Death & Dying

Powerful end-of-life practices and compassionate care
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    So the Darkness Shall Be the Light Paid Member

    The thing that most made my internship at a preeminent Harvard community hospital seem like a descent into what Buddhists call the hungry ghost realm was coming face to face with the limits in our modern medical approach to the natural process of aging and dying. A disturbing experience with a dying patient one night when I was on call left an indelible impression that will forever remind me of those limits. More »
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    The Last Gift Paid Member

    Ajahn Chah recorded the following talk at the request of one of his students, whose mother was on her deathbed. The student had expected no more than a few words for his mother, but instead Ajahn Chah offered an extended message of consolation, encouragement, and meditation instruction for the mother and the whole family. Now, Grandma, set your heart on listening respectfully to the dhamma, which is the teaching of the Buddha. While I’m teaching you the dhamma, be as attentive as if the Buddha himself were sitting right in front of you. Close your eyes and set your heart on making your mind one. Bring the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha into your heart as a way of showing the Buddha respect. More »
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    How a Buddhist Can Prepare for Death Paid Member

    Each of us will enter the Painful Bardo of Dying and Death, some of us sooner than later. Why not prepare for this event now, while you still are able to do so?  In this retreat, you will be offered practical tools to help plan this process, including completion of advance care directives, will and estate planning, death care options for Buddhists, and Tonglen, Nine Contemplations of Atisha, Essential Phowa Practice, and Dissolution of the Elements instruction. If you allow yourself this opportunity to consider your own death with clarity, lovingkindness, compassion and tenderness, you will learn to move beyond—beyond fear, apprehension, and denial, and into an acceptance and understanding of the nature of impermanence. Your willingness to do this will be a gift to your loved ones, as you will then be able to leave them with the information they will need to continue their support when you cannot speak for yourself. Retreat begins November 6, 2012. More »
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    Death As A Mirror Paid Member

    A beloved father is tended by his daughter; a young man's partner dies of AIDS; an ex-lover cares for a victim of leukemia. In these and other stories, Buddhists talk about how their practice supported the as they cared for those they loved. With teaching from Judith L. Lief, Frank Ostaseski, Philip Kapleau, and Sogyal Rinpoche.Judith Lief on Beginning at the BeginningRaja Hornstein's A Caregiver's StoryJudith Lief on the Contagious Power of PresenceFrank Ostaseski on What to Do When the Going More »
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    On the Blessings of Atmosphere Paid Member

    How then do we most sensitively help ordinary spiritual practitioners who are dying? All of us will need the love and care that comes with emotional and practical support, but for spiritual practitioners the atmosphere, instensity, and dimension of spiritual help take on a special meaning. It would be ideal, and a great blessing, if their master were with them; but if this is not possible, their spiritual friends can be of enormous help in reminding the dying person of the essence of the teachings and the practice that has been closeset to their heart during life. For a practitioner who is dying, spiritual inspiration, and the atmosphere of trust and faith and devotion that will naturally arise from it, are essential. More »
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    On Breathing Together Paid Member

    For you to be composed and concentrated will help the dying person continue with equanimity on their journey into the after-death state. It can be both calming and otherwise helpful to the dying patient for you to share with them the counting of their breath for periods of about twenty minutes, perhaps several times a day, as they near the threshold of death. You might begin by holding the dying person's hand as the two of you join in counting. First, however, quietly suggest that they concentrate on relaxing one part of their body at a time, such as each arm, each foot, the neck, and so on, until their whole body has been relaxed. Then begin quietly counting aloud to them as they breathe in and out. Count "One" on the inhalation, "Two" on the exhalation, "Three" on the inhalation, and so on, synchronizing your counting with their breathing. Breathe yourself in unison with the counting and their breathing. After counting up to ten, begin with one again. More »