The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

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The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

UNTIMELY DEATH

THE PROCESS OF DYING 249

It is said, on the other hand, that if it is only an obstacle of

some kind that threatens us with untimely death, it can be

more easily averted—provided, of course, that we have foreknowledge.

In the bardo teachings and Tibetan medical texts,

we can find descriptions of signs warning of impending death,

some foretelling death within years or months, and others in

terms of weeks or days. They include physical signs, certain

specific kinds of dreams, and special investigations using

shadow images. 1 Unfortunately only someone with expert

knowledge will be able to interpret these signs. Their purpose

is to forewarn a person that his or her life is in danger, and to

alert the person to the need for using practices that lengthen

life, before these obstacles occur.

Any spiritual practice we do, since it accumulates "merit,"

will help prolong our lives and bring good health. A good

practitioner, through the inspiration and power of his or her

practice, comes to feel psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually

whole, and this is both the greatest source of healing

and the strongest protection against illness.

There are also special "long-life practices," which summon

the life-energy from the elements and the universe through the

power of meditation and visualization. When our energy is

weak and unbalanced, these longevity practices strengthen and

coordinate it, and this has the effect of extending our lifespan.

There are also many other practices for enhancing life. One is

to save the lives of animals that are due to be slaughtered, by

buying them and setting them free. This practice is popular in

Tibet and the Himalayan regions, where, for example, people

often go to the fish market to buy fish and then release them.

It is based on the natural karmic logic that taking the life of

others or harming them will shorten your life, and giving life

will lengthen it.

THE "PAINFUL" BARDO OF DYING

The bardo of dying falls between the moment we contract

a terminal illness or condition that will end in death, and the

ceasing of the "inner respiration." It is called "painful" because

if we are not prepared for what will happen to us at death, it

can be an experience of tremendous suffering.

Even for a practitioner the whole process of dying can still

be a painful one, as losing the body and this life may be a

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