Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

by Andrew Holecek
Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

by Andrew Holecek


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We all face death, but how many of us are actually ready for it? Whether our own death or that of a loved one comes first, how prepared are we, spiritually or practically? In Preparing to Die, Andrew Holecek presents a wide array of resources to help the reader address this unfinished business.

Part One shows how to prepare one's mind and how to help others, before, during, and after death. The author explains how spiritual preparation for death can completely transform our relationship to the end of life, dissolving our fear and helping us to feel open and receptive to letting go in the dying process. Daily meditation practices, the stages of dying and how to work with them, and after-death experiences are all detailed in ways that will be particularly helpful for those with an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and in Tibetan approaches to conscious dying.

Part Two addresses the practical issues that surround death. Experts in grief, hospice, the funeral business, and the medical and legal issues of death contribute chapters to prepare the reader for every practical concern, including advance directives, green funerals, the signs of death, warnings about the funeral industry, the stages of grief, and practical care for the dying.

Part Three contains heart-advice from twenty of the best-known Tibetan Buddhist masters now teaching in the West. These brief interviews provide words of solace and wisdom to guide the dying and their caregivers during this challenging time. Preparing to Die is for anyone interested in learning how to prepare for death from a Buddhist perspective, both spiritually and practically. It is also for those who want to learn how to help someone else who is dying, both during the time of illness and death as well as after death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781559394086
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 569,831
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Andrew Holecek is an in-demand teacher of Tibetan Buddhism who teaches seminars throughout the country on spiritual hardship and the Tibetan views of life, death, and beyond. He is affiliated with Shambhala centers worldwide and was adjunct faculty at Naropa University and the Ngedon School of Buddhist Studies. He is also the cofounder of Global Dental Relief, which serves impoverished children in five Asian and Central American countries.

Table of Contents

Foreword Tulku Thondup Rinpoche 1

Introduction 3

Part 1 Spiritual Preparation

1 What to Do For Yourself Before You Die 15

Living a Good Life, Learning to Let Go 15

Practices and Teachings to Prepare You for Death 18

Shamatha Meditation 18

Vipashyana Meditation 21

The Four Reminders 22

Doctrinal Preparation 26

Tonglen 28

Reverse Meditations 29

Pure Land Practice 33

Preparation for Sudden Death 37

Noble Truths 38

Devotion 42

The Bardos and the Trikaya 44

Mind Leads All Things 53

Phowa 54

Shitro and Vajrasattva Practice 57

Working with Passion 58

Insurance Dharma 59

Dharma Wills and the Dharma Box 61

Final Advice 63

2 What You Can Do for Others Before They Die 65

3 What to Do for Yourself As You Die 67

Letting Go 68

Dissolution and Signs 70

Outer Dissolution 73

What Is Happening? 76

Inner Dissolution 78

Tukdam 82

The Peaceful and Wrathful Visions 83

The Hourglass 85

Conclusion 89

4 What to Do for Others as They Die 91

The View 91

Sacred Listening 94

Hopes and Fears of the Dying 96

Holding Environments 97

Creating the Environment 100

Looking Forward 101

Advice from Sogyal Rinpoche 102

Telling the Truth 105

Fears about Dying 106

Unfinished Business 107

Giving Hope and Finding Forgiveness 107

Saying Goodbye 108

Toward a Peaceful Death 109

By the Bedside of the Dying 110

Dedicating Our Death 111

Letting Go of Attachment 112

The Grace of Prayer at the Moment of Death 113

The Atmosphere for Dying 113

Esoteric Practices 115

5 What to Do for Yourself After You Die 117

The View 117

First Step 121

After Remembering 123

Other Practices 127

Advice from The Tibetan Book of the Dead 127

Blocking 129

Bright and Soft Lights 132

Choosing 133

6 What to Do for Others After They Die 139

The View 139

When to Help 142

The Power of Merit 144

Reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead 148

Sur Offering 149

Commissioning Monasteries 150

Monastic Rituals and Ceremonies for the Dead 151

Gelugpa Rituals 156

Summary 158

Part 2 Practical Preparation

7 Before Death Approaches 161

Legal Issues 163

More on Living Wills and Advance Directives 169

Legal Concerns Before, During, and After Death, by Alex Halpern, JD 173

Wills 175

Disposition of Property 178

Trusts 178

The Living Will and the Medical Power of Attorney 180

Demystifying Hospice: An Underused Service at End of Life, by Beth Patterson, MA, LP C, JD 184

