There are probably a lot of ways to prepare for death. I myself can't come up with more than:

  • Reflecting on ones own death on a daily basis;
  • Don't buy stuff that's useless so that it's easier for loved ones to clean up after you.

Are there more things one could do? And what do you yourself to prepare? Looking for inspiration.

So, I'm not so much interested in the process of dying, but what you do on a daily basis in the years and decades before.


9 Answers 9


I prepare for death by watching clouds.

Appearances of entities arise when certain elements come together, and then morph beyond recognition as elements drift apart.

Death is all around us at all times. Everything is changing, always. I prepare for death by letting go of fixed ideas about who I am. Every moment is a different configuration and there's no me in that.

There is no birth and death, only continuous transformation. I learned this by watching the clouds.

  • Accepted because of its sheer simplicity. :)
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 12:44

There is some excerpt authored by Dalai Lama if you are not negative towards Tibetan Buddhism and the Great Vehicle in general. This is how he approaches preparations for death, with some steps of advice: Preparing to Die.

Generally speaking, this topic of preparations is covered in depth by Tibetans, this is why they oftentimes wear skull beads, to be constantly reminded of death. If you discern a couple of contextual (Vajrayanic) notions you might find it valuable.

Summary of advice from Advice on Dying: And Living a Better Life by Dalai Lama:

  1. If you cultivate a sense of the uncertainty of the time of death, you will make better use of your time.
  2. To prevent procrastination with regard to spiritual practice, take care not to come under the influence of the illusion of permanence.
  3. Realize that no matter how wonderful a situation may be, its nature is such that it must end.
  4. Do not think that there will be time later.
  5. Be frank about facing your own death. Skillfully encourage others to be frank about their deaths. Do not deceive each other with compliments when the time of death is near. Honesty will foster courage and joy.
  • The 'Summary Advice' on the bottom of the page contains some useful pointers. This kind of advice is indeed what I'm looking for. Thanks. :)
    – user13579
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 13:25
  • These sound more like an preparation for life than for death. Probably intentionally. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 19:52

You wouldn't ask this question unless there is some fear or worry of dying. Otherwise you might as well ask "how to prepare for the setting of the sun?".

So you need to work on that fear. But, what causes this fear?

Tanhaya japati soko
tanhaya jayati bhayam
tanhaya vippamuttassa
natthi soko kuto bhayam.

Craving begets sorrow, craving begets fear. For him who is free from craving there is no sorrow; how can there be fear for him?

Dhammapada Verse 216

Hence you need to work on eliminating craving. Enlightened beings do not have such questions regarding death as they do not fear or worry.

  • I have no reason to fear death. :)
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 12:45
  • Then this question is as valid as asking "how do i prepare for exhaling after inhaling?" :) Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 14:28
  • No, @Sankha. That is just your opinion. I have a different one.
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 16:46
  • @Medhini it's not like I'm going to tell your opinion in my answer :) Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 1:11

To prepare for death I imagine that when I will be dying I won't die like I have died all my past lives and I won't die in suffering.

I imagine that I have attained Nibbana and I will be dying a conscious and aware death. I will know that death is coming and I will know that death is happening.

I imagine I won't have to come back. The holy life would have been lived.

  • If I understand you correctly you're preparing for death by imagening how you would be at that time? Do you practise those imaginations daily, weekly? It's not really clear to me yet.
    – user13579
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 10:54
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    I am not preparing for my bodily death, I am preparing for my 'ego death' which I understand as Nibbana. So its kind of paradox that in the preparation of later you are preparing for the former. I dont do it as a practise, like daily or weekly, only when thought about death comes to my mind, I think about the way I will be dying. This also helps to strengthen my practise. So to answer your exact question, 'what do you do to prepare for death?' I practise dhamma to attain Nibbana to prepare for my death. I hope this clears the confusion.
    – user13135
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 12:23

Focusing more on your second point rather than the spiritual aspect of getting to grips with the prospect of your own death:

[making it] easier for loved ones to clean up after you.

There are many things you can do to help your loved ones in such a situation. Generally, the hardest thing to do for people in mourning is to take decisions. So, in addition to making it easier on them by not having much clutter, make sure that there's a clear plan. The plan may vary based on your culture and that of your loved ones, it may also vary based on your local laws because not all countries handle an individual's death the same way.

For example, a plan may include

  • a written will (make sure it is clear, with no room for interpretation). Depending on your local laws you may want to consult a lawyer or other professional.

  • Funeral arrangements: a clear outline of your choice regarding cremation/embalming/burial, whether or not you want a wake, choose your clothes and casket etc.

