Spiritual Perspective On Death And Dying Discussed At Inter-Religious Conference

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By Acharya S.P. Dwivedi

 The  Rabbi Dr. Laura Duhan Kaplan, Program Director of Vancouver School of Theology organized an Inter-Religious Conference, from May 22-24,2018, at UBC in Vancouver.  The theme of the Conference was “Spiritual Perspectives On Death And Dying”. The twenty eight spiritual leaders and scholars  presented the papers covering  the  spiritual, psychological, cultural, meditative, musical,  literary, economical  and philosophical perspectives.

Acharya Dwivedi presented a paper “Navigating Death, Dying and Rebirth Through Hindu Scriptures”. The conference was held at Epiphany Chapel in UBC. All the sessions were well packed with registrants.

Life exists in the time period between birth and death. Believably, during this period a person goes through a variety of physical, mental and spiritual experiences. Certainly, a person is curious to know from where he/she has come and where he/she  will go after death? All the faiths of the world have  dealt it  in their own way but no religion denies the inevitability of death. This physical body is sure to come to end regardless of faith, culture, race, nationality and gender. Also there is no escape  from it  however a person is rich, poor, intellectual or illiterate.

There is another theory of Atman/Soul/Sprit/Rooh that is intimately associated with body. The various scriptures describe its glorious features such as- eternal, conscious, unchangeable and immortal which dwells in body. Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew and Sikh accept its existence but differ on its function. Lord Buddha did not accept nor deny about its presence. He regarded soul-speculation as useless and illusory and came up with the doctrine of Anatta, which is translated under various labels: no soul, no -self, egolessness and soullessness.

Hindu tells that atman is sent back to different bodies via reincarnation and Christian uses the term resurrection, body is resurrected just like Christ after crucifixion. Souls are created when physical bodies are created  and some souls will be redeemed and some rejected by God.

There is stark difference in  religions  about the presence of soul during sleep. Hindu scriptures say that  Atman remains in the body till death while  Islam and Judaism  differ with it.“Sleep is a taste of death”.  The prophet was asked “Do people of Heaven sleep?” He answered “Sleep is the brother of death. People of Heaven do not sleep” (Buyuk HadisKulliyati-5,p.414/10125). Islam says that at night while we sleep our souls return to their source back to Allah  and when we awake it comes back(Quran 6.60).

All speakers agreed that spiritual care facilities should be available in hospitals to  those  persons who are seriously ill or on death beds. A  large number of people participated during  question and answer period. The conference was a huge success from point of view of participation and presentation.