For those who are scared of growing old and death, what would be a well thought out response be? My first thoughts on it would be, if you learn to meditate, you are going to enjoy your old age, and you will never fear death. But that is not an answer that will go down well with many people. So this is a question that cries out for a mature, seasoned response?

  • @Saptha I guess this may be a follow-on to this previous question of yours i.e. you want an answer that's phrased/intended/explained for someone who isn't familiar with Buddhism.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 12, 2016 at 20:48
  • Yes, @ChrisW… and there are a few other questions in the same vein that I’ve come up with that even others could ask the group for answers. Few of those are… Inner peace in a chaotic world; How do I not let everything get to me?; Letting go of anger and pride; Dealing with aggressive & negative people; Getting over a broken heart; Is love & attachment negative in Buddhism; How to bring the practice to daily life; Loneliness & dependence; How to deal with regret? Jun 12, 2016 at 21:26
  • Also if someone else could ask the following questions, I’d love to give my take on them: How to find your spiritual path again; How does one let go of something that really hurt them in the past?; Living a normal modern life & practicing Buddhism; How should one deal with loneliness; avoiding rebirth in the hell realm; How should one deal with loneliness; Correcting bad kamma; letting go of ego; Any meditation tips for someone full of self hatred, rage or pain?;How do I not let everything get to me; The ‘other woman’ & adultery. Jun 12, 2016 at 21:37
  • You can see there are innumerable question you could invent. Beware that in the past most users said that they don't want to see "seeded" questions: i.e. if you ask a question it should be because you want an answer, not because you think that other people ought to want an answer to that question. See Can we ask questions which could be meant to teach one a lesson? and the three other topics (e.g. Should Buddhism.SE be seeded with entry level questions?) which are linked from that answer.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 13, 2016 at 7:43
  • Thank you @ChrisW for letting me know. Going forward I will abide rules. Jun 13, 2016 at 10:06

7 Answers 7


Once two old people approached the Buddha, Upasaka Saptha Visuddhi, and told that they missed to made merits, now fearing death. The Buddha, honest forward, for the sake of benefit for many listening to it, Simply said, that they fear righteously and then utterd:

It's swept along:

life, its next-to-nothing span.

For one swept on by aging

no shelters exist.

Keeping sight of this danger in death,

do meritorious deeds

that bring bliss.

Whoever here is restrained

in body, speech, & awareness,

who makes merit while he's alive:

that will be for his bliss after death.

AN 3.51

Often it's good that the Ox sees the down so that he moves faster, if one still does not hurry, one is no match even for on ox, as Ajahn Chah once told.

If having done merits, having arrived to all blessing (Upasika Nina van Gorkom, now over 90 already if still alive, once gave Atma one of here teachings on it, to be shared as gift of Dhamma further), what has one to fear? And no need to hurry any more.

Look at all the youth, all those who are drunken in youth, health and live, yet they do not really fear, wasting this precious time that could be over even today.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other wordily gains]


A good response is one of good demonstrative right intention(or action).

Then they might inquire further and if so, maybe tell them about some fundamental Dhamma.

  • Yes, @Uilium... it is only through deep and thorough experiential knowledge that a true transformation can be expected. So it is in the 'action' where the answer lies, but a great many of us try to gain this otherness intellectually. It never happens. Jun 17, 2016 at 0:07

Similar to a modern counselor, the Gautama Supreme Buddha was 'client centered'.

Due to psychic power, the Gautama Supreme Buddha taught people what was suitable for them.

However, because you don't have psychic power, a starting point is to ask (with equanimity) the other person what they think will happen at death.

  • You bring to the table a different level of thinking... @Dhammadhatu. I am glad to have you as a Noble Friend. Dhamma is ' Paccattam veditabbo viññuhiti'. ~ To be realized by the wise, each for himself. Jun 17, 2016 at 0:12

Relief from the fear of death comes from the recognition of the true self. When one recognizes that the body is not the self, the mind is not the self, etc., and that one's true nature is timeless, the fear of physical death subsides. Death is a stripping away of all of those things that are not self anyway.

  • If only you and I can become Stream Entrants, then you and I are destined to be born in the Heavens in our next life. The question is whether we can become a “Sothapanna” before we pass on..... Then we are saved. The “Thayodhamma Sutta” in the Anguttara Nikaya tells us how to go about it. Jun 16, 2016 at 23:54

One could take the opportunity to explain the Dhamma or give instructions on insight meditation practice.

The only way to really overcome this is to take the fear as the object of meditation and learn about it and understand it by discovering its characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self - The Three Gateways to Liberation.

  • Yes, @Sri Lanka... that is the Threefold Gateway. That is the road for a person attaining Sovan Phala, then he gets a glimpse of Nirvana and the defilements he has to eradicate are similar to the grains of sand on the fingertips. The number of defilements he has eradicated are similar to the grains of sand in the vast expense of the Earth. Then will there be any fear left? Jun 17, 2016 at 0:03

In a comment (now deleted) Bharat suggested this answer:

"I would say Sattpatana Sutta gives us the means that realize the impermanent nature of all dhammas by meditating on various dhammas and observing their impermanent nature. Especially meditation on the 9 stages of corpse."


Scared of growing old is a nagging kind of a fear. It is not like the fear for one’s future, one’s financial situation, ones separation from a loved one, of having a terrible accident. These are false fears that actually never will happen. But death is inevitable and the fear of it is very real when people are really possessive of their bodies.

There’s this old gospel song, “When I'm growing old and feeble, When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me”. Also the key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement - the song "We Will Overcome" comes to mind. Unlike praying for this, or hoping for such, we can look to the scriptures for some advice as to what concrete steps that we can take to get rid of this nagging fear. The Buddha says there are four reasons why death scares us, as us in fear. First is attachment to the body. Second is attachment to sensual pleasures. Third is the knowledge that we’ve done cruel and horrible things to other people, to other beings, and fear that after death we’re going to be punished for it. And the fourth reason is not having seen the true Dhamma, having doubts about the true Dhamma. If we are to learn to overcome these four causes of fear, death won’t bring suffering. If we are to learn to deal with our fear of death so that it won’t freak us out, we must see these four points in ourselves.

Take the first two of the four points. It’s easy for us to see that there are lots of drawbacks to sensual desire but part of the mind refuses go that way. It’s afraid, because if we don’t get immersed in sensual desires, we fear there is going to be no pleasure in life at all. Even if the first two points may sound rather difficult, could we not be true to the third point? Then at a later date we can take up the first two.

Regarding the third of the four points, Thanissaro Bhikku once wrote:

“These are the activities that we have to engage in order to prepare, in order to withstand the storm—not just before the storm hits, but all the way throughout the storm. Being generous, observing the precepts, and meditating keep us strong, keep us from getting blown away. If your survival is accomplished without generosity, without virtue, without meditation, it’s not worth much. It’s not the sort of survival that keeps you healthy and well-nourished. You look at survivors of war, who had to go and kill and steal and cheat and bomb, and then go into a lot of denial about it. Look at all the veterans of past wars, emotionally scarred for life. They did survive, but at a huge cost, the cost of the skilful roots in the mind. It’s by nourishing the skilful roots that the health of the mind survives. Even if we have to leave this particular body, at least the mind has the potential for sending out skilful roots wherever it finds itself the next time around. It’s nourished with its inner sense of well-being, truthfulness, self-honesty. You look at your behaviour and there’s nothing you have to hide from yourself.”

Regarding the fourth point, the purification by overcoming doubt (kankhāvitarana-visuddhi) 'purification by overcoming doubt', is the 4th of the 7 stages of purification (saptha visuddhi). But this a another subject altogether.

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