Basically go through all the decisions that need to be made after one's death and try to make as many as you can yourself before you pass. When my uncle passed away (car accident), my grandparents found out just how much effort was involved in planning the procedures. They planned everything for their own funerals so that we wouldn't have to go through it when they passed - they even paid for it in advance so that there would be no financial stress in the mourning period. It made it much easier for the whole family to go along with the plan than to come up with one when the time came.

In addition to making it easier on your loved ones, having a plan ensures that you get what you want.

  • Is this what you personally do to prepare for death? Or don't you consider death at all? Like, it's more something for later in life?
    – user13579
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 14:28
  • 1
    It's not a complete list, and doesn't include any of the psychological approach for death. There were already many good suggestions for the spiritual side of things, so I focused on more concrete steps to take. You mentioned buying less things as a considerate act towards people dear to you that would have to clean up after you, so I expanded on that list and named a few things that could make it easier for your close ones to clean up after you pass. I'm still in my early twenties so I haven't gone through that list myself yet, but I plan to do it later in life.
    – Aubreal
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 13:21

From page 82 of this Vinaya commentary, The Buddhist Monastic Code I: The Patimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

Thus, the Commentary notes, a bhikkhu talking to a dying patient should [... focus on ...] how to inspire the patient with the following thoughts:

“The attainment of the paths and fruitions is not out of the ordinary for a virtuous person. So, having formed no attachment for such things as your dwelling, and establishing mindfulness in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, or the body, you should be heedful in your attention.”

The Vinita-vatthu to Pr 4 contains a number of stories in which bhikkhus comfort a dying bhikkhu by asking him to reflect on what he has attained through the practice, which was apparently a common way of encouraging a dying bhikkhu to focus his thoughts on the best object possible. The suttas also contain advice on how to encourage patients facing death. See, for example, MN 143, SN 36.7, and AN 6.16. In all of these cases, the advice is aimed [...] at inspiring calm and insight.

Some/various schools of Buddhism have a detailed doctrine on this subject e.g. Tibetan Nyingma tradition referenced in this answer to How to die professionally?

Other related topics may include Experiencing physical pain and Last thought before death?

One more reference -- a Zen story: Three Days More

I think a lot of people will say that the best preparation is the "enter the stream" (and so also abandon identity-view).

  • This is when one dies and/or the days/weeks leading up to it. What about now, the current situation? You don't contemplate it? What do you do personally? And do you think that stream-enterers no longer have to prepare for death at all?
    – user13579
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 10:58
  • 1
    What about now, the current situation? I thought the quote suggested that now would be a good time for "attainment of the paths and fruitions", to have a "best object possible" on which to focus thoughts. And do you think that stream-enterers no longer have to prepare for death at all? Ven. Yuttadhammo wrote, "the conclusion I make is that it's not that Buddhists believe in rebirth, it's that we don't believe in death ... True death only occurs either at every moment or at the experience of nibbana."
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 11:08
  • Sorry, none of it answers my original question.
    – user13579
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 11:13
  • 1
    @Medhiṇī Death comes (e.g. for your family and friends) whether you're prepared for it or not. After it comes, you're living with it all the time.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 11:18

If the previous post doesn't answer your question...here's something, I don't do but know people do.

Read the 'Tibetan book of the Dead', it will teach you everything that's going to happen after you die and before you will be reborn. In the bardo. You do the pratice to prepare for whats to come.

Also you can learn, how to attain 'rainbow body' when you die. Its an esoteric Tibetan practise I read in Jetsunma Tenzing Plamos book. Though nobody but the Lamas can teach you how to do that. This will surely prepare you for death.

  • I'll put that on my Buddhist-bucket-list. Thanks. :)
    – user13579
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 13:30

There is no "you" or "I" which dies. Birth, life, and death all happen, but rather than have the experience as it truly is, we remain in a tiny box sometimes called "the ego" which has a hard time seeing anything except as it pertains to itself. This is only a delusion. One prepares for death the same way one prepares for life, by finding liberation from this small limited ego-self. In fact, life itself is the best preparation for death, because of the natural lessons that arise when one awakens to them.

No Death, No Fear -- Comforting Wisdom for Life by Thich Nhat Hanh.

  • 1
    Hi Eric. Not to complain but just fyi, when posting a link or a reference it's often good to quote a bit from it -- is there any paragraph in the book that's especially relevant to the question and answer, e.g. to help the OP determine whether they're likely find an answer to their question in that book? Also fwiw I hesitate to post hyperlinks (instead of citing the title) to entire books because of their copyright (conversely, quoting a bit is fair use). But if I do post a hyperlink I include the title as well as the URL, in case e.g. the URL changes in future.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 20:25

I'd like to share an answer I got to this question on a different site.

Plus a suggestion from a monk I don't remember the name of:

  • Keep a 'book of merits'. (Someone can read it to the person lying on the death bed to help remember good things to ease the mind and help a good rebirth.)

And here a video that explains how to contemplate death correctly:

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