A Tricycle Book Club Discussion with Anyen Rinpoche
Practicing for Death
We all know that death is certain—no one ultimately evades death. What we often forget is that death can come at any time. For Buddhists, the moment of death is the most potent opportunity to practice. Indeed, it is the key opportunity to attain realization or a positive rebirth. Thus, meditation practice in Buddhism is actually practicing for death. You are practicing so that you can have mindfulness and clarity in that moment when you are dying, so you are confident you are prepared to use the experiences after death for the best rebirth possible—or even complete and perfect liberation.
We must redefine the meaning of our practice so we can cultivate a feeling of rejoicing about the moment of death. If we practice hard enough in our lifetime, the experience of death will be our absolute best opportunity to have the strongest result from all of the aspirations and practices we’ve cultivated in our dharma life. If we are duly prepared, I can promise that the moment of death will be an experience of rejoicing. If we are not prepared, it will surely be a time of fear and regret. When we think about death in this light, we should feel strongly motivated to practice every day.
Some people think that contemplating their own death will make them sorrowful. They would prefer not to think about it. For a meditation practitioner, however, this is a great mistake. By avoiding thinking about the reality and moment of death, we are losing a chance to really motivate ourselves to practice. We must reflect on our lives: there may only be a short time left. Do we have the confidence and the tools to die skillfully? Have we done the utmost to practice properly? Although we may plan how we would like to die and express our wishes to our friends and family, it may not always be possible to have someone next to us reminding us what to do. It is our responsibility to be prepared. No one can do this for us.
May the teachings in this book inspire and guide us to practice the true dharma and to face death fearlessly. May they help create the conditions for all to attain liberation and perfect enlightenment!
Purchase Dying with Confidence from Wisdom Publications here.
Anyen Rinpoche was born in Amdo, Tibet. After more than fourteen years of intensive study and solitary retreat, he earned the degree of khenpo (master scholar) and became the head scholar of his monastic university in Kham, Tibet. He currently lives in Colorado, where he teaches at Naropa University.