The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

The Tibetan Book of Living and DyingThe Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
By Sogyal Rinpoche

This acclaimed spiritual masterpiece is widely regarded as one of the most complete and authoritative presentations of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings ever written. A manual for life and death and a magnificent source of sacred inspiration from the heart of the Tibetan Tradition, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying provides a lucid and inspiring introduction to the practice of meditation, to the nature of mind, to karma and rebirth, to compassionate love and care for the dying, and to the trials and rewards of the spiritual path.

Buddhist meditation master and international teacher Sogyal Rinpoche brings together the ancient wisdom of Tibet with modern research on death and dying and the nature of the universe. With unprecendented scope, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying clarifies the majestic vision of life and death that underlies the classic sacred text The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Sogyal Rinpoche presents simple yet powerful practices from the heart of the Tibetan tradition that anyone, whatever their religion or background, can do to transform their lives, prepare for death, and help the dying.

The great Tibetan saint Milarepa said: “Seeing emptiness, have compassion.” When through contemplation we really have seen the emptiness and interdependence of all things and ourselves, the world is revealed in a brighter, fresher, more sparkling light as the infinitely reflecting net of jewels that Buddha spoke of. We no longer have to protect ourselves or pretend, and it becomes increasingly easy to do what one Tibetan master has advised:

Always recognise the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachments and aversion. Practise good-heartedness towards all beings. Be loving and compassionate no matter what others do to you. What they will do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream. The trick is to have positive intention during the dream. This is the essential point. This is true spirituality.

True spirituality is also to be aware that if we are interdependent with everything and everyone else, even our smallest, least significant thought, word, and action have real consequences throughout the universe. Throw a pebble into a pond. It sends shiver across the surface of the water. Ripples merge into one another and create new ones. Everything is inextricably interrelated: We come to realise we are responsible for everything we do, say, or think, responsible in fact for ourselves, everyone and everything else, and the entire universe. The Dalai Lama has said:

In today’s highly interdependent world individuals and nations can no longer resolve many of their problems by themselves. We need one another. We must therefore develop a sense of universal responsibility … It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.

Think of a wave in the sea. Seen it one way, it seems to have a distinct identity, an end and a beginning, a birth and a death. Seen in another way, the wave itself doesn’t really exist but is just the behaviour of water, “empty” of any separate identity but “full” of water. So when you really think about the wave, you come to realize that is something made temporarily possible by wind and water, and that it is dependent of a set of constantly changing circumstances. You also realize that every wave is related to every other wave.
Sogyal Rinpoche
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

“What is it I hope from this book?
To inspire a quiet revolution in the whole way we look at health and care for the dying, and the whole way we look at life and care for the living”

Sogyal Rinpoche

golden wave
Photo: Ted Grambeau



The Sky and the Clouds

So whatever our lives are like, our Buddha nature is always there. And it is always perfect. We say that not even the Buddha’s can improve it in their infinite wisdom, nor can sentient beings spoil it in their seemingly infinite confusion. Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to the clouds. Some days the sky is completely obscured by clouds. When we are down on the ground, looking up, it is very difficult to believe that there is anything else there but clouds. Yet we only have to fly in a plane to discover up above a limitless expanse of clear blue sky. From up there the clouds we assumed were everything seem so small and so far away down below.

We should always try and remember the clouds are not the sky, and do not “belong” to it. They only hang there and pass by in their slightly ridiculous and non-dependent fashion. And they can never stain or mark the sky in any way.

So where exactly is the buddha nature? It is in the sky-like of our mind. Utterly open, free, and limitless, it is fundamentally so simple and so natural that it can never be complicated, corrupted, or stained, so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity. To talk of this nature of mind as sky-like, of course, is only a metaphor that helps us to begin to imagine its all embracing boundlessness for the buddha nature has a quality the sky cannot have, that of the radiant clarity of awareness, As it is said:

It is simply your flawless, present awareness, cognizant and empty, naked and awake.

Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:

No words can describe it
No example can point to it
Samsara does not make it worse
Nirvana does not make it better
It has never been born
It has never ceased
It has never been liberated
It has never been deluded
It has never existed
It has never been nonexistent
It has no limits at all
It does not fall into any kind of category.

Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche said:

Profound and tranquil, free from complexity,
Uncompounded luminous clarity,
Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas;
This is the depth of the mind of the Victorious Ones,
In this there is not a thing to be removed,
Nor anything that need to be added.
It is merely the immaculate
Looking naturally at itself.


The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
By Sogyal Rinpoche

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One Response to The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

  1. Ray Langley says:

    Thanx Albe,so much to learn from the Masters,RaL

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