Book review: A calming perspective on living and dying

“The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche

I read this book while sitting beside my terminally ill father, and it gives me a sense of unprecedented calm and control over the scary process of dying.

Chapter 10 and 11 in particular tremendously help me to get new perspectives on letting go and being at peace with the whole process. One particular quotation sums it up nicely in my opinion: “Imagine you are standing on the deck of an ocean liner, about to set sail. You look back on the shore and see all your family and friends waving goodbye. You have no choice about leaving, and the ship is already moving away. How would you want the people you loved to be saying goodbye to you? What would help you most on your journey?”

The book itself is more than just a guide to cope with death, which is the 2nd part of the book, where the 1st part of the book focuses on how to life well. Afterall, just like what HH The Dalai Lama said in the foreword of the book: “Naturally, most of us would like to die a peaceful death, but it is also clear that we cannot hope to die peacefully if our lives have been full of violence, or if our minds have mostly been agitated by emotions like anger, attachment, or fear. So if we wish to die well, we must learn how to live well: Hoping for a peaceful death, we must cultivate peace in our mind, and in our way of life.”

The book also provide a window into the wonderful world of pre-1950s Tibetan Buddhism and its very rich local culture. It is an illustration on how life is approached very differently compared to the majority of the rest of the world, even in exile, a world that I would want to someday visit at least once in a lifetime.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with my dad. But thanks to this book, I’m ready for whatever outcome.