Вера в вечную жизнь и в полное уничтожение. Вытеснение страха смерти и его последствия. Буддист и смерть.

Запретная тема. Христианский взгляд. Светский взгляд. Буддийский взгляд.
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Желание умереть. Психология веры в жизнь после смерти и её отрицания. Спиритизм и оккультизм.
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Implications of "Survivalism" and "Annihilationism"

It makes a considerable difference to our outlook on life, whether we believe in any form of survival or not. Those who entirely reject the idea of survival inevitably concentrate all their ambitions and hopes, for themselves and others, on this single life on earth. This life, they feel, is all they have and for them the only reasonable goal can be the achievement of some kind of mundane satisfaction or contentment in this world — all else being meaningless. The precise implications of such an attitude will depend greatly on a person's character. The idealist may devote himself to all kinds of plans for bettering the human condition. It is claimed, and not without some justice, that this view of things has led to a great many social improvements. Nevertheless, if we look at the whole picture, it may be doubted whether all the social consequences of a purely "this-worldly" view have been beneficial. And even the idealist must admit that his hopes are strictly limited, not only for himself but for the race itself which will inevitably die out one day, possibly hastened to its end by man's own wicked folly or even his incompetent attempts to "control nature." Furthermore, those who are less idealistically inclined may tend to regard this "one-life-only" theory as an excuse for enjoying themselves as selfishly as they like while they have the chance, with no fear of any post-mortem retribution.

In addition, there are very many people who are more or less (in some cases greatly) tormented by the fear of utter extinction at death.

To point out that this is illogical is useless. For many such, fear of cancer or other fatal diseases, or war and other disasters, is not made any easier to bear because they see no future for themselves beyond the grave. Those who preach the "we have only one life" gospel too enthusiastically may forget in their zeal for good causes the serious psychological harm such talk can do.

Fear of death is not, of course, confined to those who do not believe in an after-life. It is in fact universal. "In that sleep of death what dreams may come" is a thought that has given pause to many besides Hamlet, and in the past many have gone terrified of hell-fire — and some still do. Probably, however, most believers or would-be believers in survival today settle in fact for something vaguely comforting, a trifle wishful, and with few clearly envisaged details.

It should be noted that lack of belief in survival is not entirely incompatible with a religious attitude, though probably most sincere believers in all religions have some such faith, however vague. The Jewish religion, for instance, has little to say on an after-life (though this is not denied), and probably many orthodox Jews have little or no faith in one. This is partly due to the reticence of most of the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament) on the subject, and in this connection the well-known concern of Jews with their race and its continuance is significant — as in the case of the secularists noted above. The relation, of course, is an inverse one: the Jew, concerned with racial survival, thinks little about personal survival. The secularist, rejecting personal survival, pins his hopes on that of the race. The concern of many Christian churchmen with social problems today often goes together with a marked reticence on the subject of survival, and occasionally even with a degree of open skepticism. In some cases this looks like a scarcely-veiled capitulation to the dominant materialistic outlook of the present age.

Of course there are many who believe — rightly or wrongly — that they can get in touch with the departed. Mediums who claim to be able to do this are numerous, and while some (it is impossible to say how many) are fraudulent, and some others are self-deluded, it would be unwise in the extreme to suppose that this is always the case. Genuine clairvoyants, spiritual healers and other such specially gifted people unquestionably exist, as anyone who is prepared to undertake an impartial investigation can readily discover. But in the public mind such people tend still (though perhaps rather less than formerly) to be dismissed en masse as fraudulent or at best cranky. Those who consult them often do so surreptitiously, guarding the fact from their friends as a guilty secret they would be ashamed to divulge. While excessive concern with such matters is not necessarily a good thing, the loudly voiced scornful skepticism of many materialistic-minded people is simply an inadequate response to something of which they are woefully — sometimes even culpably — ignorant.


Since in fact a fear of death is deep-rooted in everybody, the propagation of an attitude of total skepticism can do much harm. Even a great psychologist like the late Dr. Ernest Jones, the biographer of Freud, considered it necessary to declare that it was important to eliminate from one's mind all belief in an after-life. Now if, in fact, it could somehow be finally proved (which it cannot) that there is no such thing, and if further it were possible through psycho-analysis or some such methods to get rid of all fear of extinction, this might be a good thing. But since these premises cannot be substantiated, the claim falls to the ground. The fact is that orthodox psycho-analysis was able to find out a great deal about the problem of sex, with which it was largely (though not entirely) able to cope. But it had not and has not the equipment to adequately deal with the problem of death. What Dr. Jones (Freudian though he was) failed to see is that the only result of such an attempt can be repression! Repression may be briefly defined as "the active process of keeping out and ejecting, banishing from consciousness, the ideas and impulses that are unacceptable to it." We can call it successful self-deception. Its deleterious effects on the psyche are well-known, thanks above all to the work of Sigmund Freud and his followers. In this case it means that we deceive ourselves into believing that we are not afraid of death — and in fact very many people do this. Buddhism is actually an even better and more radical method of dealing with one's repressions than psycho-analysis, and it is often a hard task to convince people that they have in fact not "transcended," but merely repressed their fear of death! The reader is earnestly advised at this point to consider seriously the possibility that he or she has done just this, bearing in mind that in the nature of things an immediate negative reaction proves nothing! If in fact there is any instinctive tendency to shy away from the whole subject, the answer is actually obvious, though it may be hard to accept. This is due not only to the fear itself but to conceit — the belief that one is "advanced."


