The Concept of Death in Buddhism and Christianity

Death is a concept that people must face no matter what their personal beliefs are. Most people consider death a frightening concept and don’t think about it when they aren’t faced with the issue, but depending on their religious belief death might not be such a frightening thought. In fact many people find religion in order to help them explain what might happen to them after death. Two religions that have different views on what happens at death and what becomes of a person are Buddhism and Christianity. These two religions give very different perspectives on what happens to an individual after they die.
Buddhism is a complex religion that requires a practicing Buddhist to always contemplate death. In Buddhism death and reincarnation are linked very close together. Buddhists believe that there is a close relationship between the way that a person lives their life in the present life and the type of life that person will have in their next. The main goal for Buddhists is to reach nirvana and they attain nirvana by creating good karma. Essentially Buddhists strive to live their lives in a way that will ensure a good life in their next.
Death awareness has traditionally been practiced amongst Buddhist monks for at least two thousand years. There are many reasons for this awareness such as: it can give a wider view of their lives, calmness, and the ability to detach oneself in order to not allowing negative karma to arise (Huxter, 1997). It can also allow ways to develop sympathy and wisdom, and the ability to be more tolerant towards others. Both the Theravadin and Tibetan schools claim that without the recollection of death allows one not to become intoxicated with “mundane pursuits, one procrastinates, one’s meditations become mixed with worldly concerns, one lacks energy to practice, one creates negative karma and one dies in regret due to surprise” (Huxter, 1997). There are many advantages to death awareness including that a person can lead a more purposeful life and that the individual isn’t surprised at the time of death.
In Buddhist tradition there is a process to death that leads the individual into rebirth. At the moment of death a “blinding experience of clear light fills [their] consciousness” and this seen as the opportunity to free themselves from their tendencies (Tibetan Book of the Dead). If the light is too much for them then they are separated
from the physical body and then exist in a body that is similar to the one in dreams. After this stage come a series of visions that are “rich in light, sound, and beautifully peaceful forms of Buddhas” (Tibetan Book of the Dead). If one stays with the Buddhas they will be able to face reality again, but if one decides not to do this then it will lead to a negative rebirth. The next stage has a variety of visions, many of which are of a terrifying nature. The reasoning behind them being so terrifying is that reality is frightening to those who are strongly attached to a fixed way or being (Huxter, 1997). Liberation is possible in this phase and a person starts to move towards the place of rebirth.
The belief of rebirth is that the individual sees their parents copulating and if one is attracted to the female that person will be born male, but if one is attracted to the male then that person will be born female. When rebirth occurs the individual can be born in one of six different realms: the human realm, the realm of the gods, that of animals, hungry ghosts, titans, or into hell. None of these realms have eternal life; the idea of impermanence holds true in each different realm. The realms of the gods and humans are said to be happy, but the other four are painful.
It is a wide spread belief in Buddhism that the wise person learns to be aware and surrender to all conditions, death included. Buddhists don’t believe in the concept of a soul, but rather believe that it’s energy moving from one form to another. Only the essential facet of each person move onto the next life such as the way a person thinks