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 6: The Buddhist Way to Overcome Jarā-Maraṇaṃ
The Buddhist Way to Overcome Jarā-Maraṇaṃ
Aging1—the last stage of the human life cycle—by reason of physical and mental disability, needs special safeguard and care. A large number of aged people around us, irrespective of geographical limits, remain distressed and in turmoil. Every moment at home and out of it, they are neglected, exploited, abused and harassed. Not only a present-day picture, this was also a very common scenario in olden times, according to a study of ancient Indian literature. Like all religions, Buddhism too has some significant things to say about this issue. This chapter aims to first define aging and dying from the Buddhist perspective and then explore the Buddhist approach to the problem of aging and dying.