Newswise — Because “death” is the end of every life, Chula is offering “Beautiful Death” – a new class on Chula MOOC to explore the meaning of life through a quality death.

“Beautiful Death” is the latest online course from Chula MOOC that takes students on a journey to befriend death, especially to search for the meaning of “quality death” that can benefit the “living” so that they appreciate the value of life.

The Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University has been offering this course since 2009.  Then, in 2017, with overwhelming and ongoing interest from students, the Faculty started to offer the course as a “General Education” (GenEd).  Currently, it is also open to the general public as an online course via Chula MOOC.

Death” in contemporary views

What do we live for?

A simple question, but it is hard to find an answer, especially when life is being tested by incessant challenges like the present when people around the world are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic that shows no sign of ending.

Parting by death is happening every single minute.  The experience of “death” is closing in on us every day, as millions of families are grieving for their loss, close relatives and friends never getting to say their goodbyes, or daily news reporting on the official death toll. Receiving such information regularly reduces the image of death to only statistics or haunting experiences.

“Fundamentally, death is something human beings fear the most,” said Professor Dr. Aim-utcha Wattanaburanon, Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University. “When sick, they struggle to find a cure, when hit by disasters, they fight to survive. The fear of death is a natural human reaction similar to animals.”


                                                    Professor Dr. Aim-utcha Wattanaburanon, Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University

                                                         Professor Dr. Aim-utcha Wattanaburanon
                                                      Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University


The contemporary view is that dying and living are separate concepts. People today have strayed from learning about death until it has become a parallel realm to life, even though in fact, death and life are just the opposite sides of the same coin.

“Opening up the view on death that it’s not something scary, but a natural state of human life that is important to the discovery of the meaning of life,” said Prof Dr. Aim-utcha about the purpose of the Beautiful Death course.

What is a quality death?

Prof. Dr. Aim-utcha described quality death as “dying with dignity at the right age”.

How to die with dignity?

“As death is near, one should be surrounded by family, relatives, and close friends for support and solace to get through life’s most important moment, after which, one will be missed. Therefore, it is important to always do good deeds during one’s lifetime to merit a dignified, quality death and remembrance after one’s death.”

Studying how to die a good death is, therefore, an invitation for students to explore their values and discover the “value of life” so they can exist mindfully, knowing how to cope with problems according to the contexts and surrounding factors, without being chaotically swayed by the whirlwind of emotions.

Achieving a quality death requires practice before the time comes to cultivate positive thoughts and behaviors and instill a positive worldview towards life events, good or bad.  A positive attitude will serve as a rudder to guide one’s judgment and direction for life choices including the time to make important decisions.

Beautiful Death course contents

The Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University has offered this course for over 10 years now.

It has always received an enthusiastic response from the students and the classes have always been packed. Now that it is available online on Chula MOOC since April 2021, students still show enormous interest in enrolling as before.

Why has Beautiful Death received so much attention?

The answer may lie in the method of teaching in which the lecturer would ask students to get to know themselves through journal writing to record their reflection after receiving news and accounts of current events. Students learn to detect their emotions, their compassion, then turn those feelings into media such as postcards to express their feelings about the loss.



                                                      Getting to know oneself through journal writing


The initial exercise leads to increasingly complex tests, such as practicing control of the feeling of bereavement, preparing to face death and the realities of life step by step, and ending with a reflection that pops up during class as their mind is affected by the news or beliefs that they come in contact with.

In addition, the students also watch many movies about death in other societies. This is to get to know death in different cultures and beliefs. For example, Laotians don’t wear black to funerals because there is no belief that associates black with death, and death for them is not considered a loss, for example.



                                                                        A Lao funeral


What makes Beautiful Death a popular course for many students is not only because of the richly diverse and interesting subject matter about death, but the opportunity for students to alter their perspectives and life.

“Students will have the opportunity to grow with this course, and so does the lecturer, as they learn to appreciate the value of their own lives and the lives of others, realize the meaning of quality living so that in the end they can expect to meet death with dignity.” Prof. Dr. Aim-atcha concluded.