Via our friends at the Upaya Zen Center, who have the best, loveliest, most useful newsletter this side of nirvana.
ON DYING: DALAI LAMA
First of all, we should realize that death is truly part of life and that it is neither would not bad in itself. In the Tibetan book of the dead, it says “what we called death is merely a concept.” In other words, death represents the end of the gross consciousness and its support, the gross body. This happens at the gross level of the mind. But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call “clear light. ”
Of course, generally speaking, death is something we dread. However, death, which we want nothing to do with, is unavoidable. This is why it is important that during our lifetime we become familiar with the idea of death, so that it will not be a real shock to us at the moment it comes. We do not meditate regularly on death in order to die more quickly; on the contrary, like everyone, we wish to live a long time. However, since death is inevitable, we believe that if we begin to prepare for it and an earlier point in time, on the day of our death it will be easier to accept it.
I think that there is no general rule with regard to the intensive care often given to patients in order to prolong their lives. It is a complex problem, and in examining it we must take numerous elements into account, according to each set of circumstances, each particular case. For example, if we prolong the life of person who is critically ill but whose mind remains very lucid, we are giving him or her the opportunity to continue to think in the way only a human being can think. We must also consider whether the person will benefit from prolonged life or whether, on the contrary, he will experience great physical and mental suffering, physical pain, or extreme fear. If the person is in a deep coma, that is yet another problem. The wishes of the patient’s family must also be taken into account, as well as the immense financial problems that prolonged care can create. I think the most important thing is to try and to our best to ensure that dying person may depart quietly, with serenity and in a peace. There is also a distinction to be made between those dying people who practice a religion and those who do not. Whatever the case, whether one is religious or not, I believe it is better to die in peace.
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