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What Buddhist advice can be given to a dying Buddhist/Christian in order to facilitate the letting go and acceptance many people experience on their deathbeds?

The particular Buddhist/Christian I'm speaking of worries about eternal hell and all the bad karma in her life. Does worrying about Hell have something to do with samvega?

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  • All of the advice below is comforting for one who has "ethical conduct loved by the noble ones". Is there any consolation for one who could not say they've had such conduct?
    – simon
    Jun 20 at 23:29
  • @simon I'm sure everyone has done some good in their lives and can be reminded of it.
    – ruben2020
    2 days ago

2 Answers 2

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The Gilāna Sutta below provides deathbed advice to a lay follower.

At that time several mendicants were making a robe for the Buddha, thinking that when his robe was finished and the three months of the rains residence had passed the Buddha would set out wandering.

Mahānāma the Sakyan heard about this. Then he went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him that he had heard that the Buddha was leaving. He added, “Sir, I haven’t heard and learned it in the presence of the Buddha how a wise lay follower should advise another wise lay follower who is sick, suffering, gravely ill.”

“Mahānāma, a wise lay follower should put at ease another wise lay follower who is sick, suffering, gravely ill with four consolations. ‘Be at ease, sir. You have experiential confidence in the Buddha … the teaching … the Saṅgha … And you have the ethical conduct loved by the noble ones … leading to immersion.’

When a wise lay follower has put at ease another wise lay follower who is sick, suffering, gravely ill with these four consolations, they should say: ‘Are you concerned for your mother and father?’ If they reply, ‘I am,’ they should say: ‘But sir, it’s your nature to die. Whether or not you are concerned for your mother and father, you will die anyway. It would be good to give up concern for your mother and father.’

If they reply, ‘I have given up concern for my mother and father,’ they should say: ‘But are you concerned for your partners and children?’ If they reply, ‘I am,’ they should say: ‘But sir, it’s your nature to die. Whether or not you are concerned for your partners and children, you will die anyway. It would be good to give up concern for your partners and children.’

If they reply, ‘I have given up concern for my partners and children,’ they should say: ‘But are you concerned for the five kinds of human sensual stimulation?’ If they reply, ‘I am,’ they should say: ‘Good sir, heavenly sensual pleasures are better than human sensual pleasures. It would be good to turn your mind away from human sensual pleasures and fix it on the gods of the Four Great Kings.’

If they reply, ‘I have done so,’ they should say: ‘Good sir, the gods of the Thirty-Three are better than the gods of the Four Great Kings …

Good sir, the gods of Yama … the Joyful Gods … the Gods Who Love to Create … the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others … the Gods of the Brahmā realm are better than the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others. It would be good to turn your mind away from the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others and fix it on the Gods of the Brahmā realm.’ If they reply, ‘I have done so,’ they should say: ‘Good sir, the Brahmā realm is impermanent, not lasting, and included within identity. It would be good to turn your mind away from the Brahmā realm and apply it to the cessation of identity.’

If they reply, ‘I have done so,’ then there is no difference between a lay follower whose mind is freed in this way and a mendicant whose mind is freed from defilements; that is, between the freedom of one and the other.”
SN 55.54

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Not Buddha but Ven. Sariputta gives a talk here

[Ven. Sariputta:] "Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to the eye; my consciousness will not be dependent on the eye.' That's how you should train yourself. 'I won't cling to the ear... nose... tongue... body; my consciousness will not be dependent on the body.' ... 'I won't cling to the intellect; my consciousness will not be dependent on the intellect.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to forms... sounds... smells... tastes... tactile sensations; my consciousness will not be dependent on tactile sensations.' ... 'I won't cling to ideas; my consciousness will not be dependent on ideas.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to eye-consciousness... ear-consciousness... nose-consciousness... tongue-consciousness... body-consciousness; my consciousness will not be dependent on body-consciousness.' ... 'I won't cling to intellect-consciousness; my consciousness will not be dependent on intellect-consciousness.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to contact at the eye... contact at the ear... contact at the nose... contact at the tongue... contact at the body; my consciousness will not be dependent on contact at the body.' ... 'I won't cling to contact at the intellect; my consciousness will not be dependent on contact at the intellect.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to feeling born of contact at the eye... feeling born of contact at the ear... feeling born of contact at the nose... feeling born of contact at the tongue... feeling born of contact at the body; my consciousness will not be dependent on feeling born of contact at the body.' ... 'I won't cling to feeling born of contact at the intellect; my consciousness will not be dependent on feeling born of contact at the intellect.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to the earth property... liquid property... fire property... wind property... space property; my consciousness will not be dependent on the space property.' ... 'I won't cling to the consciousness property; my consciousness will not be dependent on the consciousness property.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to form... feeling... perception... thought-fabrications; my consciousness will not be dependent on thought-fabrications.' ... 'I won't cling to consciousness; my consciousness will not be dependent on consciousness.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to the dimension of the infinitude of space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of nothingness; my consciousness will not be dependent on the dimension of nothingness.' ... 'I won't cling to the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception; my consciousness will not be dependent on the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to this world; my consciousness will not be dependent on this world... I won't cling to the world beyond; my consciousness will not be dependent on the world beyond.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to what is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect; my consciousness will not be dependent on that.' That's how you should train yourself."

When this was said, Anathapindika the householder wept and shed tears. Ven. Ananda said to him, "Are you sinking, householder? Are you foundering?"

"No, venerable sir. I'm not sinking, nor am I foundering. It's just that for a long time I have attended to the Teacher, and to the monks who inspire my heart, but never before have I heard a talk on the Dhamma like this."

"This sort of talk on the Dhamma, householder, is not given to lay people clad in white. This sort of talk on the Dhamma is given to those gone forth."

"In that case, Ven. Sariputta, please let this sort of talk on the Dhamma be given to lay people clad in white. There are clansmen with little dust in their eyes who are wasting away through not hearing [this] Dhamma. There will be those who will understand it."

Then Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Ananda, having given this instruction to Anathapindika the householder, got up from their seats and left. Then, not long after they left, Anathapindika died and reappeared in the Tusita heaven. Mn143

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