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What Religions Teach Us About Accepting Mortality

To every journey there is an end, a chair by the hearth to kick off your shoes and let your aching legs rest. Often, there is solace in the knowledge that our travels are done, but with the final rest, the one there is no getting up from, comes a special kind of fear. The fear of leaving this mortal coil is doubly justified, because of how certain death is, and because of how we know nothing about what comes after.
Accepting Death: dyingSource: michael_swan
Certainly, many religions describe an elaborate cosmology about the afterlife and what awaits the soul after death, but the fact remains the same: we do not know for sure what happens to us after the moment of our passing, and it makes us afraid.
But you needn’t face this fear unequipped, as many wise people have faced that same fear and left us a few wise words about how to let go of our angst and accept our mortality. Hopefully, their advice can be of help in those harsh moments when you ponder the unknown.
1. Christianity
Accepting Death: Christianity
Central to nearly all Christian doctrine, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist or otherwise is that death is *not* the end, and will be followed by an afterlife and resurrection. But for those for whom that knowledge does not alleviate the fear of what is to come, there is a different consolation and hope: all that happens on Earth is the will of God and all happens in the time that He ordained it. As every blessing in your life was given by God, your death, too, is given to you by Him. Look, then, to the time you have left as an opportunity to say things that should have been said but pride kept silent, forgive trespasses that no longer matter, make your peace with this physical world.
2. Islam
Accepting Death: Islam
The greatest solace Islam provides its practitioners regarding death is certainty, as according to Islam, both death, afterlife and resurrection are certain, but it is only according to our deeds and thoughts in life itself that we are judged and assigned a place in the afterlife. According to the Quran, all sinners who die have a change of heart and wish to go back and do good so as to be judged worthier. Rather, a believer is encouraged to consider whether or not he is worthy of heaven in all of his living days.
3. Judaism
Accepting Death: Judaism
Jewish theology is a lot murkier on the topic of death, as certainty about the afterlife and who is worthy of it belongs to God alone. While Judaism places great value on the individual’s life and to preserve it at all costs (though artificially lengthening it is a matter of debate), it teaches practitioners to accept the inevitability of death. While man alone may not know his worth in the eyes of his Creator, he should nevertheless strive to be worthy of The World Thereafter on every day of his life, as if it were his last. Whatever comes after is beyond your power to affect, and thus, is no matter for concern.
4. Taoism
Accepting Death: Taoism
According to Taoist theology, everything in this world is derived from an eternal, indescribable core called the Tao (“the way”), a singularity which can be equated to God but is not ascribed humanizing aspects such as will or plans. Also, the Tao does not precisely create, because that would imply that the things that are derived from it are separate to it. Rather, everything in this world exists as part of this eternal thing, regardless of belief or lack thereof. When you die, you return to the Tao, but since you are already in it by mere existing, there is no real difference between life and death.
5. Buddhism
Accepting Death: BuddhismSource: Photo Dharma
There is a famous story in Buddhism of Kisa Gotami, a bereaved mother who lost her only child. She sought frantically for a miracle-worker who could restore her child to life. Finally, she found the Buddha and desperately pleaded with him to resurrect her child. The Buddha agreed, on one condition: that she bring him mustard seeds from a family where no one has died. She banged on every door until she realized that death comes to all, and she returned empty-handed to the Buddha, finally accepting her loss.
Buddhism admonishes practitioners not to cower from death, but to face it head-on, not as one that would strive with it, but as a person who knows that it will come for him one day. Confront the discomfort that the thought of death brings until its sting is gone. Realize that it is only your emotional anchors that make you cling beyond hope to life, and release them.
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