为什么要为临终作准备?何谓临终关怀?

临终安宁关怀 (上)

有生必有死,对于生,完全是由个人宿业所感;至于死亡,感觉上似乎比起出生更有机会做好准备,而临终安宁关怀做得好,从病者重病时的关怀做起,直到临终助念,就是面对死主的一帖良药。

授完八关斋戒后,台湾凤山寺监院如得法师在七月十二日上午以“安宁关怀”为主题开示一堂精彩无比的生死课题,让同学对如何为临终做准备,有了更笃定的认识与信心。

如得法师一开场就问大家“五福临门”指的是哪五福,大家面面相觑没人回答得出来。原来五福是指长寿、富贵、康宁、攸(修)好德、考命终(善终)。法师善巧地以五福切入主题,配以诙谐幽默的讲说方式,带出人生中必须严肃以对的临终问题,让我们在欢笑声中将正知见纳入心续,愿往后遇境时能够以见导行利益自他。

为什么要为临终作准备?法师以大型考试为喻——“平常作准备、临考靠福报”。同样地,面对临终大考,除了靠平时的努力也要靠运气。什么叫靠运气呢?法师举了浅显易懂的比喻,好似考试时有准备的全考出来、没准备的一题也没出。那么,我们该如何策励自己平常做好准备呢?念死就是一个很重要的关键,一想到死后何去何从,若不善用今生学法的机会努力造善,想得到善终是十分困难的。如此一来,我们不再忌讳谈死,反之,往生却成为引领我们趣向增上生(注:下一生比这一生来得好,下下一生又比下一生来得好,最终可以成佛)之契机。

何谓临终关怀?法师非常慈悲地分别就学佛者与非学佛者的角度来谈,利益每一个人。法师说建立正确的观念很重要,“凡事豫则立,不豫则废”,不管你有没有学佛都得面对死亡,所以平常就要提策起“念死”之心,如果我们抱持着“反正还有明天”的心态过日子,临终时只能徒增忧悔。生命宛如一间仓库,如果仓库丰盈对临终有用?该放哪一些对临终有用的东西吗?念死——死主随时会来,我要做好准备。它就像铁锤,是击碎烦恼的利器,在自他生命将尽时,多一分准备就能够从容、平静地面对死亡。

念死心生起后,接下来该如何引导自他面对死亡?法师首先带出以“四道”人生——道爱、道谢、道歉、道别——引导病危的亲友,不要带着缺憾离开人世,爱要及时表达、说出心中的感谢、表达心中的歉意,并且作一次最终的道别,让此生圆满地落幕。第二为临终者列出这辈子的善行总结,肯定他此生的付出及意义,千万不要试图改变其宗教信仰;如果病人对佛教不排斥的话,可以教他念佛号,因为信心本身就是善心所。但是,对于他平常讨厌或贪恋的人事物不要在他眼前出现,尽量远离,营造一个让他能平静地离开人世的环境;此外,可以引导病者用观想方式想象把一切众生的苦化为黑烟从左鼻孔进,再把一切的身、财、善根化成白烟从右鼻孔出给所有众生,这样可以减轻病痛之苦;还可以让病者以右侧卧的方式往生,法师说这样比较不会被干扰,对临终者往生善趣有帮助!


Why should we plan for end-of-life?

How can we help the terminally-ill to face death?

End-of-Life Caregiving (Part One)

With life, comes death. While life is dictated by past karma, death is a process over which one seemingly has more control. Therefore, upon diagnosis of a terminal illness, it is important to prepare for end-of-life care until the final stage of life, so that a calm and peaceful passing can occur eventually. 

On 12th July 16, after conducting the Eight Precepts Retreat, Venerable Ru De from Taiwan’s “Feng Shan Monastery” gave a dharma talk on the subject of “End-of-Life Caregiving”. What ensued was a very enlightening lecture on some issues pertaining to life and death, which proved helpful and provided confidence to the audience should they have to deal with the subject one day.

Venerable Ru De introduced his lecture by asking what the five blessings are, to which the audience merely looked at each other without answering. The five blessings refer to longevity, wealth, peace, good morals and a good final stage of life. With such an intriguing opening, Venerable Ru De expertly introduced the somber topic of death to the attentive audience. By peppering the lecture with humour, the audience soon broke into laughter, while at the same time gained a good understanding of the right action to take, so that they may benefit themselves and others in future.

Why should we plan for end-of-life? Venerable quoted the taking of a major examination as an example – not only does one need to prepare for it diligently, the final outcome also depends on luck and good fortune. If the topics that one had studied appeared in the exam paper and those that one did not study did not appear, this would be deemed good luck or good fortune. Similarly, it is important that we recognised the imminence of death and prepare well with good action and deeds, so that we may hope for a good final stage of life and beyond. Not only is death no longer a taboo subject, having the right view and understanding of death can provide an opportunity to prepare us for a good rebirth in future lives (i.e. rebirth into a next life that is better than the current life; the next next life that is better than the next one).

What is meant by end-of-life caregiving? Elaborating on this, Venerable compassionately made the distinction for Buddhists and non-Buddhists, so that all may benefit, as it is of utmost importance to have the right understanding.  Failure to plan is planning to fail – whether one is a Buddhist or not, death is a prospect which everyone needs to face. Hence, we should be prepared in our day-to-day life for this eventuality. If we hold the attitude that there is always tomorrow, then we are only setting ourselves up for worry and regret one day. Using the analogy of life as a warehouse, what should we store in the warehouse that would be of use to us at the end stage of life? What can we do now to prepare for death which may come at any time? To be well-prepared is the key to eradicating our worries and ensure that when it’s time to go, we can face death in a calm and measured manner.

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Once the right understanding has developed, how can we help the terminally-ill to face death?

Firstly, Venerable introduced a four-prong approach – guide the terminally ill person to make known his love, to give thanks, to apologize and to bid farewell. Do not hesitate to express love, thankfulness, apologies and farewells to friends and loves ones – don’t let them leave this world with any flaw or regrets.

Next, guide him to acknowledge and affirm all the deeds and actions that he has done in this life that are positive and meaningful, and do not attempt to convert his religious beliefs. If he is open to the idea, we can teach him to chant the Buddha’s name to build confidence. The people or things which he hates or covets must not appear before him at all costs, so as to allow him a calm and peaceful environment to leave this world.

Finally, the terminally-ill can practice the technique of visualisation, i.e. visualise that the suffering of all sentient beings is being turned into black smoke that enters his left nostril, then being converted into white smoke with the energy from his body, wealth and kindness – and leaving his body through his right nostril to all sentient beings. Doing so can help alleviate the pain caused by his illness. It is advisable to let him lie down on his right side during the moment of his passing, as this will minimise any disturbance and encourage virtuous thoughts!