Wat Sanghathan Thailand
Attachment is deeper than anything. It is the fever which stems from all forms of love. The closeness to parents, children, brothers and sisters, husbands, wives, relatives and friends brings about attachment as well as care and concern towards one another.
At the time of a departure people cannot help worrying about anothers welfare. As time goes on, the attachment will increase. In the end it will be like a loop constricting their minds.
When the final moment of life comes, we are bound to be permanently separated from our loved ones. We who are left behind cannot stop being concerned about them, though their whereabouts are unknown to us.
So questions arise in our mind.
"How are they?"
"Are they happy or unhappy?"
These questions keep us imagining and guessing about all sorts of things. As a result worry and anxiety increase followed by suffering in our mind. As we cannot find the answer of this riddle, the only way to deal with it is to try to do everything that is considered the best for them. So both correct and incorrect things have been done which later on both become doctrines and beliefs which are followed from generations to generations.
The Committee of Wat Sanghathan
According to the custom of cremation which was practised by ancestors and which is followed from generations to generations, monks give sermons and chant before the actual burning of the body.
So how can all of these rituals be performed effectively so that the deceased can benefit from them?
Everybody wants to dedicate merit for the deceased, for the deceased's refuge and remembrance. So anything possible whether it is a personification or an exposition in terms of an idea will be used, to make people realise that a dead person cannot take anything but merit with him or her. The various rituals surrounding death and cremation may be used to illustrate aspects of the Dhamma.
BEFORE THE LAST BREATH
In the past when a person was going to die, he or she was told to take refuge. A banana leaf folded like an envelope containing a flower, incense and candle would be put in the dying person's hands. His or her mother, father, brother or sister would remind the dying relative to think of the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha and the Arahants. In fact one should reflect on the Buddha, the Arahant who is beyond all defilements and suffering from birth, old age, decay and death.
If the dying could keep reflecting on this word "Arahant " until his last breaths, it was believed that he would have travelled the path of happiness. There was an old expression:
"A celestial mansion and a royal chariot are awaiting such a person."
These sayings which were repeated by ancestors are still used now in order to prepare people for death. The banana leaf envelope containing a flower, incense and candle are for offering to "Phra Chulamani" (a Crystal Stupa which houses relics of the Buddha in heaven).
CREATING A SIGN
In the past every dying person wished to go to heaven. If he or she was a grandparent, the grandchildren who knew that the dying person had not yet realised Nibbana, would try to send him or her to heaven to pay respect to "Phra Chulamani" which is in a very pleasant land for celestial beings within Tavatimsa heaven under Indra, the King who rules the heaven. Indra is supposed to have received the Buddha's topknot. The day the Buddha was ordained he made a wish, "If I will become a Buddha, may the topknot never fall to the ground, but if I will not be able to realise Buddhahood, may it do so." He then cut his hair with his sword and threw the topknot into the air. At that moment Indra saw what happened and picked it up with a crystal bowl and with his power of merit turned it into a crystal pagoda called
There were stories in some temples about certain monks who visualised Chulamani in their meditation and who remarked how magnificent it looked and this remark was used as a model to build pagodas. There is no pagoda in the whole world which could match Chulamani's beauty. All celestial beings gather at the Chulamani on every holy day which falls on the 8th and the 15th of waxing moon. They will circumambulate it with lit candles. They hold the meeting for the Dhamma and above all to venerate the Buddha's topknot.
In the past Buddhists believed that heaven existed and determined to visit Tavatimsa after death. In order to get there, they tried to pass away in peace with a banana leaf envelope containing a flower, incense and a candle in their hands. At the same time they reflected on the Arahat, and reflected that they will soon be on their way to pay respect to "Phra Chulamani".
This is called "creating one's own image", to make one's mind peaceful, to visualise a scene of tranquillity without other thoughts. As one is going to die one must cut all attachment, love and hatred.
What prevents us from going to heaven? Where did we get stuck? It is said that three nooses, which are sometimes called "the golden chains", tie us. The first one is around our feet. The second one is around our wrists and the last one is around our neck. The first chain signifies our property whether it is a house, money or land. Happiness, suffering, worry and anxiety are connected with property. Everyday this chain is tying people who have money and who are attached to it. So they loose their freedom. If a human being does not practise generosity, the noose will be very tight. They are called "Incapable of cutting the attachment". They will be imprisoned all their lives. Some people are so burdened by their wealth that they have no time to take precepts or go to the temple to listen to the Dhamma. Their concern for money and property is greater. One who possesses more is more attached. One who has little is less attached and one who has nothing might not be attachment at all.
