I’ve been thinking for a while about giving away this week’s Free the Dharma eBook; There’s more to dying than death by Lama Shenpen Hookham. You can download it here until June 1. If you prefer, you can buy a printed copy here.
In the opening line she declares, “the best time to read and reflect on death is before we have to face it ….”
I can feel my resistance. Yet all around us is talk of mortality rates, daily deaths, sickness, and this quiet unseen virus that can pass between our bodies. Some of us are more vulnerable than others. Some are worried about getting sick. Some of us are taking risks, wanting to feel more alive. Some of us are mourning friends and family. It’s painful. And yet, turning away also causes tension and locks up an enormous amount of energy. And it leaves us unprepared.
One of my strongest responses to the Dharma comes from the idea of capacity. I want to know how I can become a person who can turn towards life and death. How can I become a person who can help others because I have been truthful about what experience is really like, and see how things are conditioned?
The Buddhist tradition in all its variety is deeply interested in death. There’s more to dying than death offers a Tibetan view that explores the nature of consciousness and what transitions can show us of the liberation of spiritual death and the opening of the heart. Shenpen Hookham, an early student of Sangharakshita, looks at bereavement, facing your own death and helping others who are dying or bereaved. It is inspiring and hopeful.
We have also published a book by the Theravadin scholar and monk Anālayo called Mindfully Facing Disease and Death: Compassionate Advice from the Early Buddhist Texts. He gathers wide ranging verses from the Pali suttas and Chinese Agamas. In them the Buddha speaks of the care of a sick person, how to be a patient, how to be a nurse, how to deal with pain, how to maintain patience and work with disgust and irritation.
He also reflects on the nature of this body, and on death, and explores how disease and death can deepen the path of practice and insight. This book is full of practical wisdom. You can buy it here in paperback form, and here as an eBook.
Wishing you a tender brave heart,