Death, Views of Asian and Western Culture on Death and Dying


Death has been a subject of debate among various scholars, religious leaders, and scientists over a long period of time. There has been no clear convergence in understanding death especially among the various religions in the world. As a result of the lack of convergence in the different views among various believers, each and every religion has opted to adopt its own view on death. Controversy has especially emerged between the Asian view on death and the western culture view on death and dying. So, what are the views of the Asians on death and drying in comparison with the western view on the same? First, I will discuss the Asian view on death in relation to their religious beliefs and practices and compare it with the western cultural views to ascertain the difference between the two views.

Asian view on death and dying

The Asian community is composed of various religions such as Hinduism, Buddha, and Islam. Though in recent years, Christianity has been embraced by some Asians. In the Asian religion and customs at large, they believe in reincarnation. The reincarnation concept has existed in the Asian community for a very long period of time; it incorporates a belief that when people die, their journey has come to an end in this world but would be reborn later in another world to continue with the journey.

Therefore, they believe that death does not end an individual’s life but provides an opportunity to an individual to live another life in a different world depending on how one behaved while on earth. Individual religions differ to a small extent on the view of death and dying but, they all believe in the rebirth of an individual either in the same form or different form after death. For instance, Buddhists believe that an individual can either be reborn on a higher or lower level depending on the character of the individual while on earth. Evil individuals are expected to be reborn on a lower existence compared to righteous individuals who would be reborn on higher levels (Norway Museum of Cultural History).

The Buddhists believe in what they call ‘samsara’ which implies that there is no eternal life in the individuals but people keep on changing as their spirits is being born and reborn after the death of the physical body. Accepting and completely believing in this concept would result in one achieving ‘nirvana’ where one’s spirit would not be reborn again. When a person dies, the spirit is immediately guided by the monks by means of giving it instructions that would help it orient itself in the spirit world otherwise, the spirit would be confused. This is also the practice with Hinduism where the spirit is guided while being released from the body and ushered into the new spirit world (Norway Museum of Cultural History).

Unlike Buddhism where people aim at achieving Nirvana, Hinduism aims at achieving ‘moksha’. These names imply the same thing; that is, the spirit would only rest after achieving either ‘moksha’ or ‘nirvana’. Hinduism, like Buddhism, believes that dying in the presence of close relatives and the priest would automatically lead an individual to a higher life in the next rebirth. Asians, through their religion, believes that it is better to die while on the ground since this would allow the soul to depart from the body much easily (Norway Museum of Cultural History).

Western view on death and dying

The western culture is composed mainly of Christian-based religions such as Protestants, Catholics, and Pentecostal among many other Christian religions. All of these religions are guided by one important book known as the Holy Bible. It is in the Bible that the Christians derive the meaning of death thereby offering their views on the same. Based on the Bible, many people from the western culture share a common view on death and dying; whether they are saved according to the Christian’s norms or not (Dennis 2008).

The basic view is that once an individual dies, there are two options; either Hell or Heaven depending on whether one followed the holiness prescribed by the Bible. Where one lived by the requirement of the Bible, a place would be reserved in Heaven otherwise, one would go to Hell. Unlike Asians who believe in rebirth, westerners do not believe in the spirit living again in another form after its death.

For the Christians, they are of the view that death was a curse imposed on human beings after Adam and Eve sin against the Creator, God. They believe that God created man to live for eternal life but due to the sins of Adam and Eve, a curse in form of death was imposed nonhumans. However, since God was merciful, he sent Jesus, believed to be his son to rescue mankind from sins (Barry).

According to Christianity, whoever professes sin through the name of Jesus Christ and repent would receive eternal life after the death of the physical body. However, those who would not confess their sins would receive eternal judgment through eternal fire in Hell. However, while still on earth, an individual may undergo two types of death. One type of death is through baptism where an individual is transformed from a sinful person to a holy person through immersion in water. When an individual is immersed in water, the individual is assumed to have died and resurrected when coming out of water. The second death comes when the physical body dies and is buried, but the spirit is believed to have ascended to Heaven where it will have eternal peace and joy in case one had repented his sins (Craven & Hirnle, 2008, p.322).

Difference between Asian and western culture views on death and dying

As discussed above, clear differences in the views between Asians and western culture on death and dying exist. As for the Asians, most of them view death as an ordained phenomenon and therefore embrace it when it comes. They believe that by dying, one is being offered an opportunity to explore the next world till the time the spirit would be able to achieve ‘Nirvana’. Consequently, they believe that death is natural and cannot be stopped and need to be embraced at anytime it chooses to occur. On the other hand, though western culture persons believe that death is natural, they view it as a curse from God and always chose to avoid it. They are of the view that God created man to live forever though Adam and Eve reversed the original aim of God creating man by sinning in the Garden of Eden (Dennis, 2008, p.22)

In conclusion, it can be asserted that the western culture people fear death especially those who view themselves as sinful. Consequently, they fear dying as their future after death would be full of misery and trouble when sent to Hell. Considering the customs of Christianity, it is difficult to attain full holiness like that of Jesus Christ hence few people are expected to go to Heaven; hence, causing fear among the western people that when they die, they would burn in eternal fire (Barry).

Unlike the people associated with western culture, the Asians are always happy with death. They embrace dying since they believe that they always have a second chance in life in another world. So no matter how bad they had lived on earth, they do have hopes of improving while in the next world. Therefore, the Asians receive death with happiness and in case an individual was on medication and felt time was ready to die, one would forfeit medication to embrace death whole heartedly. It can therefore be seen that Asians are brave on death unlike the people of western culture who tend to fear dying.


Barry, A.L. What about Death and Dying. Web.

Craven, R. F., & Hirnle C. J. (2008). Fundamentals of nursing: human health and function. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Dennis, D. (2008). Living, Dying, Grieving. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Norway Museum of Cultural History: Farewell – Death and bereavement in multi-cultural: Hinduism. Web.

Macionis, J. J., & Plummer K. (2005). Sociology: a global introduction. Pearson Prentice Hall.

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