Aging and dying are inevitable. However, coming to terms with this truth can be difficult, especially in the modern context with an excessive dependence and faith in biomedicine. Advances in biomedicine and life-prolongation strategies along with changes in social-cultural structures pose a different kind of predicament – the percentage of aging population is on the rise and, at the same time, traditional strategies for taking care of the elderly and their problems are being replaced by more impersonal state-driven methods. India, with its large population, poor biomedical facilities for the average person, and widespread poverty, yet fast changing attitudes towards family and the aged, faces a great crisis today.
The collection of essays in this volume addresses different aspects of this issue. The first section is both philosophical and prescriptive. It explores our rich religious and philosophical tradition to probe the very concepts of life and death and then suggests strategies - age old and time-tested - for coping with the inevitability of aging and dying. Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic perspectives on aging, dying, euthanasia, and related concepts are explored and coping strategies suggested.
The second section deals with socio-ethical issues related to aging and dying in the Indian context, in light of the existing state of affairs and possible directions for the future. The third and final section looks at the most pressing problems that confront both Indian society and medicine – end-of-life care.
Chapter 1: Aging and Dying: The Vedantic Perspective
Aging and Dying: The Vedantic Perspective
All living beings, including humans, undergo the process of aging and dying. Hence issues related to aging, dying and end-of-life care are amongst the most important issues faced by human society. A greater understanding of these issues and their lasting solutions are completely based upon the deeper understanding of life—its nature, meaning and purpose, and its origin.
Generally, there are two broad conceptions of life. In the materialistic scientific community, life is mostly regarded as a product of the interactions of various molecules. On the other hand, in the spiritual community, life is accepted as a divine particle, which is fundamentally different from the material particle. However, many thoughtful scientists also support ...