Immortality has fascinated mankind for thousands of years. Famous Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, ingested mercury pills because he believed they would allow him to live forever. Ancient Greeks tried creating a “philosopher’s stone” to achieve immortality. Currently, the technocrats of Silicon Valley are investing millions of dollars to develop technologies that will “solve” and “cheat” death.
Why do we try so hard to avoid death? Perhaps because nobody knows what happens after we die. Death is the ultimate unknown in life. As we contemplate our mortality, we may start going down an existential rabbit hole of what-ifs. What if nobody remembers me? What if death is just an eternal void? It is much easier to avoid thinking about death altogether.
But what if death is not the end? In some parts of Asia, death is not perceived with the same finality. According to religious beliefs, the departed may continue to “live on” as ancestors, or be reborn into the next life. Having this awareness allows a person to make preparations for the transition.
The idea that death is not the end is shared in Buddhism and Hinduism. In both religions, death is understood to be a part of samsāra, the cycle of birth and rebirth. Spirits go through an endless cycle until they are liberated from samsāra. This moment of liberation is called Nirvāna by Buddhists and moksha by Hindus.