Filed in Aging, Death & Dying

Aging Into Dying and Death

Longtime Zen practitioner, haiku poet, and secretary of the U.K. Network of Engaged Buddhists, Ken Jones offers wisdom on aging and death. The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet—Ageing: The Great Adventure—that grew out of a series of workshops Jones conducted.

Ken Jones

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Buddhist writer Larry Rosenberg maintains that “we’re not really afraid of dying—we’re afraid of the idea of dying.” The discussion of ideas about dying has become quite fashionable—though they are not usually recognized as anymore than ideas. The Tibetan Book of the Dead and its famous variant, Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, have become bestsellers. At any public meeting on Buddhism you can be sure of at least one question about rebirth.

In meditative inquiry it is important to distinguish between ideas and personal experience. Buddhist ideas about death are an expression of the experience of highly evolved yogins, raised in or living in traditional, spiritually saturated cultures. Such ideas can sustain faith. They are also valuable in that they may contain specific meditation and visualization instructions, which, in gifted and advanced practitioners, can lead to altered states of consciousness.

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