by Tulku Thondup
Review by Dana Vigilante on Mar 21st 2006
As a hospice patient advocate, I am surrounded by
death on a daily basis. The transition from this world into the next has been
something I have always been fascinated with. However, working in North
America and within a predominantly Catholic/Episcopal/non-denominational
culture, I have never had the opportunity to delve into the dying practices and
beliefs of other cultures or religions, so when this book arrived, I was more
than a bit eager to indulge in it.
Based on Tibetan practices and
written by a Tibet born teacher and author, the book is a fascinating look at
not only the Buddhist dying process and the importance of everything that goes
along with it, but the rebirth process as well. From the dying process and
preparing for it, to the land of the pure, each chapter offers the reader an
in-depth look at all that is involved within the Buddhist culture of planning
for a death, as well as what takes place during and after.
The book is sorted into ten
chapters, each more interesting and informative than the first. The first
chapter takes us on a journey if you will, through the full cycle of our
being. From birth to death, suffering and karma, the author educates the
reader on achieving higher spiritual attainment.
The following chapters touch upon
the passage of dying, as relayed by several individuals who have experienced
the "near" dying process, yet ended up living to recount it. The accounts
are told by "delogs". Delogs are very devout Buddhists, some that
are actually "accomplished masters". Unlike the experiences I have
encountered with my hospice patients, the near-death experiences recounted here
seem to be based upon karma, enlightenment, attainment and dissolution of the
elements. Hard to understand, but nonetheless fascinating and enriching to a
devout Catholic like myself, who had no prior knowledge of Buddhist practices.
In the chapter based on rebirth,
the author advises the reader on how one should actually feel once they realize
they are dead. At this point, unsure if I could actually write a unbiased
review of this book after reading what seemed to be a pretty hokey chapter, I
decided to delve into further chapters to try to find some solid ground to
regain my footing.
Unfortunately, by the time I
reached the chapter that advised the reader on how to find the actual place
that they want to be re-born, my footing seemed to be slipping again. While I did
enjoy reading about Tibetan religious services at the time of death as well as
the subsequent ones that follow, I had great difficulty not only comprehending
but also interpreting the language and symbols that increased intensely toward
the end of the book. As someone who is not familiar with Buddha practices, I
found myself referring to the glossary several times during the course of each
While this is a very informative
and descriptive book, it can prove a particularly difficult read for someone
who is not familiar with Tibetan paginations. Thankfully, all Tibetan
sentences were translated into English. However, codes and abbreviations had
to be looked up in the glossary.
Definitely not a book for beginners
or light readers, yet nonetheless interesting, informative and educational.
© 2006 Dana
Vigilante is a hospice educator as well as an advocate for proper end-of-life
care and a certified bereavement group facilitator. Currently writing a book
based on interviews with terminally ill hospice patients, she divides her time
between New Jersey and San Francisco.