Books: Sogyal Rinpoche’s “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”

Perhaps the greatest certainty of our human existence is that one day it will come to an end. Whether young or old, we all eventually come to the border of death and cross over to the other side to whatever awaits beyond. Yet, we mostly do not want to think about this eventuality. Why think of such a distressing subject when we could focus on money to earn, food to enjoy, lovers to desire, families to cherish? And why review a book named “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” for the “Feeling Alive” issue of Parvati Magazine?

Especially given the meaning of my spiritual name Pranada (giver of life energy), I am the last person to recommend morbid or morose brooding about death at the expense of fully engaging with life in rooted, vital expansiveness. My personal preference would be to see fewer skulls printed on t-shirts and backpacks, less gloomy black clothing, attitudes and music in this world. Our human life is a gift to celebrate, not to disengage from in obsession with darkness and absence of vitality.

Sogyal Rinpoche’s “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”, however, is no morose screed hanging out at the cremation ground. It uses the inevitability of death as a summons to consider what is important and real in our human existence. It operates from a perspective that much of what we cling to is illusory, and that what is real and crucial for our ultimate well-being is something we may only dimly sense beyond our day-to-day existence.

The great mystery is that when we truly find a peaceful understanding of death and what lies beyond this lifetime, we understand this human life to be a great gift. We find joy and lightness in living our life to the fullest, engaged and fearless.

We often wonder: “How will I be when I die?” The answer to that is that whatever state of mind we are in now, that’s what we will be like at the moment of death, if we do not change. This is why it is so absolutely important to use this lifetime to purify our mindstream, and so our basic being and character, while we can.

– The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

“The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” takes the concepts of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” and anchors them in a broad, accessible context for the layperson to understand the importance of awakening in this lifetime. Sogyal Rinpoche gives simple instructions for beginning a meditation practice and developing loving kindness, so that we can embody that compassion through our life and, as the time comes, to support others or ourselves through the dying process and beyond. For those who feel ready to take in more information, he discusses some of the more esoteric aspects of the dying process and how, by grace, to move safely through it to liberation.


pranadawithhostasmallerPranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. Recently, she edited Parvati’s new book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie”, which has gone on to sell out its first two printing runs.