A Tibetan Perspective On Birth And Death

1438 words - 6 pages

Many religions and philosophies attempt to answer the question, what happens after a person dies? Some religions such as Christianity and Islam believe there is an afterlife. They believe that good and moral people enter Heaven or paradise and that bad and immoral people go to Hell. Other religions and cultures believe that death is final, and that nothing happens after a person dies. Buddhism and Hinduism have a different idea about death. Both of these religions originated in India. Buddhists and Hindus believe that death is not final. They believe that a person comes back after he or she dies. This process is known as reincarnation, and it provides opportunities for people to enter the world multiple times in different forms. Buddhists and Hindus want to reenter the world as humans, and they want to improve their status through reincarnation. In ancient India, many members of lower casts wanted to come back as members of higher casts. While this is an important goal of reincarnation, the main goal is to reach either moksha (Hinduism) or nirvana (Buddhism). In other words, the goal is to reach a point of spiritual enlightenment that removes the person from the reincarnation process. Geoff Childs, an anthropologist examines the views of the Buddhist religion by studying the lives of the people in Tibetan villages. He looks at issues that adversely affect these people such as infant mortality. He carefully looks at the lives of people who have been left behind by deceased loved ones, and he pays careful attention to customs and traditions surrounding death. Tibetan Buddhists view death as a means of reaching spiritual perfection, and they seek to reach this level of spiritual perfection through living spiritually meaningful lives.
Infant mortality is a serious issue in Tibetan and Nepalese villages. One in every four children dies before his or her first birthday. This is often due to poor medical facilities and unsanitary living conditions. In chapter three, Childs and his elder Tashi interview one woman who lost her child after three months. They discover that people in the village find death difficult to talk about. At first the woman seems reluctant to explain the situation, but she eventually explains that the child withered away from weakness and lack of energy. Later in the chapter, an infant dies and it is emphasized over and over again that he is taking his last drink from his mother’s breast. This story is filled with grief as the child slowly withers away leaving his mother to cry all day and night. Tibetans explain death in terms of karma. Buddhists believe that karma or one’s deeds indicate fate. In order to have karma, one must have committed deeds. Infants are not capable of generating karma, therefore any karma would have to be initiated by the parents. Tibetans believe that infant mortality has more to do with dangers that are inherent in the natural environment rather that karma. Parents take measures to prevent detriment to...

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