The consequences of a definite denial of the possibility of survival (so highly praised by Dr. Jones) are the persistence of the fear of death, in either an overt or repressed form. Either way there is a distortion of the psyche with resultant suffering, whatever the exact form it may take. Since such an attitude of denial is very widespread in many parts of the world today (and even officially prescribed in some places), these deleterious effects, on a very wide scale, are quite inevitable. In passing, in may be presumed that if in fact there were no survival, we would not have this built-in fear of death.

In present circumstances, the man who thinks, or wants to think otherwise, is in something of a dilemma. Assuming that he is not a psychic or drawn to spiritualism or the like, nor on the other hand an orthodox believer in one of the traditional faiths, he is probably plagued by doubts and has at best only a hazy notion of what it is he "believes." He may indulge in many fanciful speculations. It is not at all clear to him on what basis he can judge of the possibly validity of these ideas. Under the impact of his surroundings, his belief, vague though it may be but perhaps based on some genuine intuition, is liable to be weak and fail him in times of crisis. In such a case, a resolute dismissal of all such ideas as "wishful thinking" may for the time being even bring a sense of relief (especially where his thoughts of the hereafter tend to arouse exaggerated fears of some awful retribution). All this must be admitted, and it is presumably for just such reasons that thinkers like Dr. Jones advocate the course they do. In fact, of course, it does not solve the real problem.

The social and personal drawbacks of the "Jonesian solution" do not end there. This negative attitude is the outcome of a materialistic view of the world which — though it is still held by many scientists — is in fact outmoded. Being in essence materialistic, it tends also to reduce our respect for human life. The traditional Christian view that "animals have no souls" is in fact semi-materialistic in this sense. Those who think that man is a special case tend all too easily to take the view (for which, unfortunately, there is Biblical support) that animals are totally subservient to him and can be treated as of no account — hence factory-farming and many other such horrors. The true materialist goes a step further and regards man himself as an "animal" in this sense. The extreme consequences of a radical application of this idea can be witnessed in many places at this day, and are often utterly appalling. But even when tempered with "liberal humanism" they can be pretty bad. Power over life and death is given to the medical profession and others to a degree which is sometimes quite irresponsible. Transplant surgery, to take an example, is based on a view of death which is entirely unethical by traditional standards, apart altogether from any "religious" considerations, and similar objections apply to demands for virtually indiscriminate abortion.

Death and the Buddhist

What, then, should be a truly Buddhist attitude towards death? Let us first note that in traditional Christianity, as for instance in the Roman Catholic Church (which has more wisdom — despite all reservations that may be made — than it is often given credit for!), great attention is paid to the dying. Special rites are performed, and every effort is made to help the dying person to pass on in what is considered to be a right frame of mind. To those with no belief in a hereafter, all such things are meaningless. To Buddhists and other non-Catholic "survivalists," they may be open to certain criticisms, but the principle is wholly admirable. In Tibetan Buddhism especially, there are observances of a very similar nature, while in Theravada countries it is part of the duties of a vipassanaa bhikkhu to assist the dying. Of course, the frame of mind in which a Buddhist should die is not quite the same as that expected of an adherent of a theistic religion. But at least it is better to try to give the dying such understanding as one can, than to drug them into unconsciousness as an almost routine measure. That way they will pass on to another existence in much the same state of blindness and confusion with which they have gone through this life. Let us note once again that such considerations can only be rejected as quite valueless if we are perfectly certain that there is no form of after-life — and even on that basis it might be very cruel to deprive many of the dying people of such comfort. Therefore the suggestion made in the humanist circles that hospital chaplains should be abolished can only be characterized as downright wicked. Some such chaplains may be pretty useless, but the majority can give the sick and dying at least some comfort. Ideally, of course, they should all be highly-trained bhikkhus!

However, when one is actually dying it is a bit late to begin thinking seriously about death. We should familiarize ourselves with the thought long before we hope it will happen! And besides, even for the young and strong, it can still come with unexpected suddenness. Mors certa — hora incerta, "Death is certain — the hour is uncertain." To bear this in mind is for the Buddhist an important aspect of Right Understanding. And therefore the Buddhist practice of Meditation on Death — not very popular in the West — should be encouraged. Death for the Buddhist is not indeed the absolute end — but it does mean the breaking of all ties that bind us to our present existence, and therefore, the more detached we are from this world and its enticements, the more ready we shall be to die, and, incidentally, the further we shall get along the path that leads to the Deathless — for this is one of the names of Nibbaana: amata.m "the Deathless State." Meanwhile, for those who have not got so far along the Path, death is inseverable from birth. Existence in the phenomenal world (sa.msaara) is continual birth-and-death. The one cannot be understood without the other, and cannot exist without the other.

We all fear death, but actually we should also fear the rebirth that follows. In practice, this does not always happen. Fear of rebirth is less strong than death. This is part of our usual short-sighted view (for those who do actually believe in rebirth), and the fact must be faced. Full Enlightenment will only be achieved when there is the will to transcend all forms of "rebirth" — even the pleasantest. Though as a first step then, acceptance of the fact of rebirth may help to overcome the fear of death, the attachment to rebirth itself must then also be gradually overcome.

Запретная тема. Христианский взгляд. Светский взгляд. Буддийский взгляд.
Оглавление Далее>>
Желание умереть. Психология веры в жизнь после смерти и её отрицания. Спиритизм и оккультизм.

Редакция перевода от 05.01.2015 15:18