I have been trying to analyse NDE stories from a meditator's point of view. The way people change after a NDE is, in some cases, similar to the changes a person goes through after meditating for a while (i. e. less materialist, more calm, serene, not affraid of dying, less attachment to the "I"...). It is a life changing experience just like meditation when taken seriously.

In general NDE fits well in the Dhamma, showing for instance that the mind does not depend upon the body.

Let's accept NDE as true for a while. What I don't get and want some help is: almost all NDE are nice and positive (similarly to going to heaven). In the Dhamma we usually hear that most people are reborn in the awful planes due to their kamma. Some monks even say people sometimes get a glimpse of their future realm of rebirth. That would suggest NDE should be bad and traumatic for most people, but it is not! I don't believe so many people are going to be reborn in heaven, based on the way people live and all ignorance and anger in the world.

Also, most people after a NDE claim to have seen and talked to dead family members or even pets, would that imply necessarily that they were all in the hungry ghost realm? Or could they be devas, but keeping the same old shape?!

I know fitting NDE 100% into the Dhamma may be impossible, but I appreciate any help!

  • seeing is seeing – Ryan Sep 14 '15 at 21:22
  • Please elaborate :) – konrad01 Sep 15 '15 at 0:08
  • seeing is like a dream. After looong dream (he) will be born again.(Awake) to samsara. – Shrawaka Sep 15 '15 at 1:48

NDE's are true. Just as true as any other experience. When there is seeing, this is the experience of seeing. It arises and ceases.

“Again, bhikkhus, when walking, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I am walking’; when standing, he understands: ‘I am standing’; when sitting, [57] he understands: ‘I am sitting’; when lying down, he understands: ‘I am lying down’; or he understands accordingly however his body is disposed."

“And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating feelings as feelings? Here, when feeling a pleasant feeling, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I feel a pleasant feeling’; when feeling a painful feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a painful feeling’; when feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.’ When feeling a worldly pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a worldly pleasant feeling’; when feeling an unworldly pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel an unworldly pleasant feeling’; when feeling a worldly painful feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a worldly painful feeling’; when feeling an unworldly painful feeling, he understands: ‘I feel an unworldly painful feeling’; when feeling a worldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a worldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling’; when feeling an unworldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel an unworldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling."

“And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects? Here a bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five hindrances. And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five hindrances? Here, there being sensual desire in him, a bhikkhu understands: ‘There is sensual desire in me’; or there being no sensual desire in him, he understands: ‘There is no sensual desire in me’; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of unarisen sensual desire, and how there comes to be the abandoning of arisen sensual desire, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of abandoned sensual desire.’ “There being ill will in him … There being sloth and torpor in him … There being restlessness and remorse in him … There being doubt in him, a bhikkhu understands: ‘There is doubt in me’; or there being no doubt in him, he understands: ‘There is no doubt in me’; and he understands how there comes to be the arising of unarisen doubt, and how there comes to be the abandoning of arisen doubt, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of abandoned doubt."

“Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects [61] in terms of the five aggregates affected by clinging. And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five aggregates affected by clinging? Here a bhikkhu understands: ‘Such is material form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception, such its origin, such its disappearance; such are the formations, such their origin, such their disappearance; such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.’ 39. “In this way he abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects internally, externally, and both internally and externally … And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five aggregates affected by clinging.

In this way, seeing is seeing. Trying to prescribe anything else to it in an ultimate sense is false attribution.

  • Is there seeing? – Shrawaka Sep 15 '15 at 1:55
  • @Ryan, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that people who've had NDEs can meditate on the experience; hopefully to realize that the NDE is not something to be taken too seriously. Right? – Anthony Sep 15 '15 at 3:42
  • @Anthony indeed. or at least, just to be taken as seriously as any other experience. as far as I understand, at least :) – Ryan Sep 15 '15 at 10:43
  • I don't agree with seeing because the eyes are not working. Maybe "thinking" would be more accurate, the 5 doors are not working when the body is dead. I do think NDE deserve some more analysis, but I see your point. – konrad01 Sep 15 '15 at 11:31

I recommend studying the Six Yogas of Naropa and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, specificlaly the pre-Bardo stages which is the Buddhist equivalent of NDE.

One thing in particular that is mentioned is that people's wishful thinking will be actualized. If a person believed in the Buddha, they will see the Buddha, if a person believed they were a bad person, they will see hell.

This is a precursor to the actual stage of Bardo and is also why it is important to die happy. I have read some good books about this topic, some of which explains tricks and tactics to succeed in gaining Enlightenment after death (mainly it involves maintaining composure and not being alarmed by anything that may arise) from the Tibetan school.

  • If a person behaved like a Deva(God), they will be devas. – Shrawaka Sep 15 '15 at 1:44

When you get a NDE you get an impression of your pending death and impermanence of life. Because of this impression you perhaps may get the benefits of contemplating on death.

mindfulness is established on death as the object,

the mental hindrances are suppressed,

the dhyana-factors appear.

...

And,a monk devoted to this mindfulness of death, is constantly diligent.

He gains the perception of non-delight in all existence.

He abandons longing for life.

He is one who censures the bad.

He is not one who stores up much.

He is free from the taint of avarice.

And the perception of impermanence grows in him.

Source: Maraṇa Sati Kathā by Piya Tan

Nearing the point of death you are get sign of the a Kamma you have performed. Sometimes what you see is a sign of what you did maybe the person involved. This explains seeing dead relatives. Also you will see signs of where you will be reborn. If you like or dislikes a person, or the person owes you something and you are destined to be born near where the person is born then you might again see such people. These are in most cases signs and you are not really seeing the being. For more information on the process nearing the death of a being see the section The mind at the time of death in The Abhidhamma in Practice by N.K.G. Mendis.

If the Karma that has come up at the point of death is of positive nature you might get positive looking signs like lights, angels, etc.

NDE is very rare experience but the same benefits can be reaped from contemplation of death. See my answers on this topic: How do I do “contemplation of death” meditation? And is it dangerous?, Is contemplation of death auto-suggestion?

There is also the practice of Phowa (ejection of consciousness - one of the 6 Yogas mentioned above. As a practice it is not done fully - that would be done when dieing - but is a preparation for conscious dying.

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