

I recently had a minor surgery, and although I meditated as I was going under anesthesia, it was very strange to think that it would be somehow detrimental if I happened to die while unconscious. I’m very relieved to know this isn’t the case. :sweat_smile:

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I’m not real familiar with the details of the importance of one’s mind state at the time of death. However, I think that it will probably be similar to whatever the average mind state was during life. So someone who spent most of their life angry will greet death with anger. Someone who was very greedy throughout his or her life will be freaking out over everything they’re losing, or grieving over a wasted life because they finally realized that you can’t take it with you. From that perspective, I can see how one’s state of mind at the time of death can be important, but only in so far as it reveals how one lived his or her life, and what kind of kamma they created throughout it.

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I see what you mean but my my experience when contemplating death - which admittedly is different from being close to the moment of really dying - varies a lot depending on the state I’m in.

Sometimes contemplating our mortality makes me feel anxious whereas other times it makes me feel very peaceful and even joyful - it’s like a liberation. In fact this one the reasons why I posted this question. At least in my case it seems to depend a lot on the mood I’m in. But as I mentioned death contemplation is admittedly quite different from the actual thing.

In one of Bhante Sujato’s talks, maybe one about this very topic, he mentions a monk in the UK who had some serious health issue. The monk had blood trapped between his brain and skull, and his brain all but shut down. I don’t think the monk could even remember his name, but he could remember the Metta sutta, and would chant it. So I really think a large part of Buddhist practice just boils down to habituation.

I figure the difference between knowing death is imminent and death contemplation will probably be like the difference between meditating on metta when nothing bad is currently happening to us and the first feeling/thought we have if someone slaps us in the face. Is that first feeling one of metta, or anger? I think it depends on how much we’ve habituated ourselves to thoughts of metta. When our knee-jerk reaction to stimuli is in line with the Dhamma, we know the practice has really taken root. Anyway, we’ll know how we’ll handle facing death sooner or later!

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:pray: I like the simile

:rofl::rofl::rofl: Being killed by a marauding cow is now my number one choice of departing this life. :cow2:

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@stef

This is a very good write-up and may help with some questions this thread raises.

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