The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is quite a tome at almost 400 pages, but worth the read. It addresses the physical aspects of dying, as well as the emotional abyss and spiritual questioning. I wish I had read this book before my father passed away. It would have helped me deal with his dying a lot better.
The first part is philosophical, addressing the nature of mind. It includes how to meditate in order to escape our ego. The process of dying is then explained. This is followed by practical instructions on how to help the dying and those whom they leave behind.
Other topics discussed include:
- what karma really means
- the logic and method of reincarnation
- whether euthanasia is a compassionate option
- the need for spiritual guidance in all our lives
- the heritage and struggles of Tibet
- similarities between the major religions of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism
Who should read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Those whose loved ones are dying
Part Two of the book explains the process of dying in great detail. It removes the mystery surrounding death that makes it so frightening. The author explains what can be done for a dying person to make the process as easy and spiritually healing as humanly possible.
Friends of the bereaved
With great understanding and compassion, the book gives instructions on how to help those who have just lost a loved one. It explains the anguish they go through, the help they need, and how those around them can provide support.
Clinical death is all too familiar to doctors and nurses. But many of them are not comfortable dealing with the spiritual aspects of death. These are the very people who can make a difference at the end. They play a crucial role in guiding the dying and their families through the difficult, painful process of watching a life slip away.
Politicians and public health officials
Public health decisions require an understanding of best practices in palliative care. With compassionate legislation, countries can provide training and funding for professional hospice care that is lacking in many countries.
All of us who have to die one day
Until we have learnt the meaning of dying well, we will not know how to live well. Some people may find reading and talking about death morbid, yet we all have to face it. In my view, it is much better to go on a journey having some sort of road map than none at all.
Quotes from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
My favourite quote
“Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity. But if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our biography, our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards. It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are?” (page 16)
“Karma is often totally misunderstood in the West as fate or predestination. It is best thought of as the infallible law of cause and effect that governs the universe. The word karma literally means ‘action,’ and karma is both the power latent within actions, and the results our actions bring… (page 96) Karma then, is not fatalistic or predetermined. Karma means our ability to create and to change. It is creative because we can determine how and why we act. We can change.” (page 99)
“We often wonder: ‘How will I be when I die?’ The answer to that is that whatever state of mind we are in now, whatever kind of person we are now: that’s what we will be like at the moment of death, if we do not change. This is why it is so absolutely important to use this lifetime to purify our mindstream, and so our basic being and character, while we can.” (page 115-6)
“I want every human being not to be afraid of death, or of life; I want every human being to die at peace, and surrounded by the wisest, clearest, and most tender care, and to find the ultimate happiness that can only come from an understanding of the nature of mind and of reality. Thomas Merton wrote: ‘What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.'” (page 360)
Get a copy of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying here.