We’re often caught by the element of surprise when driven from a sudden death of our loved one; or even from someone whom have been living their life dilligently – only to pass away abruptly through an incident. The moral of the story is that – death is unpredictable and we can only prepare for it. We talk to two promising figureheads to find out what is a life worth living and how to prepare our loved ones and ourselves for death.
Meet Venerable Ming Fa, from Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. His role is to teach and propagate the teachings of the Buddha.
What is a life worth living?
Before we determine a life worth living, we need to understand what is the notion of a ‘worthy life’. In Buddhism there are three levels of attainment of a ‘worthy life’. The first level is the ‘Human- Heavenly Path’ (人天道) 。It relates to the pursuing of basic needs such as well-being, health, happiness and fortune towards a better life. The next level is ‘Path of Liberation’ （解脱道） which is learning the teachings of Buddha by putting it in practice, abiding the precepts, mental development through meditation in order to transcend the cycle of life and death. The last level is ‘Path of Bodhisattva’ (菩萨道), where one seeks to unshackle from the cycle of birth and death and at the same time deliver others from their suffering.
Based on the above, we can also apply the same principle of life in general. Firstly, we strive to attain self-advocacy in fulfilling our needs, wants and goals. Next, we will then strive to provide for our family and loved ones, fulfilling their material and emotional needs. Lastly, we will strive to contribute to the society and advocate for the wellbeing of others.
A life worth living encompasses a positive outlook in life and bringing wholesome influence to our family and loved ones. Buddhism also emphasize on developing wisdom, understanding of self, others and having clarity and understanding to chart your own path.
What should we do if we only have 30 days to live?
Venerable Ming Fa: If we are only left with a few days to live, we should spend some time to reflect upon significant events in our lives, both pleasant and unpleasant ones, which may evoke strong emotions and feelings. There may be regrets such as not being able to reconcile with those that we are estranged from; or guilt that may have been buried deep down and only resurfacing when we’re reflecting in our last days. We could strive to achieve closure or accept what could not be changed.
That is why it is important for us to help our loved ones fulfil their last wishes and make peace with themselves to allow them to pass on peacefully without regrets. No matter which religion you believe in, you need to understand life as a natural and transient process, strive towards acceptance and live a worthy and fulfilled life.
According to Buddhism, death is both an ending of this life and beginning of the next life. There is no need to be happy or sad, as it is a natural process.
“Death is not an ending, but it’s a new beginning. There’s no need for sorrow as death is a natural process.’ – Venerable Ming Fa
Venerable Ming Fa: We need to have a clear understanding of what life entails. Life is a continual process. No matter which religion you believe in, you need to understand that life is only a process towards death and life is fleeting. It is about learning to understand that life and death is a natural process. We can only live our lives more fruitfully by understanding the process of death and accepting it.
An emperor hopes to live forever but he cannot alter the course of life in his goal to uncover immortality. If life is a process, how do we make it more fulfilling? Once a new life is born, death is like a constant that is unstoppable once it is set into motion. If there’s a beginning, there’s always an end. A new death means a new birth on another side. There’s no need to be happy or sad, as this is a universal phenomenon.
More about Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery: https://www.kmspks.org
Meet Angjolie, the founder of The Life Celebrant. The Life Celebrant aims to celebrate and commemorate how you lived and leave your life, by providing customised and meaningful funeral planning and preplanning services for individuals and families. Taking over from her father’s funeral parlour, she has since put in her own personal experience and what she has learned from her education overseas – to shape The Life Celebrant.
Angjolie: I hope to get people to open up on the topic of death and be remembered as someone who has made an impact on their life. After attending a few seminars, I’ve learned that – no one can make you inferior without your consent. People may give advices to put you down by doing it subtly, in deameaningdemeaning your worth and using words to hurt you. If people choose to step on you, would you let them do so? They do it to you because they areir having a bad day or they do it not knowing that they areir actually bullying you. Thus I hope to be someone inspiring and be able to make an impact on people’s lives.
What do you wish people knew more about Advance Care Planning(ACP)?
Angjolie: Currently, we’re doing a lot of talks and we’re also encouraging people to start doing ACP; under our sister company known as The Life Legacy that deals with helping families to handle the legal parts of their estates after the funeral. There are many parts aboutin death that people don’t understand about. From doing your own insurance or the fact that you may get ill and not be able to speak out your own wishes. Our tagline is ‘Your Voice, Your Signature and Your Legacy’, as we want to empower people to voice outr their opinions and take control of their life and death. The Life Legacy deals with legal matters to aid families with the aftercare planning of a funeral. Usually wWe do work with a lot of hospices as well and they usually refer families to us. based on a case-by-case basis as well.
“A funeral has no rewind. You can’t say that you make a mistake afterwards.” – Angjolie
Angjolie: When a funeral is done, cremated orand buried – there is no room for a mistake to be made. The work we do is akin to working on an airplane. We need to do the safety checks with the plane and all the crew on board to ensure that everyone does their job well. The pilot and co-pilot would be the funeral director and care specialist, while the other people in the funeral are the cabin crew and passengers are your attendees. We need to ensure that the plane flies and land safely. I designed this room in The Life Celebrant, as a lounge for families to relax and be comfortable enough to talk about their shared memories and experiences. Thus I believe a funeral is not a day in a lifetime – but a lifetime in a day.
There was once when I came to learn about the story of my father’s generiositygenerosity, through my father’shis friends. I always knew my father as a quiet man due to ourthe generation gap we shared, andbut was surprised when they told me he was both a humorous and generous man. He would always give red packets to the old chefs and workers that were working in his friend’s restaurant. I shared this story withto my 11-year-old brotherbrother and was surprised when my he11 year old brother came home and told me that he gave money to his friend. I asked him why and he said he gave it to his friend because his friend had no money to buy a drink. I was very touched by this and it was one of the reasons that inspired me to begin The Life Celebrant.
More about The Life Celebrant: http://www.thelifecelebrant.sg
The Good Death seeks to transform the negative notion of death itself and is focused on promoting early planning for one’s end-of-life care, especially so for adults over the age of 50. Find out all about The Good Death, ACP and Palliative care here!