PSY 802 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Bardo Thodol, Buddhist Meditation, Bardo

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Published on 27 Apr 2016
Chapter 14
Concern with immortality – that is, survival beyond physical death – cut from same cloth as
questions about the meaning of life and ways to go about one’s life
Responses to these questions reflect a person’s values and beliefs about human
experience and the nature of reality
Our philosophy of life influences our philosophy of death
Conversely, our understanding of death and its meaning affects way we live
Greeley: we are born with two incurable diseases:
Life: from which we die
Hope: which says maybe death isn’t the end
Self-investigation includes discovery of what one believes about consequences of death
Can lead to more coherent philosophy of life and death, making possible a congruence
between hopes and perceptions
Exploring beliefs about immortality may not result in an easier acceptance of death (nor
should it, necessarily)
Traditional Concepts about Life after Death
Notion that life continues in some form after death is one of oldest concepts held by human
In some of earliest graves, skeletons bound by hands and feet into fetal position
Perhaps indicative of beliefs about “rebirth” into other forms of existence after
Rebirth characterized as most persistent image of afterlife in history of religion
In traditional societies, death represents change of status; transition from land of living to
land of dead
Judgment is key feature of many beliefs about what follows death
Traditional beliefs are less concerned with individual survival than with continuation of
community and its common heritage
Having shared in life of the group, individual is part of its ultimate destiny (a destiny
that transcends death)
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Common for a good life to be rewarded by reunion with one’s ancestors
Jewish Beliefs about Death and Resurrection
Lecture’s Notes:
Funeral customs/rituals emphasize God does not save persons from death, but saves
idea of Israel for history, regardless of death
Focus on this world, rather than next
No real belief in afterlife
Some sects believe nothing happens after death
Other sects claim resurrection/judgment of soul
Bible does not present systematic theology of death or the afterlife
Biblical story describes a people focused on their communal destiny
Individuals are actors in an unfolding drama
Story’s conclusion/final outcome foretold in promises made by Yahweh (biblical proper
name for God)
Emphasis on faith
Faith in people of Israel as a community with a common destiny
Faith in Yahweh, whose promises will be realized in the unfolding of the divine plan
Lives measured by deeds and by whether one has lived up to his/her full potential
By contributing to communal destiny, the righteous person is part of the continuing
story of the people as a whole
Righteous conduct advised because it leads to harmony in present life, not because it
guarantees future rewards for the individual
Understanding of human person as an undivided psychophysical entity
Concepts like body or soul cannot be abstracted from integrity of the human person
Not as if the soul takes a body (“incarnated soul”); rather, the body has life
Hebrew word She’ol: in early usage, defined as underworld of all the dead; two distinct realms:
Gehinom: hell
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Pardes: heaven or paradise
Israeli faith sustained through customs, such as:
Minyan: minimum number of individuals required for communal worship
Kaddish: kind of “memorial prayer”
Essentially a pledge from living to dedicate one’s life to God of Life
Recited by mourners during first 11 months after death and on anniversary
(yahrzeit) of loved one’s death
Customary mourning rituals help bereaved face reality of death, honor deceased,
and engage in reaffirmation of life
Shivah: period of formal mourning, traditionally seven days
Classical Greek Concepts of Immortality
Variety of views about what might follow death of the body
Generally, afterworld was not an attractive prospect
Hades: realm of the dead; despairing image
Polis: corporate existence of city-state
What mattered was survival of the polis
Personal immortality important only to extent that it affected community’s survival
Being a good citizen necessitated performing actions directed toward common good
Social immortality could be achieved by being a good citizen
Community remembers heroic acts; thus, hero achieves renown that extends beyond
Mystery religions: secret cults that offered religious experiences not provided by official public
Those who sought more than symbolic immortality could participate as an initiate in one
of mystery religions
By dedicating themselves to rites prescribed by mystery cult, initiates exchanged grim
picture of Hades for promising picture of idyllic future in paradise
Life and death thought of as aspects of an ever-changing, eternal flux
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