What Happens When We Die?
The Buddha’s teachings offers the most satisfactory explanation of where man came from and where he is going. When we die, the mind, with all the tendencies, preferences, abilities and characteristics that have been developed and conditioned in this life, re-establishes itself in a new being. Thus the new individual grows and develops a personality conditioned both by the mental characteristics that have been carried over from the previous life and by the new environment. The personality will change and be modified by conscious effort and conditioning factors like education, parental influence and society but once again at death, it will re-establish itself as life in a new being. This process of dying and being reborn will continue until the conditions that cause it, the mental factors of craving and ignorance, cease. When they do, instead of being reborn, the mind attains a state called Nirvana
How does the mind go from one body to another?
When a person is dying, he begins to lose conscious control of his mental processes. There comes a time when his actions and habits locked away in his memories are released. In many instances, there arises in his mind a mental image. This image is totally involuntarily and is produced by his karma or past actions. Thus depending upon the nature of the particular karma that produces this image, the person may see dark shadowy figures, frightening images, or he may see his relatives or perhaps visions of scenic beauty. Quite often, he will cry out at these visions or remark about them to his visitors. Even though the physical body may be weak these thought units are very strong as death approaches. When the body finally breaks down at the point of death these energies are released as mental energy. As energy cannot be destroyed they have to re-establish themselves in a new body thus causing the phenomenon of rebirth.
Think of it being like radio waves which are not made up of words and music but energy at different frequencies, which are transmitted, travel instantaneously through space, are picked up by the receiver from where the radio produces them as words and music. It is the same with the mind. At death, mental energy travels through space, is picked up by the fertilized egg of the future mother, is reborn as a new being and manifests as a new personality.
Thus it is important that a dying person is comforted and reminded of his good deeds. He should not be made confused and visitors should not overtly grieve in his presence. Neither should unfamiliar ideas like a new religion be introduced to him. The Buddha advises that when one is fearful, he should recall to mind the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha..