Some people may not have accomplished great things; perpetrated particularly evil deeds; nor established distinct habitual actions. During the last moment of their lives such people may suddenly think of something. This last thought, whether good or evil, will influence their next rebirth. The Buddha's teachings encourage those who are seriously ill to remember and to recite the merits of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and the merits of Dana and of following the precepts. This will help us to have good thoughts. Relying on the energy of these good thoughts, we may have a good rebirth. Some may generate a lot of good karma during normal times, but may be nervous or sad during their last breath. This may cause evil thoughts to arise and hence result in a poor rebirth. This is analogous to a merchant who has done good business throughout the year but who does not manage his business affairs well during the closing period of the financial year and thus causes the whole year's effort to be wasted.
When someone is about to die, whether they are young or old, we should try not to cry, as this may affect the dying person's emotional state and cause them suffering. We should advise the person to let everything go and to think about the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, good acts of Dana, and other meritorious deeds that they may have done.
It is as if our business was not very good during the year, but because of skilful management during the crucial end of year period, we may nevertheless have a happy new year. However, we should remember that our daily effort is still important. It is not rendered insignificant compared to the last minute's effort. If we habitually commit evil deeds it is hardly to be expected that we will have good thoughts at our death. If we habitually accumulate great merits, or have more modest tendency to do good, then with the assistance of others in recalling these merits during the moment of our last breath, we may have a better rebirth.
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