The concept of death in different cultures and religions

Robert Johnston
The concept of death in different cultures and religions

For Western culture, the issue of death is more complicated, because it encourages the concept of clinging, of growing up with the idea of ​​"forever", not to mention death, which makes it difficult to "carry" duels in a healthy way..

In other cultures, even as children, the theme of death is so present in rites, in life itself, that it is understood that it is part of it and is perfectly integrated. We are born, we grow and we die. It is normalized and accepted.


  • Mexico
  • Africa
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Tibet


Mexican society came into violent contact with Christianity in the sixteenth century, and Catholicism prevailed, replacing what before the arrival of the conquerors were their deities. In 16th century Mexico, native symbols were hopelessly combined with Catholic ones.

A good example of this is the Mexican Day of the Dead. Archeology has helped to know that the practice of offering and that the dead did not leave alone (but with food, weapons and wealth), was something common for thousands of years in different pre-Hispanic societies.

Day of the Dead, Mexico

Offerings and altars (called Altar de Muertos) are very frequent, and that day (known in Spain as Día de los Difuntos, November 1 and in the Aztec calendar celebrated in July-August), in Mexico it is celebrated in a very different way. The day is a whole party in the country and they are held

Incredibly artistic altars of the dead throughout Mexico.


The Lumbalú made both reference to the chants of the dead, and to the rite of passage. In the Lumbalú people sing, cry, dance frantically and praise the dead, who is present. The candle lasts 9 days, and the most important is the last. In the Lumbalú everything radiates Africanity. If the deceased is well honored with this rite, he manages to cross that border to the world of the dead and does not stay in the family home..

The Lumbalú maintains solidarity and community identity as its main idea. These types of rites of passage or transition vary from one culture to another, but they serve the same purpose: to reinforce group bonds.

And it is that societies are also reinforced in life thanks to death, a vital experience that, although it is difficult for many to accept, is inevitable and necessary..

Lumbalú. Africa

In general, and especially in our Western culture, we have not been prepared since childhood for death, for losses, we are educated in the culture of attachment, and death is considered taboo, little is said, is avoid, she is always surrounded by fear.


In Eastern cultures that practice Buddhism, life does not end with death. The person is reincarnated in another life and must learn in each life, lessons to improve until becoming a pure spiritual being, which has been perfected through these different lives.

According to the Buddhist view, life is eternal. Since it goes through successive incarnations, death is not considered so much the cessation of an existence as the beginning of a new one. For Buddhists the phenomenon of transmigration is obvious, so death is necessary.


As we die, we can appreciate the wonder of life. To speak of the ideal way of dying, one must speak of the ideal way of living. Going through the death process in a satisfactory way depends on the constant efforts that are made during life to accumulate good causes, to contribute to the happiness of others and to strengthen the foundation of goodness and humanity in the deepest of our lives. Buddhism guarantees that those who sincerely practice will approach death in a state of full satisfaction..


The Hindu's concern is not death. For him, this is not the enemy. From his birth, death for him is not a term. He is going to be reborn in another place and the important thing is to interrupt the chain of rebirths. He has always belonged to eternity. He is a manifestation of the divine. From the moment he was born, he is a being strange to the world. It already has a pre-existence, it has already existed in some way, and when it disappears, there is no passage from being to nothing..

If the Westerner goes after immortality and wishes to avoid the death that anguishes him, the Hindu, on the other hand, seeks to liberate himself from life, to escape to earthly existence..

He considers his social, historical existence as a negation of being, and his goal is to renounce it. Existence is for him the absence of reality and non-affirmation of what is and becomes.

In the religious thought of Hinduism, death consists in the union of the individual soul with the Universal soul, so it is believed that when dying one passes not to another life like the one we know on Earth, but to another form of existence, which is essentially spiritual.


According to Hinduism, each person lives many lives throughout their existence. This eternal cycle of reincarnations is called "samsara." When one dies, his soul is reborn, reincarnated, in another body. What happens to him in each life is the result of previous lives. That is, one will reincarnate in a good body if in his previous life he has behaved according to his duty in life or "dharma". If they are good, it will reincarnate in a higher life form. What you do well makes you good and what you do bad makes you bad.


Among Tibetans their attitudes towards death and dying are devoid of the general taboo that we find in the West. There they meet death with respect and veneration. And the existence of death becomes a stimulant for the development of man. This growth is emphasized throughout life, and especially when the person is dying..


A basic principle of the Buddhist system - which permeates the lives of Tibetans - is the transitory character and constant change of the entire universe. There the existence of death is used as an indispensable psychological element for the consciousness of the transitory nature of life, of the change of all things and of the precious value of this very moment, of the here and now..

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