Question: According to this news article: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/toddler-cryogenically-frozen-parents-death-002420432.html, a child’s parents cryogenically froze her body after death, in the hope that future technology can resurrect her. Do you think her consciousness had left the body? If technology later allows the body to resurrect, will the same consciousness return to the body? How should we help someone in a similar situation? Is Nianfo (mindfulness of the name of Amituofo [Amitabha Buddha] to reach his Pure Land) the only way to help?
Answer: Although the article mentioned that the child had already died, in usual cases, the consciousness will still be habitually attached to the body, for some hours at least. However, as the body became frozen for indefinite time, which would be unbearable if experienced by the consciousness, the consciousness should have left by then – unless stubbornly attached, which would be torturous as the consciousness experiences phenomena nine times more intensely.
Cryogenics is not a proven workable science yet, as it merely hopes technology in the future will be able to offer a ‘miracle cure’. Even if the body’s ailments get cured eventually, it is unlikely that the same consciousness will still be around after a long time due to habitual attachment, and as allowed by personal karma, to reinhabit the body, before there is natural or compelled rebirth to elsewhere. (Unless liberated, it is the natural karma of all beings in Samsara to undergo ongoing cycles of birth, ageing, sickness and death.)
It is also an unknown, whether a ‘recovered’ body will automatically become a viable host for any foreign consciousness or not. If it does happen, it will be similar to possession, as the consciousness did not meet the sperm and egg during conception in the usual way. Will such possession be sustainable for long? This is another unknown. It would depend on karma too. In a way, the way our consciousnesses live in our healthy bodies now is like a form of possession too, but it feels natural because our karma allows this to be. Eventually, we all have to ‘give up the ghost (consiousness)’ and move on when our bodies fail.
Although a body can be frozen to minimise changes (though it still happens at a slower rate), any consciousness cannot be ‘frozen’ (unless we are talking about being in a deep meditative state, which is still not permanent). Since the consciousness of the deceased has to move on, it always makes the most sense to Nianfo to reach Pure Land. Thus, before taking her off life support, the parents should had used support-chanting to guide and encourage her consciousness to swiftly and painlessly depart for Pure Land in bliss. If this happened, there would had been no need to take her off life support. (Note that taking anyone off life support, which hastens death, can disturb the consciousness, possibly forcing departure from the body when not yet ready. This might even condition an unfortunate rebirth.)
If there was assurance of her well-being with Nianfo, they would not have to think of going through cryogenics, the doing of which means they have strong attachment and expectations, which will prove heartbreaking over time. If support-chanting was not possible due to various reasons, onlookers who are aware can still Nianfo to dedicate merits, hoping there can be a good rebirth. However, as guidance for Nianfo is amiss, unless the child already knew how to Nianfo (sincerely with the right Faith and Aspiration) and did so, she cannot reach Pure Land.
Nianfo is not the only way to help the dying, but it is the safest and best, as it connects one to the other-power, of Amituofo’s great blessings and compassionate guidance. Other methods would be with self-power alone, depending on one’s limited meditative skills and positive karma, which will never be as excellent as the immeasurable benefits from connecting to Amituofo to be reborn in the best place possible.
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