Religious Preference in Death and Dying essay


ReligiousPreference in Death and Dying



Ritesof passage portray the major characteristics of any religion. Areligion finds a platform to stamp its authority through rites ofpassage among its believers. The rituals performed at birth,initiation, marriage, death, and after the death of an individual`salways conform to the religious beliefs of such an individual. Forinstance, Hindus have specific views and rituals on marriage whencompared to Islam, and Christians have different views on death whencompared to Buddhists. In this paper, I will base my argument on theHinduism, and briefly look at the religion as a whole, describe howHindus viewed health care at end times, and conclude by explainingthe rituals they performed during and after death.


Hinduismis considered to be the third largest religion on earth afterChristianity and Islam (Fowler, 1996) however, it greatly differsfrom other monotheistic religions. Unlike Christianity and Islam, itdoes not recognize a single person as the founder of the religion(Fowler, 1996). In addition, it does not have a specific structure ofthe theological system it does not have a holy text like the Bibleamong Christians and Quran among Muslims, it lacks a known system ofmorality, a centralized religious authority, and also religiousprophets. These differences have made Hinduism to stand out as aunique religion globally.

Interms of age, Hinduism is among the oldest religions in the world(Reinhart, 2014) Hindus believe that it has no beginning hence itsroots cannot be traced even historically. Like Christianity, Hinduismis also divided into denominations, which are four in number namelySaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and Smartism (Fowler, 1996). Hindusbelieve that Karma is the rule of cause and effect and that one`sdeeds, determine his or her final destiny (Sharma, 2000). Basing onthis belief, souls reincarnate and evolve through many generations tomake sure that no soul is deprived of its destiny. They also believein the sacred nature of life all life is sacred and should,therefore, be revered, respected, and protected at all costs. Likeother religions, they also believe in one Supreme Being who is thecreator of the universe and all that is in it (Sharma, 2000). TheSupreme Being is depicted as immanent, transcendent, omnipresent,unmanifest reality, and omnipotent. They, therefore, strive to createdominion with Him through personal devotions, temple worships, andalso sacraments.

Religion’sView on HealthCare

Fromthe general discussion above, it is clear that sanctity of life is atthe core of Hindus’ teachings from the family level, allindividuals are encouraged to take good care of others (Sharma,2000). It is a family responsibility to take care of the sick and theelderly. They are also obligated to pay visits to the sick inhospitals. Major decisions concerning the healthcare of family memberare made by senior persons or the eldest son in the patient’sfamily.

Hindus’belief in Karma also renders them helpless as far as a person’sdestiny is concerned. According to them, use of artificial means toprolong one’s life equate to interfering with his natural destiny(Reinhart, 2014). In cases where the patient is too ill, they willoppose certain measures like intubation, artificial feeding, andextensive care systems in cases of the terminal diseases. All theseconditions are contrary to their traditions and the patients shouldbe left to face their destinies.

Theissue of the reincarnation of the soul in many births has also facedout some healthcare activities among the Hindus issues like organdonation and autopsy are discouraged (Reinhart, 2014). An autopsy iscompletely discouraged unless the demand is from the legal systems.As per their beliefs, interfering with the dead body equate tointerfering with the soul hence, preventing it from moving onward.Organ transplant is also discouraged unless if certain conditionsmake it necessary. They believe that the part of the body donatedespecially, if it is a major body part like the heart and the kidneylives on and carries the karma of the donor with it to therecipient`s body. This transfer of karma interferes with thereincarnation process. This notion is taken into consideration byfamily members when donating body parts like the kidney, heart, andliver when making final decisions.

Spiritualityis also an evident feature when it comes to Hindus healthcare(Sharma, 2000) priests are called upon to perform certain rituals.Sacred Tulsi leaf is also tied in a patient’s mouth. Patients alsorecite prayers and listen to religious music, and are also offeredchaplaincy services in hospitals.

Ritualsat death and after death

Traditionally,Hindus preferred to die at home this had religious significance(Fowler, 1996). When it is evident that a person is about to die, heis placed at the entry of the house facing east, and persuaded tofocus on his mantra. Afterwards family members keep vigil until hisdeath he body is then cleaned by family members preferably theeldest son leading. Incense is burnt and a small lamp may be lit bythe family members. Jewelry, sacred threads, and other religiousitems on the body are left intact unless if the healthcare advisorscall for their removal.

Thefire ritual is usually conducted after death, and is led by a specialfuneral priest. (Fowler, 1996). The deceased is then carried to thecremation spot, and females are not allowed within the site. It ispassed three times around the pyre and then laid on it for cremation.After cremation, the relatives return home clean themselves and thehouse as a sign of cleansing. During this impurity period, relativesdo not attend feasts and festivals, and they do not visit otherpeople.

Twelvehours after cremation the remains are gathered, water is splashed onthem, and then collected and preserved. Memorials are then held onthe 3rdday, 31stday, and one day after the cremation of the deceased.


Inconclusion, it is clear from the above discussion that Hinduism is aunique religion and has its specific views towards healthcare. It isalso evident that they have certain rituals they perform on the deadand even after death.


Fowler,J. (1996).Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices.London. Oxford University Press.

Reinhart,R. (2014). ContemporaryHinduism: Ritual Culture and Practice. London.Oxford University Press.

Sharma,A. (2000). ClassicalHindu thought. London,Sussex Academic Press.