Hinduism & End-of-Life Care
Hinduism is believed to be the world’s oldest religion, and with 900 million followers, it is the third-largest religion in the world. Hindus believe in a soul called atman, one’s true self. They believe in reincarnation where the soul is reborn in a new body after death. The endless cycle of life, birth, death, and rebirth is known as samsara.
A key component of Hinduism is the belief in karma. Every good thought, word, or deed in this life leads to either suffering or rewards in the next life. Hindus strive to live a life according to dharma, the cosmic law which underlies right behavior and social order.
How Is Hinduism incorporated into hospice and palliative care?
Hindus believe that all illnesses have a biological, psychological, and spiritual aspect. It is also believed that illness may result from karma in this life or past lives. Because Hindus believe in reincarnation, they tend to be more accepting of natural death and less interested in artificially prolonging life.
Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion and never eaten. Many Hindu patients practice vegetarianism which is recommended in Hindu scriptures.
Dietary restrictions, cleansing rituals, and modesty should be respected by anyone caring for a Hindi patient. The patient or family may also request that only women provide care for female patients.
Hindu end-of-life practices.
Family is very important in the Hindu faith, and family may visit in large groups. Family may also bring clothes and coins for the patient to touch before giving them away to the poor after death to symbolize the deceased person’s generosity. Religious photos may be turned to face the wall. They may also insist that the patient’s oldest child remain in the room even If the child is very young.
A Hindu priest may visit to pray with the patient and their family to help the soul transmigrate into its next body. A sacred thread may be tied around the dying person’s neck or wrist, and holy water may be sprinkled over the person or used to wet their lips.
The dying person is often placed on the floor on a clean mat or sheet to symbolize closeness to Mother Earth, a freedom from physical constraints to ease the soul’s departure from this life.
How does Crossroads help address the spiritual needs of Hindu patients?
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care respects the religious practices of all our patients and their families, and our team works together to ensure the patient’s wishes are met. If the patient does not have a connection to a local Hindu priest and wishes to have one present, our chaplain can reach out to the local Hindu community for support.
Once a patient has passed away, we will work with the family to continue to honor their wishes regarding who touches the body. Often close family members will wish to wash the body themselves or bring the body home from a facility for preparation for burial.
Hindus tend to prefer cremation, and they will remain with the body until cremation occurs. It is ideal to hold the cremation within 24 hours of death.
Additional Hinduism and end-of-life care resources.
To provide additional information on how Crossroads supports Hindu patients at end of life, we have gathered the following resources: