using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
56 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 3 review our checklists, and ensure that we have enough money and gas. But when the trip starts, we just enjoy it. We don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Some of our greatest travel adventures happen when we take a wrong turn or get lost. Having thoroughly prepared, we relax in know- ing we have everything we need. Practices to Prepare You for Death Shamatha Meditation Two central themes are repeated throughout The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The first theme is “Do not be distracted.” This relates to shamatha, calm abiding meditation, which is the ability to rest your mind on whatever is happening. The stability gained through shamatha enables you to face any experience with confidence. In life, and especially in death, distraction is a big deal. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” Shamatha removes the misery. Shamatha is a fundamental form of mind- fulness meditation. Mindfulness is a powerful preparation because as mindfulness matures into its more advanced levels, it does not disintegrate at death. If we cultivate proficiency in this one practice alone, it will act as a spiritual lifeline that we can hold on to during the bardos, and that will guide us through their perilous straits. One of the best preparations for death is learning to accept it and to be fully present for it. Being fully present is the essence of mindfulness, which is developed through shamatha. Because death isn’t comfortable, it’s difficult to be with. As Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Most of us aren’t there for our deaths and there- fore make it more difficult. To get a feel for this, recall how hard it is to be fully present when you’re sick. Most of us just want out. Even for an advanced practitioner, it can hurt when the life force separates from the body. Resistance to this hurt, to death, or to any unwanted event is what creates suffering. We can prepare to embrace the discomfort of death of dying. For most of us, it passes by unrecog- nized. Dharmata means “suchness” and refers to the nature of reality, the enlightened state. It is fantastically brilliant, hence “luminous.” It is so bright that it blinds us and we faint. We then wake up dazed in the karmic bardo of becom- ing. Suchness is gone, and confusion rearises as karma returns to blow us into our next life. While the Tibetan Buddhist tradition offers many helpful guidelines, they are not meant to restrict the sacred experience of death. The map is never the territory. Even though death and rebirth are described in extraordinary detail by the Tibetans, dying is never as tidy as the writ- ten word. It is important for the dying, and their caregivers, to study and prepare. But prepara- tion only goes so far. Fixating on the idea of a “good death” can paradoxically prevent one. If we think that our death will follow a prescribed order, and that perfect preparation leads to a perfect death, we will constrict the wonder of a mysterious process. Surrender is more important than control. A good death is defined by a complete openness to whatever arises. So don’t measure your death against any other, and don’t feel you have to die a certain way. Let your life, and your death, be your own. There are certain things in life that we just do our own way. The vast literature about conscious dying is therefore both a blessing and a curse. At a certain point we have to leap into death with a beginner’s mind and a spirit of adventure. Visions of the perfect death create expectations, a model that we feel we have to match. If experience doesn’t match expectation, we might panic: “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” “I didn’t plan on it ending this way.” Death is about letting go. That includes letting go of any expectations. The dan- ger in learning too much about death is that we end up prepackaging the experience, forcing real- ity into the straightjacket of our concepts. The best approach is that of the middle way. Learn as much as you can. Study, practice, and prepare. Then drop everything and let this natu- ral process occur naturally. Throw away the map and fearlessly enter the territory. It’s like prepar- ing for a big trip. We want to pack properly,