By Bhante Debongshi
This article is based upon my experience of spiritual care at the Regina General Hospital for Mrs. Khampheng Vongphit.
As I entered the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) room on December 31, I saw Mrs. Vongphit lying down on a bed with huge robotic machines surrounding her and fastened with different tubes and canals. The family members were in the room waiting in a sad and sorrowful mode. At first glance, it deeply disturbed me, and I wondered why they put her in this situation. A common mistake people make when they don’t think through decisions. Then I realized, it was their choice. But they made the wrong choice. In terms of support, they placed machines to hold her tight, which, like a criminal, unable to move as iron chains behaving as royal guards were preventing any movement or communication. Under that circumstance, she was totally powerless. I said to myself, “certainly this is not the way of dying.” Life should not be tortured like this at the final exit.
I felt like it was an act of cruelty. I wanted to tell them to let her be free from this trap and let her leave peacefully and naturally. But I also knew that my suggestion would not work because it was the choice they made. I realized that they would never understand the nature of life the way it is. The situation was already dreadful, and to top it off, they were so sad and emotional. You can instantly feel within the ICU room a negative energy. Without delay, I performed my spiritual duty with compassion. I offered my sincere advice to be strong, compassionate and keep the mind free of sorrow, so that at least within this environment a positive energy can surface, and the rest would be left for the doctors. Sadly, after I left the hospital Mrs. Vongphit died In that traumatic condition; her life was over. As you can tell, the choice was made, but it was a hopeless choice. Similarly, most people make the wrong choice when they come to the final stage of life.
Natural way of dying
Nature is our source of life. It provides us with everything we need. In the natural selection process, there is freedom of choice, such as the way of living and the way of dying. In order to make you understand this fact let me ask a question: Suppose the creator appears before you and says, I will give you two options. You must select one of these two options. This is entirely your choice. Do you want bondage, or do you want freedom? What is your choice? Of course freedom would be the ultimate choice. If that is so, is it not true that life deserves freedom, and this should be the highest wish for all beings at all times? If you look closely, you will understand this fact at the last stage. Life should follow through in a natural process without any disturbances. Freedom should always be the highest regard in life at all times regardless of the situation. Especially when one reaches the finishing line. Importantly one’s mind should stay free, undisturbed, stable and conscious. Therefore, I say, the natural process is the best way to die without any outside disturbance. Before it is too late, consider acquiring the power to make a conscious choice that would change the course of your life.
Final moment of death
Upon death, the last consciousness is the forebear of the next life. Whatsoever qualities, the content in the last consciousness is the kind of life that will be brought back to the next existence. Like a seed which bears fruit of its kind. In fact, it is the last stage of consciousness that gives birth to a new being. Therefore, the final moment is the most important moment for a dying person. The key requirements is to stay still, fearless and peaceful. The end the natural path is the most noble path to follow. For it is within that moment, one can conceive a higher consciousness as the better possibility yet to come.
The world we experience
According to the custom, I was invited to provide spiritual care for the grieving family, relatives and friends of Mrs. Vongphit for seven days. This was a right time for them to listen to the Dhamma. On the last day, I spoke about the nature of the world we experience. I asked them to be conscious and reflect upon the universal law of nature that belongs within a true beneficial system, holding a combination of simplicity and strength. It is at this point, I said, “knowing requires the full extent of attention and engagement while listening’. They fully participated in listening.
As Vongphit’s life situation illustrates the human condition: likewise, the entire world is burning with aging, disease and death. The nature of the world is like being on fire of desire, craving, greed and hatred. The nature of the world is like a haze of smokey ignorance. Whoever is longing to this world order experiences sorrow and pain. This is the impartial justice of nature. But when the intelligence is hijacked by ignorance, it is difficult for one to see and know the reality. Just as a man that does not see upon waking up, no matter what he sees in a dream. In the same way, the ignorant do not see and know the true nature of things the way it is. In fact, the longings for possessions continue in that person and suffering follow like the wheels that follow the oxcart. The wise, therefore, do not incline to devote their time and energy to insanity and possesses nothing. One who possesses nothing, certainly they see nothing as mine. They are simply filled with strength to the fullest extent. The Buddha called this appamada or conscientious. This means being ever conscious in doing the right and making the right choice. By doing so one can reach the point of deathlessness, in the language of Buddha, that stage called as Nibbana.
The life energy is limited but time is limitless. Within the framework of limitless time, life is brief. Even if one lives to a hundred years, still, one is subjected to die from old age or illness. Generally, people grieve for what they have possessed and see the possession as mine, as a result of that they suffer greatly. By realizing this and fully perceiving the truth, the wise live a conscious life diligently, engaging in doing the right thing. This enhances the tranquility and wisdom so that they may realize the limitless possibilities that are unlocked when they connect with deathlessness or Nibbana. In this context, life, death and liberation are all about the choices made.