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

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

ONEIn the Mirror of DeathMY OWN FIRST EXPERIENCE of death came when Iwas about seven. We were preparing to leave the easternhighlands to travel to central Tibet. Samten, one of the personalattendants of my master, was a wonderful monk whowas kind to me during my childhood. He had a bright, round,chubby face, always ready to break into a smile. He waseveryone's favorite in the monastery because he was so goodnatured.Every day my master would give teachings and initiationsand lead practices and rituals. Toward the end of theday, I would gather together my friends and act out a littletheatrical performance, reenacting the morning's events. It wasSamten who would always lend me the costumes my masterhad worn in the morning. He never refused me.Then suddenly Samten fell ill, and it was clear he was notgoing to live. We had to postpone our departure. I will neverforget the two weeks that followed. The rank smell of deathhung like a cloud over everything, and whenever I think ofthat time, that smell comes back to me. The monastery wassaturated with an intense awareness of death. This was not atall morbid or frightening, however; in the presence of mymaster, Samten's death took on a special significance. Itbecame a teaching for us all.Samten lay on a bed by the window in a small temple inmy master's residence. I knew he was dying. From time to timeI would go in and sit by him. He could not talk, and I wasshocked by the change in his face, which was now so haggardand drawn. I realized that he was going to leave us and wewould never see him again. I felt intensely sad and lonely.Samten's death was not an easy one. The sound of hislabored breathing followed us everywhere, and we could smellhis body decaying. The monastery was overwhelmingly silentexcept for this breathing. Everything focused on Samten. Yet3

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