Very sick relative

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Very sick relative

Post by Tom » Wed Oct 02, 2013 12:24 am

A relative of mine is very sick with anaplastic thyroid cancer and might not survive for for too much longer, so I am worried about his potential rebirth and whether or not he'll die as a (non-bodhisatta/paccekabodhisatta) putthujana. How do any of you think I should approach this situation? To my knowledge, he doesn't know much about the buddhadhamma , so I'm curious how I can effectively present it to him

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by reflection » Wed Oct 02, 2013 12:35 am

I'm sorry to hear. But I wouldn't present your ideas about this to him. People live their own lives and die their own death. Where they'll go and what they'll do is not up to us to know or mingle with. It is determined by acts from the past.

I think it's better to look at your own feelings. Why do you worry and why are you afraid? Only our own karma is what we can do something with. Even the Buddha had no power to change somebody else's.

Hope this helps in any way.

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by santa100 » Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:05 am

I'm sorry to hear about your relative's situation. Imho, it can't hurt to try to first introduce him to some practical Dhamma that aren't too doctrine-intensive like breath and mindfulness meditation or cultivating the minds of loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. If he's interested, then you can get him further into the 3 characteristics, refuge in the 3 Jewels, 4NT, 8NP, 12 DO... If not, at least he could still enjoy the mental and physical benefits of meditation and of cultivating positive wholesome thoughts..
Last edited by santa100 on Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:15 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by SarathW » Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:06 am

Sorry to here that!
I can relate to your experience. I travelled 7000 km to help one of my dying close relative. Mara did not let that happen!
Buddhism is not an easy thing to learn in the last hour of someone’s life.
The best thing I can think is, ask him/her to have faith on his own religion (Christianity etc).
At least he will have a favourable re- birth.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by PsychedelicSunSet » Wed Oct 02, 2013 2:09 am

If you want to actively do something, maybe consider Tonglen? It's a Tibetan practice (outside of the Theravada tradition to my knowledge), but could provide some relief. In addition, I recommend reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Once again, falling under Tibetan traditions. However it was recommended to me by a (Theravadan Forest) Monk as being one of the best books on the topic of death he's read. It has both things in it that may help you, and your loved one if he reads it. However presenting it to him would also be presenting to him the idea that he may die, which may not end well.

May you both attain peace.


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Re: Very sick relative

Post by chownah » Wed Oct 02, 2013 2:55 am

I don't know about you but when I die I don't think I will want some Christian evangelist to come to me and start telling me about how Jesus can save me. I hope your relative will not view your attempts to save him in the same light.

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by LG2V » Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:18 am

Hi Tom,

I can think of one thing that will be helpful to do. You can make an offering to the Monastic Sangha with the resolve to purify your mind and make much merit, and dedicate the merit to your relative. When you next speak with or meet your relative, you can tell him that you donated money to charity in his honor, and that he should rejoice in the goodness. Many Buddhist monasteries and organizations are registered charities worldwide.

It is a true statement that may not offend him. If you do not wish to disclose the identity of the Buddhist monastery, that is fine. If you wish, you can donate to other organizations as well, so that if asked "Where?" you may respond, "To X, Y, and several places," without mentioning any Buddhist organizations.

I did something along those lines when a relative of mine, a devout Christian, was very ill as well. It seems to have been of great help.

In addition, you can provide comforting words, reminding your relative of the goodness that he has done for you and others throughout his life, of the help that he has provided, and of wise and wholesome thoughts. You do not necessarily have to mention Buddhism. I think that a lot of Dhamma can be presented as secular. If asked, you can say something like, "I learned this from a very wise person."

These things will likely positively affect your relative's mental state in this life, as well as his future rebirth. I wish you and your relative the best.

Here are some excellent sites for giving free Dana (Click-Based Donation):

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by DNS » Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:31 am

Don't worry about it. If he was good, good results await.

According to Buddhism anyone can go to heaven.

