So, What Comes Next?

One of the curious things that happens when I tell people I study Buddhism, is the apparent need to compare my beliefs to their own. I usually get asked the same batch of questions:

“So, do you believe in God?” (Yes, indeed I do!)

“Do you believe in life after death?” (I do, in fact. This is not discounting the concept of reincarnation that most Buddhists subscribe to)

“Oh, you’re one of those meditating people, right? Do you meditate?” (Yes, in fact I’m meditating right now to get through this conversation!)

All jokes aside, I never shy away from answering questions when someone is curious about a subject I have some knowledge on. But the aspect I want to discuss today is the concept of life after death. Let’s be honest, we have all wondered what happens when we die. At some point, we have wondered and/or hoped about the concept of heaven. Some people completely discount the possibility. Atheist, Humanists and Secularists especially, will have a reasonably firm opinion that there are no pearly gates waiting once we pass away.

However, science has been able to provide some insight, even for those who don’t follow a faith-driven lifestyle. The best explanation I could muster came out of me back in 2013, while speaking with my aunt.

Growing up, I only had one aunt on my father’s side. Although her name was Iris, the whole family always called her Cookie. She lived in the southern part of New Brunswick until her divorce, after which she moved to Alberta. It would be almost twenty years before I would see her again.

Before that came to happen, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It wasn’t until my work brought me out to the Prairies that I was in a position to go visit her. I traveled from South-Central Saskatchewan to Edmonton, Alberta where I spent three wonderful days with Aunt Cookie. Despite her waning health, she was so full of life and smiles. She was the perfect example of a person making the best of the living moment, instead of contemplating what was to come.

On the third day, before I got on the road to travel back to Saskatchewan, we enjoyed a light lunch at a local eatery, where we had the opportunity to discuss life and what Aunt Cookie may or may not believe would be coming. As we discussed, I remembered describing something to her that I would be repeating to others for the years that would follow:

“Most people fall under two categories. Those who believe we go to heaven when we die, and those who don’t! If you live a faith-driven existence, then you should be confident in what your faith has taught you. If you’re right, then you’ll be headed to heaven. Even if you don’t have faith, science has proven that living beings are energy-based. At our very cores, we are composed of energy at the very atomic levels. And science has proven that energy can never be destroyed or cease to exist; it simply transforms. So even if you lead your life without a religious faith, science has proven that once we pass away, our energy will transform or move on to some other level. So, no matter what you believe, you should trust that this is not the end…”

Make of that what you will, but it makes sense, right? And it did make my Aunt Cookie feel better and potentially gave her some peace.

My Aunt Iris, or “Cookie” as the family would call her

My aunt passed away about six months later, but not before getting to meet the woman who would become my wife.

The bottom line is that we have no way of knowing what comes next. At least, not without going there to see for ourselves. And I don’t know about you but I don’t plan on finding out anytime soon. I have WAY too many things I want to get done first. Live life to the fullest and take the time to appreciate the now. Make every minute count.

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life.

5 thoughts on “So, What Comes Next?”

  1. Ah such a great story with a great ending. It’s nice to meet another Canadian here on WordPress. I am from Edmonton.
    In zen do you guys have anything like phowa or the transference of consciousness at death? It’s one of the six yogas of Naropa.
    QP

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    1. There are the Six Practices for Reaching the other Shores of Enlightenment. I’m thinking that even if if they aren’t exactly the same, there are likely some pretty close similarities.

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      1. I’m not sure that “romantic” is the term i would use to describe it, but certainly…

        The perfection of the six practices for reaching the other shore of Enlightenment are, the path of offering, the path of keeping precepts, the path of endurance, the path of endeavour, the path of concentration of mind and the path of wisdom. By following these paths, one can surely pass from the shore of delusion over to the shore of Enlightenment.

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      2. I thought about that romantic part afterwards, what I meant was poetic. I wish wordpress would let you edit comments.
        We know these practices as the 6 Paramitas, or sometimes the 10 Paramitas as wisdom can be broken out into 4 parts. The six yogas of Naropa are very different and exotic. They are as follows 1. Tummo or inner heat 2. Gyulu yoga of the illusory body. 3. Osle, the yoga of clear light. 4. Milam, the yoga of the dream state. 5 Bardo, the yoga of the intermediate state (such as between waking and sleeping or birth and death) and 6. Phowa, the yoga of the transference of consciousness to a pure Buddha-field at the time of death.
        I have had the opportunity to practice Phowa and the dream state without having to do a long retreat but more often than not retreats are required. It is said that all practices lead to enlightenment in one lifetime.

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