Journal of Near-Death Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 161–178 | Cite as

Near-Death Experiences in Thailand

  • Todd Murphy


Near-death experiences (NDEs) in Thailand do not demonstrate the episodes most noted in those collected in the West, but they do show consistent features. I argue that these features, including harbingers of death, visions of hell, the Lord of the underworld, and the benefits of making donations to Buddhist monks and temples, can be understood within the framework of beliefs and customs unique to Southeast Asia. The simplest explanation is that the phenomenology of NDEs at least in part fulfills the individuals' expectations of what they will experience at death. These expectations are most often derived from the experiencer's culture, subculture, or mix of cultures. Culture-bound expectations are, in turn, most often derived from religion. One case, quoted at length, shows features that suggest that the individual was experiencing stress as a result of living in both Thai and Chinese cultures. Although the phenomenology of Thai NDEs is at variance from those in the West, the typical episodes that appear in each seem to follow a comparable sequencing. This similarity in structure suggests that NDEs in both cultures have a common function.

near-death experience Buddhism 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.San Francisco

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