“Our greatest fear is that when we die, we will become nothing. Many of us believe our entire existence is limited to a particular period, our “lifespan.” We believe it begins when we are born—when, out of being nothing, we become something—and it ends when we die and become nothing again. So we are filled with a fear of annihilation. But if we look deeply, we can have a very different understanding of our existence. We can see that birth and death are just notions; they’re not real. The Buddha taught that there is no birth and no death. Our belief that these ideas about birth and death are real creates a powerful illusion that causes us a great deal of suffering. When we understand that we can’t be destroyed, we’re liberated from fear. It’s a huge relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.
“When you lose a loved one, you suffer. But if you know how to look deeply, you have a chance to realize that his or her nature is truly the nature of no-birth, no-death. There is manifestation, and there is the cessation of manifestation in order to have another manifestation. You have to be alert to recognize the new manifestations of one person. But with practice and effort, you can do it. Pay attention to the world around you, to the leaves and the flowers, to the birds and the rain. If you can stop and look deeply, you will recognize your beloved manifesting again and again in many forms.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Fear of death is indeed one of the greatest fears for most of us. More accurately, we fear that there is no afterlife and we will just cease to exist. Or perhaps worse, that there is an after life and we will end up in hell. All of those fears can be overcome in one way or another.
As for the fear that there is no afterlife and we simply end when the body dies, what is there to fear in that? Not that it is true, but if it was, so what? You end, it’s over, no more pains, no more worries. It is not something we have any control over so fearing it and worrying about it is useless.
We have people who spend a great deal of money searching for ways to extend their physical life by a few years. Why? If you believe that physical life is the only life, you except that you life will end. Spending much of the limited time you have searching for ways to extend your time here is just wasting what time you do have.
Fear of Hell
If we fear death because we fear going to hell, that is actually a reasonable fear. But it is a fear that can be overcome by doing what is necessary to prevent that from happening. Knowing what that is can be confusing.
There are many churches and religions teaching many different things about hell and how to avoid it. Our own soul knows the truth. We need to trust our intuition. We also need to awaken our souls. Only a fully awakened conscious soul can alleviate our fear of going to hell. The awakened soul knows exactly what must be done to avoid that fate. The awakened soul doesn’t fear hell and it doesn’t have death fear.
Birth and Death
I don’t think we can say that birth and death are not real. They are unreal for the spirit and soul, but very real for the physical body. Of course, if you think of the body as pure illusion that doesn’t matter, then we can say that birth and death don’t exist. But matter is not imaginary. It is real, but not what it appears to be. While it can be argued that matter doesn’t cease to exist, it simply changes form, that is death as far as that form is concerned. Unless that form is human and has gone to the trouble of uniting with its permanent spiritual self thereby becoming immortal. Such a united being has no death fear.
In short, fear of death really becomes fear of life. By operating from a level of fear, and avoiding things that might result in death, you never really live. Even if life is temporary, and the afterlife is a fantasy, that is even more reason to live life while we can. In reality, life is permanent and the physical stage of it is just the beginning. The spirit and soul are immortal. The catch is, you experience that immortality only if you unite your physical, mental and spiritual self while still alive on the physical plane.