Death & Dying

Signs of Death

If we know what these distant signs of death are….
we shall be warned to make preparations that will benefit our future life.

The signs of death are of two kinds: distant and close. The distant signs can be experienced even when we are not suffering from any particular illness. They are experienced between six and three months before we die, and are of three kinds: bodily signs, mental signs, and dream signs. They do not necessarily indicate that we shall soon die, but if they persist this means that death is probably imminent. If we know what these distant signs of death are, we shall know when we are experiencing them, and so we shall be warned to make preparations that will benefit our future life. We shall know that it is time to make sure that we are engaging in pure Dharma practice and to apply any methods we have learnt for extending our life span, such as the practices of Amitayus and White Tara. If these are not successful we should definitely apply the practice of powa.

Distant Signs of Death

Some of the distant bodily signs of death are the following: while we are passing urine or excrement we continuously hiccup; we can no longer hear the buzzing sound of our inner ear when we block our ears; when we apply pressure against our fingernails and then release it the blood does not quickly return; during sexual intercourse, if we are a woman we release white drops instead of red and if we are a man we release red drops instead of white; for no reason we cannot taste things; for no reason we cannot smell things; our exhaled breath is cold – when we blow on our hand it feels cold instead of warm; our tongue shrinks and feels rolled or swollen, and when we poke it out we can no longer see its tip; in the dark when we press the top of our eyeball with our finger so that the eyeball protrudes a little we can no longer see colourful shapes and patterns; we hallucinate a sun at night; when we sit in the sun in the morning we can no longer see in our shadow streams of energy flowing from the crown of our head; saliva no longer forms in our mouth; the end of our nose becomes pinched; black marks appear on our teeth; our eyeballs sink further into the hollows of our eyes.

Distant mental signs of death include: a change in our usual temperament – for example, we become aggressive when we are usually kind and gentle, or we become gentle when we are usually aggressive and ill-tempered; for no reason we begin to dislike the place where we live, our friends, or other objects of attachment; we feel sad for no reason; our wisdom and intelligence become less clear and less powerful.

Distant dream signs include repeated dreams that we are falling from a high mountain, that we are naked, or that we are travelling south on our own across a desert.

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All quotations from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books copyright The New Kadampa Tradition - International Buddhist Union, all rights reserved worldwide. For more information on Geshe Kelsang's books visit Tharpa Publications.