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

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

THE PROCESS OF DYING 251feast around his deathbed. He sat there in meditation posturewaiting for death, but nothing happened. After several hourshis guests began to get tired of waiting and said to each other,"Let's start eating." They filled their plates, and then looked upat the prospective corpse and said: "He's dying, he doesn'tneed to eat." As time went by and still there was no sign ofdeath, the "dying" man became famished himself, and worriedthat there would soon be nothing left to eat. He got downfrom his deathbed and joined in the feast. His great deathbedscene had turned into a humiliating fiasco.Good practitioners can take care of themselves when theydie, but ordinary ones will need to have their teacher at theirbedside, if possible, or otherwise a spiritual friend who canremind them of the essence of their practice and inspire themto the View.Whoever we are, it can be a great help to be familiar withthe process of dying. If we understand the stages of dying, wewill know that all the strange and unfamiliar experiences weare passing through are part of a natural process. As this processbegins, it signals the coming of death, and reminds us toalert ourselves. And for a practitioner each stage of dying willbe a signpost, reminding us of what is happening to us, and ofthe practice to do at each point.THE PROCESS OF DYINGThe process of dying is explained in considerable detail inthe different Tibetan teachings. Essentially it consists of twophases of dissolution: an outer dissolution, when the sensesand elements dissolve, and an inner dissolution of the grossand subtle thought states and emotions. But first we need tounderstand the components of our body and mind, which disintegrateat death.Our whole existence is determined by the elements: earth,water, fire, air, and space. Through them our body is formedand sustained, and when they dissolve, we die. We are familiarwith the outer elements, which condition the way in which welive, but what is interesting is how these outer elements interactwith the inner elements within our own physical body. And thepotential and quality of these five elements also exist within ourmind. Mind's ability to serve as the ground for all experience isthe quality of earth; its continuity and adaptability is water; itsclarity and capacity to perceive is fire; its continuous movementis air; and its unlimited emptiness is space.

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