Read an Excerpt
dreaming, dying, account for the totality of our experience. We are doing them all the time. The unusual question is: How well are we doing them?
we drift through these states without realizing that we are constantly creating the conditions—physical, psychological, spiritual— for our future. If suffering, pain, happiness, or joy is experienced, we ourselves are accountable, not some external force. If happiness is to be found, we have the power to create the conditions for it. That is a world perspective, but
Buddhism offers an even vaster perspective: As humans we have the potential to become something extraordinary—enlightened. Enlightenment takes us beyond the sorrows and joys of the human state to something indescribably grand.
Having become enlightened, we have limitless power and ability to help others in ways known and unimaginable—to help them to freedom and happiness. Bodhisattvas live only to do this.
This is living, dreaming, dying well. Anything less is pointless.
Westerners are fascinated by dream and its potential for new experience and spiritual growth. Few are drawn to the idea that death can be a creative and liberating experience, but the fact is that death offers more spectacular opportunities for enlightenment than life. So does dream. We must train while living if we want to recognize and take advantage of these opportunities.
The purpose of this book is to introduce you to the main principles of training and acquaint you with some of the age-old Buddhist teachings on liberation through living, dreaming, dying. We will also examine how the "ordinary person in the street" can best prepare for death and thus die skillfully, and also how to help others who are dying or have already died.
Westerners have difficulty gaining perspective on the Tibetan teachings in this area. As a result they struggle to integrate them effectively into their experience. To help overcome this problem, we will examine material from neuroscience and psychology that parallels and illuminates the Tibetan teachings, particularly on dream.
The most important single message to emerge from the Buddhist teachings on this topic is simple and powerful:
If you want to be happy and become enlightened, give up all forms of selfishness and harmful behavior. Live to help others. Above all—try to be kind.