It is imperative that the dying individual remain fully aware for as long as possible because the thoughts one has while passing over into death heavily influence the nature of both the after-death experience and, if one fails to achieve nirvana, the state of one's next incarnation.
On the first day of the second bardo, there appears to the soul the divine Father-Mother - that is, the supreme deity of the universe, transcending all dualities, including the division into sexes. The next step in the destiny of the soul is determined by his reaction to this God. If his life on Earth was well lived, he will now be in a state of purity and grace, and he will enter into the joy of the God and attain liberation. If on the other hand he has lived an ignoble and impious life, the effects of his bad karma will cause the intense radiant presence of the God to strike fear and terror in his heart, and he will be drawn instead to the softer light of the Deva-Loka, which has dawned along with this deity. This is still a fairly attractive fate, for the Devas are the Gods (or angels), and their Loka is equivalent to the Christian heaven; however, the Buddhist teaching is that even heaven is not the highest spiritual objective, because it is still only a temporary state in the manifest universe. Liberation is believed to be the only final and permanent resting-place for the soul, an un-manifest state beyond all existence.
The Critical Issue of Life and Death - Buddhism
More often than not in this society of ours, which is a life-affirmingsociety, a beauty- and pleasure-affirming society, the topic of deathand dying is avoided. Not only this society, but most societies,including traditional Buddhist cultures, avoid the topic of death asthough it were something unpleasant, depressing, to be avoided; even abad omen: "Don't talk about it as you may encourage it to happen!" Ofcourse this attitude is not very wise and certainly not in keeping withthe Buddhist attitude. So this evening I would like to speak on theBuddhist attitude to death and dying.