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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Changing of Religious Label Before Death
Very often we come across cases of people who change their religion at the last moment when they are about to die. By embracing another religion, some people are under the mistaken belief that they can 'wash away their sins' and gain an easy passage to heaven. They also hope to ensure themselves a simple and better burial. For people who have been living a whole life-time with a particular religion, to suddenly embrace a religion which is totally new and unfamiliar and to expect an immediate salvation through their new faith is indeed very far-fetched. This is only a dream. Some people are even known to have been converted into another faith when they are in a state of unconsciousness and in come cases, even posthumously. Those who are over zealous and crazy about converting others into their faith, have misled uneducated people into believing that theirs is the one and only faith with an easy method or short-cut to heaven. If people are led to believe that there is someone sitting somewhere up there who can wash away all the sins committed during a life-time, then this belief will only encourage others to commit evil.
According to the Teachings of the Buddha there is no such belief that there is someone who can wash away sins. It is only when people sincerely realize that what they are doing are wrong and after having realized this, try to mend their ways and do good that they can suppress or counter the bad reactions that would accrue to them for the evil they had committed.
It has become a common sight in many hospitals to see purveyors of some religions hovering around the patients promising them 'life after death'. This is exploiting the basic ignorance and psychological fear of the patients. If they really want to help, then they must be able to work the 'miracles' they so proudly claim lies in their holy books. If they can work miracles, we will not need hospitals. Buddhists must never become victims to these people. They must learn the basic teachings of their noble religion which tells them that all suffering is the basic lot of mankind. The only way to end suffering is by purifying the mind. The individual creates his own suffering and it is he alone who can end it. One cannot hope to eradicate the consequences of one's evil actions simply by changing one's religious label at the door-step of death.
A dying man's destiny in his next life depends on the last thoughts which appear to him according to the good and bad kamma he had accumulated during his current lifetime, irrespective of what type of religious label he prefers to do himself at the last moment.
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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