Volume 12, 2005
Buddhism and Death: The Brain-Centered Criteria
John-Anderson L. Meyer
University of Hawai’i
This essay explores the two main definitions of human death that have gained popularity in the western medical context in recent years, and attempts to determine which of these criteria—“whole-brain” or “cerebral”—is best in accord with a Buddhist understanding of death. In the end, the position is taken that there is textual and linguistic evidence in place for both the “cerebral” and “whole-brain” definitions of death. Because the textual sources underdetermine the definitive Buddhist conception of death, it is left to careful reasoning by way of logic, intuition, and inference to determine which definition of death is best representative of Buddhism.