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

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

THIRTEENSpiritual Help for the DyingI FIRST CAME TO THE WEST at the beginning of the1970s, and what disturbed me deeply, and has continued todisturb me, is the almost complete lack of spiritual help forthe dying that exists in modern culture. In Tibet, as I haveshown, everyone had some knowledge of the higher truths ofBuddhism and some relationship with a master. No one diedwithout being cared for, in both superficial and profoundways, by the community. I have been told many stories ofpeople dying alone and in great distress and disillusion in theWest without any spiritual help, and one of my main motivationsin writing this book is to extend the healing wisdom ofthe world I was brought up in to all men and women. Do wenot all have a right, as we are dying, not only to have ourbodies treated with respect, but also, and perhaps even moreimportant, our spirits? Shouldn't one of the main rights of anycivilized society, extended to everyone in that society, be theright to die surrounded by the best spiritual care? Can wereally call ourselves a "civilization" until this becomes anaccepted norm? What does it really mean to have the technologyto send people to the moon, when we do not know howto help our fellow humans die with dignity and hope?Spiritual care is not a luxury for a few; it is the essentialright of every human being, as essential as political liberty,medical assistance, and equality of opportunity. A real democraticideal would include knowledgeable spiritual care foreveryone as one of its most essential truths.Wherever I go in the West, I am struck by the great mentalsuffering that arises from the fear of dying, whether or not thisfear is acknowledged. How reassuring it would be for people ifthey knew that when they lay dying they would be cared forwith loving insight! As it is, our culture is so heartless in itsexpediency and its denial of any real spiritual value that people,213

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