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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
27 fall 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly It has been almost fIfty years since many lamas of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation crossed the borders of tibet and changed the spiritual face of the West forever. the early students of tibetan buddhism here in the United states, now my adopted home, are advancing both in their practice and in their years. While death can surely arrive at any moment, for many the truth of impermanence is just now beginning to dawn with some clarity, with some certainty. the true test of their faith and practice is beginning. While there is much debate and legitimate concern about how buddhism has adapted to the West—and vice-versa—it seems timely and useful now, regardless of our age, to focus on our personal progress since taking up the buddhist path. how have we changed? how have we worked with obstacles that have arisen along the way? have we slipped back into any unwholesome habitual patterns and not even noticed? What kind of faith do we find in our hearts right now? What is our current commitment to practice? Where do we want to be as dharma practitioners at the time of our death? these are not just rhetorical questions. Please ask yourself these questions right now. take an honest look inside and recognize what you need to do to fulfill your spiritual aspira- tions in whatever time you have left. all of these questions together are what is meant by the question, What is your dharma vision? What kind of practitioner are you truly willing to become so that the moment of death fulfills the hopes you have for enlightenment—or at the very least your hopes for a rebirth that allows you to continue your practice and be in the presence of authentic teachers again? Just as all of us make great effort to maintain our everyday lives, we should make similarly great effort in our prepara- tions for death. If we are living and practicing the essence of the dharma teachings, there should be no difference between our spiritual practices while we are living and those that we engage in at the time of death. one practice that we all share on the path, no matter what other teachings we have received or practices we have committed to, is training in mindfulness to ensure that in our last moments we will be able to make good use of our death. We all seek to be the best human beings we can be. and regardless of our beliefs, death will come to all of us. everyone can benefit from preparing for death as a spiritual practice. additionally, if we learn how to support a loved one while they are dying, we will be giving them a great gift by helping them fulfill their own spiritual aspirations. photography by liza Matthews How Am I Doing? From time to time, says anyen Rinpoche, it’s important to take an honest look at yourself and ask, how am I doing on the buddhist path? For longtime practitioners, the question is even more pressing. (Facing page) Shari and Robert Vogler with a photograph of themselves as young dharma students in 1979.