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Need Opinions (A Buddhist question BUT you surely don't have to be Buddhist to answer it!)

My good friend The Delightful One sent me an email saying "life is hard sometimes." It led me to this question I can't answer. Anyone have an opinion? Here is my response to her--and my question. ///Yes, life is hard sometimes. Actually, now that I may be dead in 15 minutes, I was just thinking about that. I know several of these wonderful high, holy type people and in many instances they really do seem to know more about living and dying than most of us normal folks. I've heard different things about what happens when you die from them and also from many others. Some folks have told me that you go through a limbo kind of thing and in a short while, depending on your Karma during your life you get reassigned, sort of, to be an animal, human, god, or several worse things. They say you are lucky to get into a good situation because so many unembodied spirits are waiting for a place to go. But also, the whole idea of the life process is to advance enough as a human to be freed from being one any more, liberated from the cycle of birth and death to become one with the universe. Other folks have told me that whatever you have been or done during your life is great, but the pivotal influence on where you go next is where your mind and heart are at the actual moment of death. I think the Lutherans believe you just die and lay in the ground maybe (?), the Jews I think have a heaven and no hell (?) and of course some other religions have the heaven and hell thing---but none of these opinions really matter to me for a few reasons. First of all I've been pronounced dead in the hospital and I don't know what death is, so I'm not very keen to jump on anybody else's definition as a literal or fundamentalist fact seeing as whoever I talk to about it has ostensibly been nothing but alive.

But there is a much more important aspect of dying that I'm interested in. What I want to know is more interior, and I'm finding it a little more difficult of a question. If we do go somewhere after death, and if we can directly influence where we go next, what would I do? Any serious Buddhist takes a vow that they will keep coming back lifetime after lifetime until all suffering is gone from the earth. Very noble aspiration isn't it? I think so. But then again, the very peak of accomplishment, the graduation ceremony if you will, in Buddhism requires not returning! Go figure! So this all goes back to your "Life is hard" statement and I sure do agree that it is--although of course, as we have been lucky enough to know, there is plenty of joy involved too. But I wonder if how hard it has been was worth going through, compared to how many people actually got helped and how much mental/emotional intelligence progress was made on yourself as well. I guess, in my case, I made some mental progress on my self as I'm not the semi-dangerous lunatic I was in my youth, and I've helped a few people--but certainly not as many as I wanted to and I don't know that it was enough to warrant the suffering that it cost--not only to myself but also to several of the people that had to deal with me, especially in my earlier years. So now that I'm going to die any minute, I'm stuck with a question that I'm not sure how to answer. If indeed my (our!) future(s) after death turn out to be at least somewhat in my (our) own hands, and considering that Buddhism seems to be directing its participants toward a state that is free from the cycle of constant rebirth and death and rebirth in spite of also inspiring a vow that Buddhists return for lifetime after

lifetime of rebirth in order to help other beings--SO THE QUESTION IS What would you do if all this stuff described was true and you could direct your Energy after it leaves your body?

You know Delightful One, this is a tough one, I think. I'm going to post it around and see what we get back for helpful opinions (I'm sure there will be a couple funny ones too!)

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