One of the most profound learnings in my personal life came from Sogyal Rinpoche’s book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying based on the Bardo Thodol (in Tibetan) or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The realization of “each day we are born and each night we die again,” makes it easier to let go of the past and start the evolution process.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying isn’t the only book inspired by the Book of the Dead, another well known book is The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary.
What makes the Bardo Thodol special is that it focuses on the Art of Dying and in doing so teaches one to live a more fulfilling life. With this in mind lets start with what’s in focus, Death.
“When we are at last freed from the body that has defined and dominated our understanding of ourselves for so long, the karmic vision of one life is completely exhausted, but any karma that might be created in the future has not yet begun to crystallize. So what happens in death is that there is a “gap” or space that is fertile with vast possibility; it is a moment of tremendous, pregnant power where the only thing that matters, or could matter, is how exactly our mind is. Stripped of a physical body, mind stands naked, revealed startlingly for what it has always been: the architect of our reality.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
While in this reality it is imperative to take care of both the physical and the mental, death according to Buddhist philosophy frees you from the burden of material existence. So while we get caught up in our routine, how many of us actually take a moment to dress up our mind? How about some mental make up today?
All of us believe we have time and take it for granted that as we age we will get time to change and evolve. But the truth is no one knows the hour they will cease to breathe. To put this in perspective…
“Planning for the future is like going fishing in a dry gulch; nothing ever works out as you wanted, so give up all your schemes and ambitions. If you have got to think about something ~ Make it the uncertainty of the hour of your death.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Whenever people ask me my future plans, the Buddhist in me has a good chuckle. All I can plan is what’s happening in the now, because how I work with the present moment is the only thing that will alter the course of my life.
It’s not that I was born like this but life puts forth so much to alter your course. This doesn’t mean you don’t set a goal or have ideas. Set goals, get ideas but focus on the now, how can I work towards this goal now. Should it consume you? Should anything in life consume the essence of what you really are? These are the questions to ask yourself, it’s not for anyone else to answer.
The key to keep in mind is death will happen and along with it…
“What is born will die, what has been gathered will be dispersed, what has been accumulated will be exhausted, what has been built up will collapse and what has been high will be brought low.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
We forget our impermanence on a daily basis, the advertisements got you chasing, collecting, upgrading stuff that’s not going with you. Who are you when you strip away everything you did not come into this world with?
Have you met the real you?
“This world can seem marvelously convincing until death collapses the illusion and evicts us from our hiding place.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
It’s time to stop hiding and bring the real you to the limelight.
“Just look at your mind for a few minutes. You will see that it is like a flea, constantly hopping to and fro. You will see that thoughts arise without any reason, without any connection. Swept along by the chaos of every moment, we are the victims of the fickleness of our mind.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
When we moved into the countryside, the buzz of the city ceased to exist, the stillness in the first few years gets to you. The mind plays tricks in the darkness with the sounds of the night, crickets, owls and silence.
When people from the city come over they wonder why we stay here and what to do with themselves after a day or two. When there is no distraction around there’s only one friend you get to meet, yourself.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. But in a world dedicated to distraction, silence and stillness terrify us; we protect ourselves from them with noise and frantic busyness. Looking into the nature of our mind is the last thing we would dare to do. Sometimes I think we don’t want to” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
So now that we’ve covered what’s going on today, lets twist the plot a bit and focus on how we can prepare for death with artful living.
“Always recognize the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachment and aversion. Practice good-heartedness toward all beings. Be loving and compassionate, no matter what others do to you. What they will do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream. The trick is to have positive intention during the dream. This is the essential point. This is true spirituality.” ~ Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Row row row your boat gently down the stream of life, isn’t it all just a dream. The world is an illusion, according to Vedic philosophy Maya. In layman terms this is just a transformational phase a place where your actions decide the future outcome of your soul.
So choose to love and be loved, choose to be kind and receive kindness choose to live a life of being good and spreading good. To ensure you’re on the right path never forget to set up a time for yourself to introspect and look back on how the day was and where you can make changes to lead a more fruitful existence.
“There are so many ways of making the approach to meditation as joyful as possible. You can find the music that most exalts you and use it to open your heart and mind. You can collect pieces of poetry, or quotations of lines of teachings that over the years have moved you, and keep them always at hand to elevate your spirit.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Sogyal makes it so easy, meditation is what you make our of it. It’s not about sitting in the lotus position under a Peepal tree, doing anything that brings you into the moment and has a positive effect on you can be meditation. We have written about the ways of meditating without meditating, you could also choose to chant, do what opens your heart and mind.
“Spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric, it is in fact profound common sense. When you realize the nature of mind, layers of confusion peel away. You don’t actually “become” a buddha, you simply cease, slowly, to be deluded. And being a buddha is not being some omnipotent spiritual superman, but becoming at last a true human being.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
We have been pushed to believe that the saints, mystics and gods are superhumans. But the truth is all of us have the potential to reach to their levels of being good humans. Its just that the path is so tough to walk, that it becomes easier to feel your job is done by going to a church or temple.
But when was the last time your grand father or his father or generations encountered a person coming down from heaven in a chariot on fire? It’s about time to look within and find the God hidden within.
“Have found also, from my own experience, that it is essential not to take anything too personally. When you least expect it, dying people can make you the target of all their anger and blame. As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross says, anger and blame can “be displaced in all directions, and projected onto the environment at times almost at random.” Do not imagine that this rage is really aimed at you; realizing what fear and grief it springs from will stop you from reacting to it in ways that might damage your relationship. Sometimes” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
It’s important to understand here that we’re all dying, so when Sogyal speaks of dying people he could actually mean that all of us can spread vile. It becomes really easy especially when we’re overworked, burning out and stressed with the rat race we’re running.
Although it isn’t easy, we need to try to put ourselves in the other persons’ shoes, or at least try to get an overview perspective of the situation. Keeping calm with the help of breath work can help with this.
The next quote sums up the entire essence of the post. Most people feel that they are not bound by this reality, we’re all connected yes but today at this moment you are separate. Sogyal calls it an optical delusion, even if it is a hallucination one cannot discount the experience. So while you experience this realm of existence why not expand your boundaries you have set of love and compassion.
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has far more wisdom to offer, but even if the pinches of wisdom above are implemented you will find great results on your path called life.
Here’s an interesting documentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead that you may enjoy!