Another person has practiced the making of merit by giving as well as by moral discipline to a high degree; but he has not undertaken the making of merit by meditation. With the breakup of the body, after death, he will be reborn among humans in a favorable condition. Or he will be reborn in the company of the devas of the Four Great Kings.” Anguttara Nikaya 4.241-243

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by DrRPDB » Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:10 am


You are blessed to be in such a position to offer help to your dying relative! Having received my LMSW training at hospice, i can offer a few words of general advice.

I would talk openly with him about both death and his religious perspectives on the matter. It has been my experience that most people are very appreciative to these efforts. Some choose not to discuss these matters and others embrace the opportunity, but I have yet to find the subject matter offensive or harmful - more often it is welcome that someone cares to talk about something of which they are surly thinking! If you really listen to their reply you will know what you do from there forward.

In the three jewels

The bird is singing.

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by nasrudin » Thu Oct 03, 2013 6:55 pm

I had the same situation while ago. These aren't easy questions to answer. In my (or his) case it didn't feel right to introduce at his last moments some new ideas about life and death. I felt it's better to support and enjoy that what is still there while it lasts, rather than trying change something in him. All I could do was try to make dying easier for him so that he could leave with peace. One moment I remember from those two weeks in a hospital was when he was feeling little bit sorry of that what was going to happen. I remember him saying, "summer is coming...", i replied "sooner or later, that first summer must come..", reminding him of that what has been always his own attitude to death - a natural thing in which there is nothing to be sorry of. After this it was like some burden would have dropped off and some energy began to fill him. His eyes were shining and he picked up something to eat. I guess that also meant to him that he shouldn't be worried about me. Two days later he passed away and I happened to be there at the time. He was strongly medicated, but there was actually something very beautiful and serene as he passed away, which is why it didn't feel all that bad that I'd thought that moment. Even a close relative who came half an hour later to the hospital said that the first thing she noted when she came into a room was a deep sense of peacefulness.

I don't know if this was any help for you, but I wish all the best to you and your relative/s.

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by Aloka » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:24 pm

My opinion is not to try to push something new onto him if he's terminally ill. Just be loving and supportive and help him to have as peaceful a death as possible.


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Re: Very sick relative

Post by daverupa » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:41 pm

In my opinion, your best bet is to be present with them for conversations they direct while you offer compassion and good will throughout.

Often, probably, silence will persist, and the trick will be not performing actions (speech, etc.) just to assuage your own discomforts but which instead respond to the mutual needs of the wider network of supporting individuals involved in this environment during this time, yourself as well as others.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Very sick relative

Post by dagon » Thu Oct 03, 2013 10:04 pm

End of life situations are difficult for difficult for the one that is going and the ones that will remain. While it is easy to understand where you are coming from your ability to change situations at this time is very limited. What you can control is your mind and your behaviors. I am not suggestion that you try and pretend the situation is different than it is, or that you should lie. What you can do is to make sure that your mind is at peace and that your emotions are balanced with equanimity. Apply the Dhamma and practice to the situation but do not try and impose your beliefs on to the sick relative.

As Dave said be there, if they want to talk- be comfortable to talk, if they want to be silent be silent. Talk about what they want to talk about, let them set the agendas. It’s not really the time to bring in subjects that will add to their confusion and/or uncertainty.

Be comfortable with the silence if that is what they want. Often people want to reflect on what is happening and that is their right. Handling the silence is often harder for the relative than talking but what the sick person often needs is for there to be someone there – nothing more nothing less. Be there for the sick person, don’t make that person believe that they have to be there for you.

Last night at work I started the shift with a resident and friend wanting to discuss what would happen to them with their cancer/ death. Mid shift had a resident who I had looked after for the last year pass away. End of shift talking the family of my deceased friend.


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Re: Very sick relative

Post by nibbuti » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:14 am

Tom wrote: might not survive for for too much longer ... How do any of you think I should approach this situation?
Hi Tom. 1. Don't think/worry about it for him, 2. spend as much time with him as possible.

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