(This is a sharing on near death experience (NDE) which I received from Bro. Punna’s mailing group. I find it interesting and would like to share it here.)
We at Metta Lodge in JB are very grateful that we had a speaker who willingly shared with us her Near Death Experience. While we had read about NDEs or heard about it, it was never in the first person, hence the opportunity to hear about directly and the opportunity to discuss and have fellowship with such a person was priceless.
Even more important, the speaker is not by family or training a Buddhist, hence to us this is an independent opinion, not one conditioned by what is tradition or education.
The speaker is a highly trained medical professional with post graduate qualifications and specialty practise, we respect her privacy hence her name is not mentioned. In the 16 years since the event, she had shared with only a select core; when she first woke up and related the experience, almost all told her that she had a very traumatic experience and that she should forget it!
But in NO way was it traumatic. She has since only shared with people who may understand, and I was blessed that she shared this with me some time ago. I invited her to Metta Lodge where she shared with a group that not only absorbed every word intently, they also analysed every word and could understand the process she went through from the viewpoint of the Dhamma.
I am so blessed to be able to listen to this personal sharing of a Near Death Experience; every word resonates with the Dhamma. Everyone is the audience is very touched by every word said! While my memory is fresh, I had written down what I learnt from the sharing.
Afterthoughts are recorded in italic.
1. This sharing is a rare occasion for the speaker only shares to those who may understand, and only on request. It has not been shared for many years for there was no one whom she perceived to be able to understand. The Near Death Experience occurred in May 1994- ie 16 years ago. The experience was so profound that much of it could NOT be described in words. The speaker even today has difficulty finding words that could describe what she felt accurately.
Bro DrWoon recalls that the Buddha after His Enlightenment similarly expressed a thought as to who would be able to understand an experience so profound that it would be hard to believe or understand by most beings caught in greed, anger and delusion. He states that he understands the Buddha’s position clearer now and the reason behind that documented thought.
2. She was fully aware and conscious, literally watching the monitor while doctors were putting in a catheter to reach her heart. When the radiocontrast dye was injected to visualise her coronary vessels, her heart inexplicably stopped, it ‘arrested’. When she ‘died’ from the cardiac arrest while undergoing the angiography, she instantly had an ‘out of body’ experience looking down from the ceiling, but she DID not have a physical body while she ‘looked down’ on the doctors resuscitating her.
She did NOT have the usual body that we associate with our ‘self’ – but just a non physical presence. She described it as Consciousness or Awareness, just that! No physical body was associated with it.
From the Dhamma, we learn that Consciousness survives death, that each moment is followed by a next in a ceaseless process of change. Consciousness changes endlessly based on the object on which it is focused. The ‘instant’ change or re-becoming into another state is resonant with this teaching. The bodily form of the elements is left and Consciousness has no form, only ceaseless change. That it continues despite the absence of brain activity and heart beat has been documented in many elegant studies. Please see attached article at end.
3. She could clearly hear the background noise and words that were being said by the doctors and paramedics, and she could see the activities going on, including witnessing her doctor husband who was initially standing besides her, being led away from her body to a chair as the doctors worked desperately.
4. She, to be more accurate, her consciousness was fully aware of the happenings and could ‘see’ in colour. She could see and remember the colour of the drapes.
5. This consciousness floated through the ceiling and immediately left the building into a wide blue space where she felt the presence of 2 beings accompanying her. She could NOT see them but just feel their presence. The 2 beings are NOT in the image of any god or deity or angel that she is familiar with, they were just a presence that she could sense that were full of love.
In the book ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ which documented Prof Brian Weiss putting his patient under hypnosis, and the patient regressing into many past lives, similar beings were described as ‘Masters’ by the patient, could this presence be the devas who are either our past relatives or our ‘guardian devas’? Bro Koh an engineer noted that the physical structures of the building did not seem to make any difference to her progress.
6. She felt Peace, had NO pain and actually felt happy. She was told later on that the cardiac arrest, vasospasm and resuscitative manoeuvres must have caused her a lot of pain but she felt none. She felt NO anxiety or fear.
7. In a very quick moment of time analogous to a flash, she could ‘see’ her life and much much of the past, but this was NOT in events but in the ‘Experiences and Feelings that resulted from the many things done’. Her whole present life and that of the past which resulted in her feelings, development and inclinations zoomed past very quickly and she was aware of the distant past where her consciousness was rudimentary and undeveloped evolving through the ages to higher and higher forms till the present state. But this happened very quickly, akin to a flash of sudden recall. It was a flash recall of NOT only this life but many many past lives.
Kamma and Vipaka is the cause and effect of all the actions that we do. It is the Vipaka or results that is important for that is what creates the next moment or future.
Bro Patrick notes that the speaker in a flash had recalled her Vipaka… her Feelings resultant from her actions, her Experiences which changed her and her Inclinations which evolved from all this.
From my aspect, I note that we never forget. All our acts and its resultant mental states are NEVER forgotten. In a flash, the speaker recalled her past not as “pictures frame by frame like in the film reel of a movie” but as emotions and mental states. It is important that the speaker could recall even the distant past when her consciousness was rudimentary and its evolution to higher forms but she could not recall precisely any particular independent life in detail other than the present.
Bro Patrick states that he now understand better how the Buddha could recall back 91 aeons of time in the first watch of the night, it was as our speaker states, a flash recall just like we recall something of the past instantly in a moment.
