Grief, Loss, Death & Dying

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Peaceful Death, Joyful RebirthReview - Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth
A Tibetan Buddhist Guidebook
by Tulku Thondup
Shambhala, 2005
Review by Dana Vigilante
Mar 21st 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 12)

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 chapter.

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

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.


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