Tibetan book of living and dying review
How did this Tibetan guide to dying sell three million copies?Here the authors have sought to place the work, which is a sort of guidebook for the initiated to the hereafter, in the broader context of living and dying. The book functions alternatively as an epistemological defense of karma and rebirth; as a critique of Western systems of denial; as a systematic guide to revealed knowledge of the bardo; as a kind and very practical manual for caring for the dying and looking at the feelings that arise for the living in such situations; and as a comparison of Buddhist theory with modern physics. Overarching is the aspiration to usefully apply the insights of a distant culture to our own. Such a complicated and ambitious project is bound to encounter a number of interesting problems. To neglect the opportunity to discuss cathection, transference, and identification, in this context is a wasted opportunity. The effort to transpose one culture onto another, which is probably the leading motif of our era, is a curious affair.
How did this Tibetan guide to dying sell three million copies?
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The missionary intent is evident, though gently managed, and eased by the fact that we in the West are already pretty well aware of our spiritual deficiencies. Yet to merge the ancient wisdom of Tibet with modern research into death and dying is rather like trying to blend Donne's Devotions 'upon emergent occasions in my sickness' with the processes of a life-support machine or, at best, the counselling of such thanatologists as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Granted, Buddhism can be a more than usually fluid and hospitable religion. In his introduction to the English version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup suggested that the work conformed with physiological and psychological experience and is therefore 'in the main, scientific'. Perhaps the claim is unwise; the mystical and the medical are both perfectly legitimate, but in forced assimilation one of them is likely to get damaged or devalued. The advice on awakening compassion may strike us as contrived.
Please refresh the page and retry. I nstruction manuals on dying do not normally make bestsellers; books on Tibetan Buddhism and I speak from experience even less so. But since its publication 25 years ago, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has sold more than three million copies. Written by a Tibetan lama named Sogyal Rinpoche, it might be described as a guidebook to a good life, and a good death. Clinicians, hospice workers and psychologists have applauded it for the comfort it has given to the terminally ill.