8. She entered a dark tunnel and could perceive Bright light at the other end. She could sense the breeze blowing as she progressed even though she had NO physical form that she was aware of.
Sis Sally exclaimed as to why the speaker did not just proceed into the light but the speaker stated that this was NOT something that she could will.
9. Communication was NON VERBAL. It was mind only without any use of sounds. She felt the 2 beings guiding her lovingly even though she could not see their physical bodies. She described this as a similar feeling that one has when there is someone standing behind us; while we do not see them, we sense their presence.
Venerables had taught us that communication with devas for example is non verbal but mental, it is mind to mind. While many of us would have found this hard to accept, our speakers experience seems to back this up.
10. Feelings of attachment which cannot be verbalised or described arosed and instead of progressing, she found herself suddenly going backwards and instantly was in her body. She woke up, saw her husband dozing by her side on a chair. She was in ICU and nurses and doctors started attending to her when she awoke. She was on assisted respiration.
From the teaching of Dependent Origination, what follows Attachment / uppadana is RE-BECOMING to a new state. If the speaker’s body had been damaged beyond what medical science could help, she would have irreversibly died and the consciousness would have RE-BECOME to a new state or being, dependent on her Kamma-Vipaka. It was as she noted something she could not control but because she was successfully resuscitated and because of the Attachment which she noted, she instantly was ‘back in her body’.
11. She felt she was away a few minutes but in reality more than 6 hours had passed with much that was done to her physical body to save her which she was not aware. However she was told later that her heart stopped only briefly, so she was ‘dead’ only for a brief period of time.
Time and experience is relative!
12. When she could be well enough to see her surroundings, everything looked ‘so beautiful, so fresh’. “My husband never looked so handsome, the food tasted so delicious and even the amah who came to clean the room looked so beautiful!”
Our speaker has become much more Mindful since the event; she herself noted a change in her Meditation since then.
13. After this NDE, she realised that the physical body is NOT her. “It is now just like a sari that I change from wearing now to a nightgown. While we must take care of the physical body as we cannot do anything here without the body, we have to realise that we are NOT the body”.
This is a teaching which most of us if not all of us are aware of, but not internalised. The speaker noted that this has changed her entire perspective of life.
14. She also realised that she is NOT the Ego that we all imagine ourselves to be, the “I”, that we are so attached to. That Consciousness, that Awareness is NOT the Ego, not “I”, in fact she realised that there was NO I or Ego during her NDE, all that made her ‘who she is’ immediately did not matter. But we are attached to our physical body and to many things that we are not even aware of. She was unable to recall any verbalisation of the objects of attachment, it was just a feeling that cannot be described and instantly she found herself back in her body.
I believe that our attachments are too many and varied to be categorised! The biggest is probably our attachment to the imagined ‘I’, the Ego and our bodies. Until we have a direct experience that changes our thinking radically, our intellectual subscription to the teachings is not reflected in our thoughts and acts.
15. She learnt that it is ‘NOT merits that allow us to let go or be liberated BUT INSIGHT into the truths of life that will enable us to be free from attachment‘. She was unable to be free from her attachments BUT she could not recall that she was attached to any specific object eg her husband, it was she described a feeling of attachment that is indescribable that brought her ‘back’.
Her insight into the need for Wisdom to free us from attachment is truly profound and a fundamental teaching of the Buddha.
16. Her life since then has been changed as she now views life very differently. She is no longer obsessed by the physical form though she takes care of it well, her priorities are no longer work and material achievement.”Insight to the Truths of life is what liberates” and for that she now meditates regularly.
A half hour of Q&A followed:
Dr Wong, Q: I want to reaffirm whether you saw in colour or black and white as you noted that you had NO physical body, hence NO eyes!
A: It was definitely in colour as I can still recall the colour of the BLUE skies
Bro Hock Teck, Q: Could you hear the details of the doctors voices and what they said? This is important to me because I want to know whether what we do at the bedside of the dying eg chanting will make any difference!
A: Yes, I could hear their conversation clearly BUT it was only very brief as my Consciousness or Awareness left the room very soon after.
Sis Sally, Q: Why did you NOT just proceed and go into the light?
A: Oh I would have loved to BUT it was not mine to control! The instant I had the feeling of attachment, I was immediately back to my body. I am not afraid of death any more because I know it is NOT horrifying. I still have heart problems but the cardiologists refuse to do another angiogram because of my past experience but I am honestly NOT afraid. If in doing another angiogram I am assured of a similar experience, I will gladly proceed!
Sis Mrs Heng, Q: Were your children already independent at that time?
A: No, they were still studying
Bro Hock Teck, Q: Will you be willing to share your experience with other Buddhist groups?
A: This is a very personal experience. In the 16 years since, I had shared this with only a few people. Initially I would tell people about it but most people will pat me and say ‘Oh you had such a terribly traumatic experience, just forget about it!’ I realised that many people do not accept what I had gone through or look at it negatively. Hence now I only share with people who I perceive will be able to understand. I do not recall what made me share with DrWong some time ago but I am happy that that has led to me now sharing with you all who are so full of love. In fact, you have helped me put into words what is so difficult to describe.
Dr Wong: Let us give our speaker time and privacy. This is NOT an experience that can be shared with just about anyone, we are so blessed that she is willing to share with us and this has taught us more about the realities of life and the Dhamma than all the classes that I had given in the last 6 years!
Let us thank the speaker for a wonderful sharing.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!