The second chain which ties people around their wrists represents the attachment between wives and husbands. At the wedding ceremony, a white cord is tied around the bride and groom's wrists together as a symbol of their union. Thus the attachment is formed and they will not be able to leave each other. Concern and worry follow as a result. They are tied together until their dying days. In other words, they have to live together until the end of their lives. This is the chain of suffering.
Sometimes people are happy but now and again they are miserable because husbands and wives have to live together all the time. This can be compared with a tongue which clashes with teeth. In the long run there will be more suffering than happiness because they cannot attain to the state of one pointedness of mind. This kind of attachment which leads to unhappiness is called "The chain around the wrists". It is so tight that people cannot free themselves. They are so distressed that they cannot go to the temple to take precepts and listen to the Dhamma. Therefore people are tied by two chains which are so tight that they finally lose their freedom.
The third chain is around one's neck. It is called "Rahulam Bhandhanam" which means a noose around the neck. The Buddha had a son called "Rahula". When Princess Yasodhara Bimba gave birth to the baby, a royal attendant went to inform the Buddha (Prince Siddhattha) and asked him to visit his lovely new born son. The Prince immediately exclaimed "Rahulam, Rahulam" which meant a noose around the neck. "The noose is permanently around my neck, so I cannot go anywhere. From now on I am a father who faces a very serious responsibility."
Though the Buddha was a young man, he had the wisdom to realise what the bond meant. He knew that he was completely bound by the three chains. The one around his feet represented his throne. The one around his wrists represented his wife and the one around his neck represented his son. The last chain was so tight that the attachment would still be with him after his death. It is said that if one cannot cut these ties, one will never realise Nibbana. So it is absolutely necessary to cut them.
People nowadays are tied more firmly by the three chains as time goes on. Sometimes instead of having just one chain around their wrists, they go out to look for more.
CUTTING THE TIE
As it has been explained earlier we can say that attachment, worry and sorrow are so powerful that they can affect our mood and permeate our consciousness thus preventing illumination and peace of mind. Our present grief is caused by attachment.
Even if we have attachment, we can develop mindfulness of the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha and death. We envisage that it is impossible to take anything with us even our own body after death. The only thing that will accompany us is our merit. First of all, the chains must be cut. The one around our feet can be cut by donating money to a useful cause. We can give a quarter of our money to charity so that it will be recalled later.
Instead of worrying about our attachment to property, we are worried about our temple. Instead of worrying about our children and grandchildren, we are worried about monks, nuns and Angarikas or think about the precepts, giving and meditation. We then have two children. The one which is at home is the worldly child and the one at the temple is the spiritual community. We also have another tie, which is the attachment to the spiritual community. We have the connection through practising generosity, taking precepts and meditating. These practises can cut some braids, and from three braids only this one will be left. Otherwise, worldly attachment will be too tight to be able to free oneself.
Some people have never been to the temple. They know nothing about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Before they die, if they are reminded to think of the Arahat, they cannot recollect. Some people are preoccupied by their evil deeds. Some think about animals. Some reflect on their past actions which worry them. People who have a tendency to perform demeritorious deeds will eventually visualise their previous unskillful actions before death.
The Buddha taught us to avoid evil and to do good. He also told us to abstain from wrong actions such as killing, drinking, gambling, adultery and oppressing others, as they will produce awful mental images which will disturb our mind and leave us without peace. As soon as we sit down to contemplate on the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, these images will be replaced by unpleasant forms and faces. These bad images will affect our mind and take away peace and tranquillity. For example, one who is frightened of ghosts is likely to be haunted by himself or herself always. When darkness falls, unwholesome scenes will appear in front of the person and consequently he or she will be convinced that they are either ghosts or other horrible things.
Eventually this type of person will always have fear and suspicion. He or she can be compared with someone who is so burdened with guilt from evil deeds that concentration of mind leading to mental strength cannot be gained. Fear cannot be overcome when that person has no Dhamma and thus no refuge.
If we have morality and concentration development, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha in mind, we will not have fear and horrible mental images. The Buddha will be reflected upon instead. Fear will be overcome and the frightening forms which are imagined to be ghosts will disappear. Only the Buddha image is perceived.
There will be both good and bad signs visualised before passing away. The person who is meritorious will visualise good signs, the other person who has accumulated bad kamma in this life will visualise bad signs.