The History of the Hospice Movement 184

The American Hospice Movement and the Medicare Hospice Benefit 185

Buddhism and the Hospice Movement 186

The Services of Hospice 187

What Does Hospice Care Look Like 188

The importance of Managing Pain 189

Conclusion 190

8 Caring for the Dying 191

The Needs of the Dying, by Christine Longaker 191

The Five Psychological Stages of Dying and Medical Issues Around Death, by Mitchell Gershten, MD 197

The Five Psychological Stages of Dying 198

The Five Stages in Loved Ones 200

Biological Changes 200

Hydration, Nutrition, and Pain Control 203

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Dying, by Andrew Holecek 206

Spiritual Matrix 217

Empty the Disease 219

9 After Death 223

After-Death Care, by Karen Van Vuuren 223

Caring for Our Own Dead-Is it Legal? 224

Funeral Directors 225

First Steps Following an Expected Death 226

Care of the Body After Death 227

Rigor Mortis 227

Don't Do It Alone 228

A Sacred Space 228

A Suggested Checklist of Items for Physical Care of the Body 218

Bathing 229

Dressing 230

Temporary Preservation Methods 230

Dry Ice 231

Caskets 232

Unexpected Death 232

Odors and Changes at Death 233

Options for Final Disposition-Cremation or Burial 234

Burial at a Conventional Cemetery 234

Green Burial in an Established Conventional Cemetery 234

Green Burial at a Conservation Burial Site or Green Burial Preserve 235

Home Burial 235

Cremation in a Conventional Crematory 236

Open-Air Cremation 237

What to Do with the Cremains 238

Other Options for Final Disposition 238

Donation 239

Exposing Children to Death 239

Working with Grief, by Kim Mooney 241

Working with Grief from a Buddhist Perspective, by Andrew Holecek 246

The Relative Approach 246

The Power and Peril of Pain 248

Anticipatory Grief 250

Compassion and Devotion 251

The Absolute Approach 252

The Joy of Inter-being 255

Conclusion 257

10 Difficult Issues 259

Organ Donation 261

Euthanasia 262

Suicide 265

Abortion and Miscarriage 268

Death of a Pet 270

Conclusion 271

Part 3 Heart Advice from Spiritual Masters

Heart Advice from Spiritual Masters 275

Anam Thubten Rinpoche 275

Anyen Rinpoche 277

Bardor Tulku Rinpoche 277

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 279

Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche 280

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche 283

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche 286

Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche 287

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche 288

Lama Tharchin Rinpoche 289

Mingyur Rinpoche 291

Namkha Drimed Rinpoche 292

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche 297

Tenga Rinpoche 299

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 300

Thrangu Rinpoche 302

Tsoknyi Rinpoche 303

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche 306

Acknowledgments 309

Appendix 1 Checklists 311

Spiritual Checklist 311

Farewell Checklist 312

Bardo Package 314

Practical Checklist 315

Other Contacts to Be Made After Someone Dies 318

Financial Responsibilities After Death 319

In the Event of Sudden Death 320

Be Aware 321

Appendix 2 Things You Can Write to Prepare for Death 325

Letters of Forgiveness, and Saying Goodbye 325

Writing Your Own Eulogy and Obituary 325

Appendix 3 Depression and Grief 327

Symptoms That Suggest a Bereaved Person Is Also Depressed 327

Who Is at Risk for Depression After a Loss? 328

Treatment for Grief and Depression 328

Depressive Grief vs. Depression 329

What Might I Expect When I Am Grieving? 330

Notes 333

Selected Bibliography 397

Contributors 407

Index 409

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Presents many different points of view and practices found within Tibetan Buddhism, and the author is skillful in introducing them within their proper context, so that the reader can understand their underlying significance. Particularly inspiring is the 'heart-advice' in Part Three, drawn from interviews with a selection of Tibetan masters. This advice ranges from a focus on specific rituals to the simplicity of the Dzogchen approach, but all emphasize the fundamental importance of one's state of mind: for those who are dying, letting go, and for those who attend them, love."—Francesca Fremantle, translator of The Tibetan Book of the Dead

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