Dr Hannah Gould and Dr David Marco, both of the University of Melbourne in Australia, along with Dr Anna Halafof of Deakin University, also in Melbourne, and Deb Rawlings of Flinders University in Adelaide, recently concluded a large study into the use of Buddhism in end-of-life care for Australians. Their work sought answers about how Buddhist ideas and practices found their way into Australians' decisions about death.
“Buddhist-inspired practices, including mindfulness and compassion training, are part of Australia's thriving wellness industry and, for many Australians, Buddhists and Buddhism now play a non-existent role. only to live well, but also to die well. Dr. Gould and Dr. Halafof wrote. “There are not yet comprehensive statistics on the extent of Buddhist influence within Australia's end-of-life care system, nor on each person's journey to death. That's why we set out to study this emerging phenomenon as part of the Dying 'Buddhish' in Australia project. (The Guardian)
The project concluded in November 2023 and the results are just beginning to be disseminated. The project in part identified more than 40 end-of-life service providers offering Buddhist-inspired elements such as mindfulness practices or discussions about a 49-day intermediate state a being goes through after death. Nearly 50 individual practitioners have been identified who also integrate Buddhist practices into their work in hospitals, hospices and funeral homes.
One of them is Karuna Hospice Services…Karuna is the Sanskrit word for compassion, founded in 1992 by the Venerable Pende Hawter. Today, Karuna Hospice Services is a provider of in-home hospice and spiritual care. She continues her affiliation with the Tibetan Buddhist organization founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
Fri. Tsultrim, a Buddhist nun affiliated with Karuna Hospice Services, provides palliative and spiritual care, embodying the calming presence often associated with Buddhist practitioners. Fri. Tsultrim points out that hospices like Karuna welcome people of all faiths and people with no religious affiliation. The emphasis is not on converting individuals to Buddhism but on compassionately supporting them and promoting moments of reflection.
The move toward Buddhist-inspired end-of-life care aligns with broader societal changes in Australia, where the percentage of Christians is falling and the number of individuals identifying as having "no religion " is growing. This trend reflects increasing spiritual diversity and a shift toward spirituality outside traditional religious frameworks.
Dr. Gould and Dr. Halafof also note that: “Symbols of nature – lotus flowers, bamboo and water lilies – feature prominently in the marketing of Buddhist funeral care. » This appeals to some Australians because “meaningful and spiritually diverse end-of-life and death care is possible.” But they are not always easy to access. Australian end-of-life and dying care institutions operate within a largely secular framework that recognizes religious diversity but not necessarily spirituality. (The Guardian)
Buddhist teachings and practices, such as recognizing the impermanence of life and developing compassion, resonate with many Australians facing the end of life. These principles provide a framework for coping with suffering and managing difficult emotions.
The growing importance of Buddhist-inspired end-of-life care reflects a broader shift towards spirituality and holistic approaches to dying well in Australia. The research findings, available on the University of Melbourne website, provide promising new areas of research for researchers in Australia and around the world, as well as ideas for end-of-life professionals and those who are faced with their own death or that of their loved ones.