The purpose of death
The nature of life after death
How we can prepare for death
How we can assist the dying
Every moment keep your luggage packed. Nobody knows when death will call. The warrant of death is like the arrest warrant. One cannot think of appealing against it. No matter what is happening, we have to quickly leave off and go. So, if you are ready before hand, there will not be much difficulty in leaving. Brahmananda Saraswathi, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath
Preparing for death is not something we can do in a week or a month, or any fixed time frame. In the broadest sense, our whole life is preparation, because whatever psychic impressions we gather during life will form the landscape of our experience after death. To the degree we can resolve these impressions and cultivate a spiritual perspective about ourselves and the world, we will greatly enhance the quality of our experience, both during life and after death. Here are some suggestions in that regard.
Daily Spiritual Practice - The most universal spiritual practice is repetition of the holy "word", or "name" of God, using a string of beads called a Rosary, Mala, or Tasbih. This ancient practice is revered in all the great traditions as an effective means to purify the subtle body and resolve psychic impressions which bind us to the Earth plane. Your priest, rabbi or imam can help you get started. If you don't feel drawn to any particular spiritual tradition and are looking for a way to begin, please consider the Transcendental Meditation program (TM), as taught by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, or the Art of Living program, as taught by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Both of these programs are easy to learn and will not conflict with any religion or spiritual belief. Most cities around the world have TM or Art of Living centers where you can learn one of these excellent programs.
Forgiveness and Redemption - Sooner or later, whether during life or after death, we all must take responsibility for our past actions, and forgive others for theirs. If you've hurt someone, even in the distant past, apologize to that person and try to make amends in whatever way is appropriate. If you're unable to do this, or if contact from you would not be welcome by the other person, talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or counselor. Or seek redemption in a way that's meaningful to you. For example, you might take a vow, do penance or go on a spiritual pilgrimage. When performed sincerely, in the spirit of repentance, these are powerful demonstrations of responsibility within your own psyche. When you've completed one of these rituals, you've stepped into a river and out onto the other side, a changed person.
Likewise, if someone has hurt you, forgive that person completely and without conditions. This may take time, but keep trying. Forgiveness does not mean we have to accept bad or inappropriate behavior. The person's behavior may be unacceptable, but we can still forgive the person. Forgiveness is a form of compassion which arises from the understanding that basically, we're all doing the best we can, limited by our own negative conditioning. Ultimately, we forgive others because we realize it's in our own best interest to do so.
Ahimsa - In Sanskrit, ahimsa refers to the principle of "Do No Harm". It arises from the recognition that all living beings share a common spiritual origin. In practice, this means making an effort to avoid speech or action which is harmful to ourselves, others, society or the planet. Ahimsa requires mindfulness of others on many levels as we navigate through life. It takes maturity and experience, and invariably we'll fail at times. But that's ok. Mistakes are not a problem if we accept responsibility, make amends in whatever way we can and move on. The purpose of life is to gain knowledge through experience. And this includes making a lot of mistakes along the way.
Cultivating a Spiritual Perspective - As human beings, we tend to view Earth life in absolute terms, as if it were the end-all and be-all of existence. This limited perspective has a powerful grip on the human psyche. As a result, many people are in denial about death and refuse to consider the possibility of an afterlife. When people die in this frame of mind, they can become confused and disoriented. Refusing to accept that they've died, they can remain Earth bound for some time and unable to progress through the normal stages of death.
In preparation for death, it's valuable to cultivate a broader perspective. The truth is, we are not human beings. We're spiritual beings having a brief human experience. And, the Earth is not our home. It's a place we're visiting for a short time in order to experience limitations and challenges, which otherwise we'd have no way to know. If this seems hard to believe, do your own research in the area of the afterlife and near-death studies. If you approach these subjects with an open mind, you'll find overwhelming evidence that consciousness does, in fact, survive death of the physical body. If we cultivate this broader perspective, or even just maintain an open mind on the subject, it will help smooth our progress through the various stages after death.
If you are interested to learn more, the following books present some of the best clinical and scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness after death.
The Art of Dying - Dr. Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick
Consciousness Beyond Life - Pim van Lommel, M.D.
Irreducible Mind - Edward F. Kelly, Ph.D., Bruce Greyson, M.D., etal
Life after Life - Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D.
Evidence of the Afterlife - Jeffrey Long, M.D.
Science and the Near Death Experience - Chris Carter