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NDE (Near Death Experiences)

edited March 2011 in Buddhism Basics
When people experience a so-called 'Near Death Experience' they often claim visions of light, a loved one, feeling of wellbeing etc.
Obviously, Christians take this as some sort of proof for an afterlife - but in buddhism, what would this mean?
The light etc, accompanied by the feeling of well-being seems similar to people's descriptions of jhanic meditation.


  • I had more than one near death experience and I saw nothing. Not to be a Debbie downer. I'm sure other peoples claims are legitimate.
  • have you ever read the Tibetan book of the dead?


    well either way there is an idea called the clear white light. it is something you see in bardo (state after death).
    also lsd can induce the same experiences as the tibetan book of the dead maps out. and from the "reports" i've read, many people have seen the clear white light during their "lsd" trips.

    -note i am NOT advocating drugs. i am just presenting information.

    i wonder if this clear white light is what the zen buddhist monks see when they become enlightened.
    i heard it somewhere that monks see a bright light before enlightenment. superstition or factual?

    just some more thoughts to think about. =]
  • I just happened to be looking at this earlier:

    "His Holiness the Dalai Lama...

    Question: When people hear of luminosity of clear light that dawns at the moment of death they ask why it is called clear light. What has this got to do with light as we know it?
    Dalai Lama: "I don't think that in the term clear light, light should be taken literally. It is sort of metaphoric. This could have its roots in our terminology of mental will. According to Buddhism, all consciousness or all cognitive mental events are said to be in the nature of clarity and luminosity. So it is from that point of view that the choice of the term light is used. Clear light is the most subtle level of mind, which can be seen as the basis or the source from which eventual experience or realisation of Buddhahood, Buddha's wisdom might come about, therefore it is called clear light. Clear light is a state of mind which becomes fully manifest only as a consequence of certain sequences or stages of dissolution, where the mind becomes devoid of certain types of obscurations, which are again metaphorically described in terms of sun-like, moonlike and darkness. These refer to the earlier three stages of dissolution which are technically called, including the clear light stage, the four empties. At the final stage of dissolution the mind is totally free of all these factors of obscuration. Therefore it is called clear light. Sort of a light. It is also possible to understand the usage of the term clear light in terms of the nature of mind itself. Mind or consciousness is a phenomena which lacks any obstructive quality. It is non-obstructed."

  • edited March 2011
    I had more than one near death experience and I saw nothing. Not to be a Debbie downer. I'm sure other peoples claims are legitimate.
    We're glad you're still with us Y'baby. :)
    I don't think the typical NDE is "automatic"; some people experience it, some don't. I know two people who did have those experiences, went towards the light, saw deceased relatives greeting them. Possibly it could be explained as entering a bardo state, as Tai said. But I think there are phenomena that aren't explainable via Buddhism. I like to keep an open mind, and not just dismiss things because they don't go by the book. Being that rigid smacks too much of Christianity and other fundamentalism.

    Wow--great find, S'Dorje! :clap:
  • edited March 2011
    Christians take this as some sort of proof for an afterlife - but in buddhism, what would this mean?
    The light etc, accompanied by the feeling of well-being
    Just an illusion to keep you in samsara. Beware of it. :)
  • Sorry about the double post- I have a bad signal and it does that sometimes...
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Not a problem. I just wipe the duplicate. :)
  • B5CB5C Veteran
    Those white tunnels that people see and memories is the brain responding to the blood returning too the brain.

    NDE symptoms happen too test pilots who faint from too much G-forces.
  • What about seeing deceased relatives?

    NDE symptoms happen too test pilots who faint from too much G-forces.
  • B5CB5C Veteran
    What about seeing deceased relatives?
    It's all about memories. I never meet my great grandfather, but I had photos of him. I could get an image of him from a photo, but most of the seeing of dead relatives are the relatives they know and love.

    Near-Death Experiences Explained?
    Bright lights, angelic visions products of too much CO2 in the blood, study says.

    Near-death experiences are tricks of the mind triggered by an overload of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, a new study suggests.

    Many people who have recovered from life-threatening injuries have said they experienced their lives flashing before their eyes, saw bright lights, left their bodies, or encountered angels or dead loved ones.

