cover image Advice on Dying: And Living a Better Life

Advice on Dying: And Living a Better Life

Dalai Lama, Bstan-'Dzin-Rgy. Atria Books, $20 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-6302-7

Buddhist scholar and professor Hopkins studied intimately with the 14th Dalai Lama to complete this volume on spiritual preparation for death and dying. The book draws upon the 17th-century poem by the First Panchen Lama, which focused on Buddhist techniques for mastering the fear of death and finding spiritual enlightenment through the""stages of dying."" The 17 eloquent stanzas begin with ideas about awareness of life's cycle (""May we extract the meaningful essence of this life-support/Without being distracted by the senseless affairs of this life""), and move through each level of consciousness in anticipation of death, or rebirth (""May we be reborn with the supreme life-support of a Tantra practitioner using the sky""). The Dalai Lama elaborates upon the verse with Indian and Tibetan textual and oral traditions; the rather esoteric poem thus leads to more concrete advice, such as""You have to practice morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom on a daily basis."" Fear disappears when practitioners learn to embrace awareness of death, the Dalai Lama says, and through such insight, they are able to more fully take advantage of the given life.