Author Topic: Footprints on the Journey: Life & Death - Khenpo Sodargye  (Read 942 times)

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Footprints on the Journey: Life & Death - Khenpo Sodargye
« on: March 23, 2016, 06:01:14 am »

Life & Death

Life, in the music of composers, is the faint melody of flutes drifting from a remote tower; as penned by writers, it is a refreshing spring in the desert; as seen by sociologists, it is a charging train of desires…. Life, filled with poetic charm as it may be, remains unfathomable. Humans have made great strides in material civilization as time passes; yet life’s enigma, like the eternal riddle from Egypt’s ancient culture, remains an impassable chasm for most Westerners.

The Westerners’ comprehension of human consciousness remained a void until Evans-Wentz first translated The Tibetan Book of the Dead into English. This book, a classic of Tibetan Buddhism and now published in many languages, reveals the mystery of living and dying and has attracted great attention in the West. Tibetan Buddhism became well-known in the world and people started to ponder the topics of living and dying. But this kind of musing is different from that of the prince in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who died a tragic death after mulling over life and death every day. Instead, people nowadays try to deal with the issue of how to face death, and institutions devoted to terminal care have thus come into existence.

In 1973 Ram Dass founded a hospice center to provide services for terminal cancer and AIDS patients. Caring for patients and trying to understand their pains, hospice staffs help patients to find hope in a hopeless situation. Ram Dass visited a dying patient named Bruce in San Francisco; he shared with him the teachings in The Tibetan Book of the Dead: “Escape not from the pains and confess your mistakes; learn to be calm and at peace. Slowly you will recognize the innate luminosity of your mind….” Guided by Ram Dass, Bruce’s twisted, agonized face gradually relaxed, and he made a tranquil and graceful exit.

What baffles Westerners most is that nearly every elderly Tibetan can be termed an expert in hospice care. They have been taught since a very young age how to squarely face death, and many practitioners have long followed the teachings of great masters. Their practices make them see death as a turning point, one that leaves the corporeal body behind and allows them to spring into liberation. As death approaches, Tibetan folks regard it as a transformative process of life, while Westerners feel completely lost and can only plead to medical doctors. Comparing these two attitudes, we must say the Tibetans are lucky.

The teaching on the secret of life and death is the most precious, we are forever grateful to Guru Rinpoche for leaving Tibetans such a rich spiritual legacy!

17th of January, Year of RenWu
March 1, 2002


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