    In the new study, researchers investigated whether different levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide—the main blood gases—play a role in the mysterious phenomenon.

    The team studied 52 heart attack patients who had been admitted to three major hospitals and were eventually resuscitated. Eleven of the patients reported near-death experiences.

    During cardiac arrest and resuscitation, blood gases such as CO2 rise or fall because of the lack of circulation and breathing.

    "We found that in those patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon-dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not," said team member Zalika Klemenc-Ketis, of the University of Maribor in Slovenia.

    (Related: "Creepy 'Shadow Person' Effect Conjured by Brain Shocks.")

    CO2 Only Common Factor in Near-Death Experiences

    Other factors, such a patient's sex, age, or religious beliefs—or the time it took to revive them—had no bearing on whether the patients reported near-death experiences.

    The drugs used during initial treatment—a suggested explanation for near-death experiences after heart attacks—also didn't seem to correlate with the sensations, according to the study authors.

    (Related: "Ancient Death-Smile Potion Decoded?")

    How carbon dioxide might actually interact with the brain to produce near-death sensations was beyond the scope of the study, so for now "the exact pathophysiological mechanism for this is not known," Klemenc-Ketis said.

    However, people who have inhaled excess carbon dioxide or have been at high altitudes, which can raise the blood's CO2 concentrations, have been known to have sensations similar to near-death experiences, she said. (Related: "High-Altitude Suits Keep Pressure on Pilots.")

    A Glimpse of the Afterlife?

    The study is among the first to find a direct link between carbon dioxide in the blood and near-death experiences, or NDEs, said Christopher French, a psychologist at the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit of the University of London, who was not involved in the new research.

    The hospital study bolsters previous lab work done in the 1950s that found "the effects of hypercarbia [abnormally high levels of CO2 in the blood] were very similar to what we would now recognise as NDEs," French said in an email.

    The research also supports the argument that anything that disinhibits the brain—damages the brain's ability to manage impulses—can produce near-death sensations, he said. Physical brain injury, drugs, and delirium have all been associated with a disinhibited state, and CO2 overload is another potential trigger.

    Still, not all scientists are convinced: "The one difficulty in arguing that CO2 is the cause is that in cardiac arrests, everybody has high CO2 but only 10 percent have NDEs," said neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London.

    What's more, in heart attack patients, Fenwick said, "there is no coherent cerebral activity which could support consciousness, let alone an experience with the clarity of an NDE."

    The main alternative is that near-death experiences are "evidence of consciousness becoming separated from the physical substrate of the brain, possibly even a glimpse of an afterlife," the University of London's French noted.

    But for him, at least, "the latest results argue strongly against such a hypothesis."


    Here is an article about G-Forces and NDE:
  • edited March 2011
    What about when NDE experiencers leave their bodies, and from their unusual vantage point are able to see objects that wouldn't be visible to a patient in a hospital bed?
    The articles are interesting, B5C, but I don't think they explain everything. :)
  • oh jeez, I saw an awesome documentary on this. I think it was Nat. Geo.
    Some people could see and hear discussions out of body, some received some prophetic advice from loved ones, Christians saw angels, Hindus saw Krishna (or whoever the blue guy is, im not an expert). It was fascinating.
  • some received some prophetic advice from loved ones, .
    You remind me, Malachy, that some people "return" from these experiences with extrasensory abilities; healing hands, clairvoyance, etc. That would make an interesting study; if the NDE's are, in fact, caused by a change in CO2 in the brain, as science would have us believe, then how does that condition give rise to these unusual abilities?

  • I have been close to death, but that was because I nearly walked off of a cliff with a friend at night, nothing like being on the hospital table on the way out.

    From what I have researched in the past and come to hear, when your body is in the process of dying, the moment of death, it releases a vast amount of chemicals in the brain, one of them being serotonin. This induces a state of euphoria and it is the chemical ecstasy induces when you take it. This also causes hallucinations in vast amounts.
    Another chemical that is linked to hallucinations that the brain becomes flooded with at the time of death is DMT, this can be an explanation for 'seeing the light', as many DMT trips often entail seeing lights, aliens and other beings.
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