Aging and Death Dissertation

Pages: 15 (4093 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Death and Dying  (general)

¶ … aging and death but with an Asia inclination. We discuss the concept within a Japanese context. We start with a general view of the concept across the globe and then later on present our investigation and findings regarding the concept in the Japanese view. We look at the situation of the elders in ancient Japan and then compare it with the modern time rituals and myths. We then present a holistic view of how the situation is in the contemporary society.

Just like any other country, the Japanese had their views on death both in ancient times and modern times. In early Japanese times the subject or topic of death was considered a taboo and death was considered filthy. Beliefs were held by the ancients that medicine could cure any problem one had and it is only death that they found mysterious and unexplainable. The views on death held traditionally and those held presently have varied a little considering that Japan is no longer a purely Buddhist state like it was several decades back. Other religions like Christianity and Hinduism are now practiced by some Japanese therefore their long held traditions have had to change. These beliefs were considered very important and have been passed on and on by the elderly in the society. In contemporary times since death was impure and filthy. The Japanese had rituals like encoffinment. The practice of encoffinment was necessary to relieve the family of their grief and also to clean the dead person's impurity.

Contemporary Japanese carried out the following rites

Views held by Japanese on corpses

Continuation of life and death

Literature review

Discussion

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007).The Definition of Death

18 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/death-definition/

Tomomatsu, Entai. (1939). The Human Being and Death (in Japanese). Tokyo: Kaiseisha.

Introduction

The death phenomenon is one that has been the source of much controversy, fear and debate. It is important to first of all understand why death has for a long time captured the thought and mind of the human being since time immemorial. Death is defined by the Stanford Encyclopadia of Philosophy as "as the irreversible cessation of organismic functioning"(SEP,2007).It can also be defined as the irreversible loss of personhood (SEP,2007).The subject of death has been viewed with a lot of fear in the Western culture. This can be attributed to the fact that the Western culture is dominated with mechanistic view of the human nature. Westerners have therefore become increasingly fascinated by their own machines and they have no other way of viewing themselves. The materialist-mechanist view does have a very profound perspective of life. Its view is a complex one but wonderful in its perception. The only better way of coming close to an understanding of the concept of aging and death is via a very strong spiritual backdrop. Buddhism for example starts with a rather brutal but honest perspective of life.Buddha said that "Birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old-age and deaths are suffering." It is therefore worth noting that all these are part and parcel of the life of every human being in this world.

The Japanese view of death and old age is a very unique one. This is because Japan has throughout the centuries proven justifiably that it has the strongest attitudes towards age and death (Becker, 2009).This is as opposed to the popular " youth" view of the West. The Japanese society has through time looked at the state of being elderly with so much optimism and joy. They also value other aspects of their culture such as:

Ceremonies of Tea

Calligraphy

Flowers

Aikid?

And such like arts as the true "Paths" through which the cultured and mature population finds their expression. Therefore to the Japanese community, individuals do become more valuable as they age as opposed to the Western perspective that look at the elderly as some sort of a burden.The Japanese society is in fact praised for its ideas that encourage reciprocal obligation as well as interdependence. These calmly and plainly dictate that the elderly be well cared for on the ground of their previous contribution to the society. The Japanese society has been noted to be living in families that are three-generational in length and arrangement. They have also been noted to honor their ancestors at their respective family altars and they have been noted to be having a culture of consciousness and continuity with a strong link to the past and great gratitude to their forefathers.

Their fearlessness towards death is evident from various historical accounts and mythologies with accounts of countless suicides of warriors and kamikaze pilots. The twentieth century accounts regarding literati has also dumbfounded the Western world. This is with a clear message that the classical Japanese civilization revered honor over life.

Overview of the current Japanese population

The Japanese society has the highest longevity in the whole world at present. Their life expectancies of 79 for men and 86 for women are noted as the best in the world (Japan National Institute, 2005). A projection has shown that by 2040, a single generation of Japanese that exists today will have 33% of its members being over the age of 65 (Robine and Saito, 2003).

Several Japanese in the present setting do have a feeling that the various modern biomedical as well as technological marvels regarding the enhancement of human longevity and the source of death itself are changing a view of the common understanding of the situation that has historically been regarded as a simple and yet natural event and process of dying (Kimura, 1996). The true meaning of death and the process of dying is constantly changing as well as the metrics used in the determination of death itself. These include the cessation of heartbeat as well as respiration.

It should be noted that an individual's death should be regarded as a personal affair and therefore must be deemed private and familial in the social context. This has indeed been the situation in the Japanese culture and society for a long period of time (Kimura, 1996).The Japanese understanding in terms of their traditional and social-cultural perspective regarding the understanding of life of a human is positive. It however admits that death is a natural process which marks the end of life. This same idea is expressed in various phrases contained in the Zen-Buddhist scriptures. Words like "accept death as it is" as well as "life-death as one phenomenon" are just an illustration of how death has been seamlessly integrated into the common understanding of the human life as illustrated by Tomomatsu (1939).

Just like any other country, the Japanese had their views on death both in ancient times and modern times. In early Japanese times the subject or topic of death was considered a taboo and death was considered filthy. Beliefs were held by the ancients that medicine could cure any problem one had and it is only death that they found mysterious and unexplainable. The views on death held traditionally and those held presently have varied a little considering that Japan is no longer a purely Buddhist state like it was several decades back. Other religions like Christianity and Hinduism are now practiced by some Japanese therefore their long held traditions have had to change. These beliefs were considered very important and have been passed on and on by the elderly in the society. In contemporary times since death was impure and filthy. The Japanese had rituals like encoffinment. The practice of encoffinment was necessary to relieve the family of their grief and also to clean the dead person's impurity.

Contemporary Japanese carried out the following rites

The rite of Nokan or the encoffinment where the corpse was placed in a casket during the funeral. Traditionally, the ceremony was to relieve the family of their grief by cleansing the dead of all his worldly suffering, while hoping they would have a better life in the afterlife. The specialist handled all the necessary requirements for ease of passage into the afterlife.

In early times there were two main traditions practiced Shinto and Buddhist traditions. According to Shinto traditions, the dead as well as the family unit from which he/she came from were considered to be unclean and impure; therefore the corpse had to be washed for purification.

Traditional Japanese believed that the dead person's soul remained impure for some period following death before purification through memorials done by the relatives of the dead; thereafter the soul was deindividuated into an ancestor god or goddess. Traditional Japanese opinion that dead people are impure is based on the Kojiki myth, where maggots came out of the rotting body of a god. Traditionally burial gowns were also considered garments for travelling that prepared the dead when travelling to the other world.

The encoffinment rite was done by the family members as death was unclean. In modern times, in keeping with this rite, family members wipe the corpse clean with a cotton cloth dipped in alcohol with the assistance funeral specialists.

Traditionally… [END OF PREVIEW]

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