30+ Inspiring Buddha Quotes on Life, Death & the Afterlife

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For some people, taking solace in their religion is an important part of healing. Faith can offer not only daily guidance but steps to work out important life questions and find comfort. Buddhist quotes, in particular, can strike that mix of both comfort, food for thought, and a mantra to help live your life.

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However, when you are looking to send the perfect words in a sympathy card or to provide support, it can be hard to strike the right tone. You might want to share them in person, or just tuck them into a card. Buddhism however, has multifaceted approaches to life and death. The concept of achieving enlightenment, of reincarnating in an afterlife... these are just a few of these goals that people think about when living life as a Buddhist.

If you’re looking for quotes that encompass all of these elements—living fully, and dying well, and embracing the afterlife that will greet you—we’ve selected some great options.

Buddha Quotes on Living Fully

Achieving enlightenment is one of the primary goals of a Buddhist’s existence, and can come at any point in one’s life.

Buddhists will say that it takes a long time to get there and cannot be achieved without sincere dedication to meditating and connecting to nature. And also to have patience, because the journey is part of a full life.

1. “This one life has no form and is empty by nature. If you become attached by any form, you should reject it. If you see an ego, a soul, a birth, or a death, reject them all.”

The concept of no form and emptiness is central to the way Buddhists view life but can be really hard to embrace overall, as it runs counter to our conventional way of thinking. It can be hard especially when someone is grieving to remind them not to get attached to temporary things. 

2. “One clings to life although there is nothing to be called life; another clings to death although there is nothing to be called death. In reality, there is nothing to be born; consequently, there is nothing to perish.”

It’s all about your perspective. If the world around you isn’t real, then death and loss can just be ways to interpret life.

3. “Life is suffering.”

Suffering always sounds like the most awful thing ever, but the application of this quote has more to do with the fact that no human is born without a capacity to suffer.

If you consider that everyone and everything can suffer, this can be outright freeing to know and accept.

4. "The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit, And habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love, Born out of compassion for all human beings. As the shadow follows the body, As we think, so we become." 

The most meaningful moments in your life might start with the tiniest interactions. 

5. "Just as the dawn is the forerunner of the arising of the sun, so true friendship is the forerunner of the arising of the noble eightfold path." 

Friends can define your entire life. And if you’re trying to achieve enlightenment, the people you touch along the way matters. 

6. "The mind precedes all things, the mind dominates all things, the mind creates all things." 

In Western culture, the body is often paramount. Buddha’s take removes those pressures and focuses on what really matters. 

7. “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

If you’re worried about losing a moment of happiness, sharing it can be the best way to keep it from disappearing. 

8. “Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering an image of death.”

Health doesn’t just apply to physical wellness but also to value your mental and spiritual wellbeing.

9. “Silence the angry man with love. Silence the ill-natured man with kindness. Silence the miser with generosity. Silence the liar with truth.”

Serving as an antidote to someone else’s anger, miserliness, or lies can only be achieved by being the best version of yourself. 

10. “To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

Unraveling the mysteries of life and truth isn’t easy. That’s why Buddhist funerals focus on virtue and love. 

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Buddha Quotes on Dying Well

Reflecting on your loved one can be done by lighting a candle for someone that died. It gives you a chance to remember how they both lived and died well.

11. "You too shall pass away. Knowing this, how can you quarrel?”

Conflict can define our lives. Old feuds, old grudges...they not only hold you back from a journey toward truth, but as this quote implies, they also take up valuable time.

12. “Long is the cycle of birth and death to the fool who does not know the true path.”

If you’re spinning your wheels without any purpose in mind, it’s easy to feel like you’re going to die in vain. 

13. "Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”

Living wisely is a recipe for avoiding regrets. This is a perfect “rest in peace” quote for someone you admired. 

14. "To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent." 

Living diligently isn’t what you think. It might be raising your children well, or committing to meditation or being kind to others. 

15. "On the air they rise and fly an invisible course, gathering nothing, storing nothing… Joyous and clear like the lake, still as the stone at the door, (they are) free from life and death."

Observing the natural order is an important part of Buddhism. Seeing how not all creatures are tied to fear of death can be empowering. 

16. "This world is shrouded in darkness. Here, only a few can see their way free. These few birds escape from the net, and fly away to the heavens."

Sharing this quote can be great in a sympathy card. Or, this could be used in an obituary or funeral announcement. 

17. “Those who consider the unessential to be essential, and see the essential as unessential, don’t reach the essential, living in the field of wrong intention.” 

Getting your priorities straight is the most crucial part of making sure you both live and die well. 

18. “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” 

You can’t change past mistakes. And you certainly can’t predict the future. Taking the time you have now in front of you is the best way to connect with family and friends. 

19. “Let him associate with friends who are noble, energetic, and pure in life, let him be cordial and refined in conduct. Thus, full of joy, he will make an end of suffering.”

You often can’t choose whether you die or not. But you can choose how you go about it.

20. “Should a person do good, let him do it again and again. Let him find pleasure therein, for blissful is the accumulation of good.”

Doing good things for others is addictive. And if you want to be remembered, it’s never too late to start with the tiniest things. 

Buddha Quotes on the Afterlife

Books about life after death suggest that reincarnation is one of the most popular beliefs. That’s definitely true for Buddhism and can provide a lot of hope for people about to pass away. 

21. “Our theories of the eternal are as valuable as are those that a chick which has not broken its way through its shell might form of the outside world.” 

Buddhism is intentionally vague about the afterlife. It’s a chance to drift off into peaceful unknowns, without limitations. 

22. “Whatever is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness and benefit.”

Letting go of your own fears is empowering, and makes the last stages of your life much easier. 

23. “Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression. We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous. We experience joy in the actual act of giving something. And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.” 

Giving to others doesn’t stop once you pass away. If you’ve started end-of-life planning, it’s a great gift for your loved ones.  

24. “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” 

It’s never too late to start on the road to truth. Your efforts matter, whenever you start them. 

25. “One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.”

The first rule of happiness is ‘first, do no harm.’

26. “We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness, make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it.”

Achieving liberation of the mind, from everyday life and struggles, is the point of it all. This is the perfect quote for someone who made a point of chasing lovingkindness. 

27. “Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.”

When you’re in the afterlife or reincarnating in a new one, this ‘garland’ is the only thing you can leave behind.

28. “Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to Death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already.”

If you’re mindful, of yourself and others and the greater spiritual world, you’re not really dying. 

29.“But those who act according to the perfectly taught Dharma will cross the realm of Death, so difficult to cross.”

Crossing into death is always a little frightening. But if you’re ready, then Buddha promises it will become easier for you. 

30. “Neither in the sky nor in mid-ocean nor by entering into mountain clefts, nowhere in the world is there a place where one may not be overcome by death.”

Death is an inevitable part of life. The reminder that every one faces it is a little comforting, for some. 

Consoling Your Loved One

There’s no magical recipe for consolation, especially in the face of death. Taking the time out to pray or offer some sage words during a difficult time can make all the difference. 


Sources

  1. Harvard University. “Quotes: Neuroscience of Yoga and Meditation.” n.d., scholar.harvard.edu/sara_lazar/quotes
  2. Gonzaga University. “Zen Quotes.” n.d., connect.gonzaga.edu/bormann/zen-quotes-5
  3. Easwaran, Eknath. “The Dhammapada.” 1987. Print.

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