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

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

IN THE MIRROR OF DEATH 7Soon after Lama Tseten's funeral, we moved up into themonastery of Yamdrok. As usual, I slept next to my master inhis room, and I remember that night watching the shadows ofthe butter lamps flickering on the wall. While everyone elseslept soundly, I lay awake and cried the whole night long. Iunderstood that night that death is real, and that I too wouldhave to die. As I lay there, thinking about death and about myown death, through all my sadness a profound sense of acceptancebegan slowly to emerge, and with it a resolve to dedicatemy life to spiritual practice.So I began to face death and its implications very young. Icould never have imagined then how many kinds of deaththere were to follow, one heaped upon another. The deaththat was the tragic loss of my country, Tibet, after the Chineseoccupation. The death that is exile. The death of losing everythingmy family and I possessed. My family, Lakar Tsang, hadbeen among the wealthiest in Tibet. Since the fourteenth centuryit had been famous as one of the most important benefactorsof Buddhism, supporting the teaching of Buddha andhelping the great masters with their work. 2The most shattering death of all was yet to come—that ofmy master Jamyang Khyentse. Losing him I felt I had lost theground of my existence. It was in 1959, the year of the fall ofTibet. For the Tibetans, my master's death was a second devastatingblow. And for Tibet, it marked the end of an era.DEATH IN THE MODERN WORLDWhen I first came to the West, I was shocked by the contrastbetween the attitudes to death I had been brought upwith and those I now found. For all its technological achievements,modem Western society has no real understanding ofdeath or what happens in death or after death.I learned that people today are taught to deny death, andtaught that it means nothing but annihilation and loss. Thatmeans that most of the world lives either in denial of death orin terror of it. Even talking about death is considered morbid,and many people believe that simply mentioning death is torisk wishing it upon ourselves.Others look on death with a naive, thoughtless cheerfulness,thinking that for some unknown reason death will workout all right for them, and that it is nothing to worry about.When I think of them, I am reminded of what one Tibetanmaster says: "People often make the mistake of being frivolous

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