Tibetan Book of Living and Dying [New Edition]
A Spiritual Classic from One of the Foremost Interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism to the West.20th Anniversary.
By the same author
New edition.20th Anniversary .This runaway bestseller explains the Tibetan understanding of what happens when a person dies, and shows how we can use this knowledge to help the dying, face the death of our loved ones and deepen our understanding of life. Already hailed as a classic, it is written by a well known teacher with an international following. Rinpoche brings together for the first time the majestic vision of life and death that underlies the Tibetan tradition and modern research on death and dying.
"One of the most helpful books I have ever read." John Cleese.
"Sogyal Rinpoche speaks directly and clearly to the Western mind and heart with humour, joy and great warmth." Richard Gere.
"Marvellous...like all the great teachings, it is both simple and complex and full of love and compassion." Joanna Lumley.
"This book represents an apex in human wisdom: it is a radiant gem transmitting the accumulated insights of centuries of Tibetan Buddhism." Larry Dossey.
Read an extract of this title
IT IS NOW TWENTY YEARS SINCE The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was first published. In this book, I endeavored to share something of the wisdom of the tradition I grew up in. I sought to show the practical nature of its ancient teachings, and the ways in which they can help us at every stage of living and dying. Many people, over the years, had urged me to write this book. They said that it would help relieve some of the intense suffering that so many of us go through in the modem world. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has pointed out, we are living in a society in which people find it harder and harder to show one another basic affection, and where any inner dimension to life is almost entirely overlooked. It is no wonder that there is today such a tremendous thirst for the compassion and wisdom that spiritual teachings can offer.
It must have been as a reflection of this need that The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was received with such enthusiasm around the world. At first I was astonished: I had never expected it to have such an impact, especially since at the time of writing this book, death was still very much a subject that was shunned and ignored. Gradually, as I traveled to different countries, teaching and leading workshops and trainings based on the teachings in this book, I discovered the extent to which it had struck a chord in people's hearts. More and more individuals came up to me or wrote to tell me how these teachings had helped them through a crisis in their lives or supported them through the death of a loved one. And even though the teachings it contains may be unfamiliar, there are those who have told me they have read this book several times and keep returning to it as a source of inspiration. After reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, a woman in Madras in India was so inspired that she founded a medical trust, with a hospice and palliative care center. Another person in the United States came to me and said she was baffled by how a mere book could have, in her words, "loved her so completely." Stories like these, so moving and so personal, testify to the power and relevance of the Buddhist teachings today. Whenever I hear them, my heart fills with gratitude, both to the teachings themselves and to the teachers and practitioners who have undergone so much in order to embody them and hand them on.
In time, I came to learn that The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying had been adopted by institutions, centers, and groups of various kinds, educational, medical, and spiritual. Nurses, doctors, and those professionally involved with care for the dying have told me how they have integrated these methods in their daily work, and I have heard many accounts of ordinary people using these practices and finding that they transformed the death of a friend or dose relative. Something I find especially moving is that this book has been read by people with different spiritual beliefs, and they have said that it has strengthened and deepened their faith in their own tradition. They seem to recognize the universality of its message, and understand that it aims not to persuade or convert, but simply to offer the wisdom of the ancient Buddhist teachings in order to bring the maximum possible benefit.
As The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying quietly took on a life of its own, moving inconspicuously through many domains and disciplines, I began to understand the ultimate source of its great influence and appeal. These extraordinary teachings are the heart essence of the oral lineage, that unbroken line of wisdom passed down as a living experience over the centuries. Someone once called this book "midway between a living master and a book," and it is true that both in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and behind it, supporting it with their advice and answers to questions, are the greatest masters of our time. It is their voice that speaks through these pages, their wisdom and their vision of a compassionate world infused by the knowledge of our true nature, the innermost nature of mind. The impact of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I believe, is due to the blessing of the lineage and the vibrancy of the oral tradition. Its popularity has been a humbling experience for me, and it has reminded me that if I have any ability to communicate these teachings, it is only because of the devotion inspired in me by the teachings and the kindness of my masters, and nothing else.
Over these last ten years there have been many changes in our attitudes toward death and in the kind of care we as a society offer to the dying and the bereaved. Public awareness of death and the many issues surrounding dying has been heightened. Books, Web sites, conferences, serious radio and television series, films, and support groups have all contributed to a greater openness toward looking into death. There has been a considerable expansion in hospice work and palliative care, and this has been the period during which, in some countries, the whole field of care for the dying has been opened up. Initiatives of many kinds have taken place, inspired by courageous men and women, for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration. Meanwhile, there have been more and more requests for those working in the Buddhist tradition to take part in projects and explore how they can contribute.
A number of my friends and students have gradually created an international program of education and training based on the teachings in this book and designed to offer spiritual care to the dying, their families, and those who care for them. We offer courses for the medical profession and the public, coordinate volunteers, and have begun to work hand in hand with hospitals, clinics, hospices, and universities. What is encouraging is that there is a growing recognition eveiywhere that spiritual issues are central to the care of the dying, and in some countries a number of medical schools now offer courses in spirituality and medicine. Yet, I am told, surveys show that denial of death still prevails, and we are still lacking in our ability to offer spiritual help and care for the dying and answer their deepest needs. The kind of death we have is so important. Death is the most crucial moment of our lives, and each and every one of us should be able to die in peace and fufflulment, knowing that we will be surrounded by the best in spiritual care.
If The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has played some small part in helping us look at how we deal with our own death and that of those around us, it is an answer to my prayers, and I am deeply moved and grateful. It is still my dream that the teachings presented here be made available to people everywhere, of all ages, and at all levels of education. My original hope for this book was that it would help inspire a quiet revolution in the whole way we look at death and care for the dying, and so the whole way we look at life and care for the living. Our need for spiritual transformation and to take responsibility in the truest sense, for ourselves and others has not become any less urgent these ten years on. What would it mean if more and more people thought seriously about their future and the future of the world? Imagine how things Would be if we could live our lives infusing them with a sacred meaning; if our end-of-life care were always lit by a sense of awe in the face of death; and if we looked on life and death themselves as an inseparable whole. What would be the effect of seeking to make love and compassion the measure of our evely action, and of understanding to any degree, the inmost nature of the mind that underlies Our entire existence? This would be a true revolution, One that would free men and women to discover their birthright, that inner dimension so long neglected and unite them with the fullness of the human experience in all its mystery and grandeur.
Lief, Judith L
Padmasambhava, with commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche and translated by B Alan Wallace
Coleman, Graham and translated by Gyurme Dorje
Gyurme Dorje and Edited by Graham Coleman with Thubten Jinpa
Coleman, Graham and translated by Gyurme Dorje