Hoping to Heal, Accepting Death
When do you hope to be healed, and when do you accept to die?
This is a critical question for many faced with terminal or life-threatening diseases. From the moment of diagnosis, people are very raw and vulnerable. With some illnesses (such as cancer) people feel at times that they might live, and at times they might die, and they go through a roller coaster of hope and fear.
Within such an environment of the mind, coming to terms with the possibility of one’s death can seem like a kind of resignation, and counter-productive to one’s process of healing. But as Sogyal Rinpoche explains in this teaching: “Accepting and preparing for death does not necessarily mean giving up on life.”
Also, as it says in Chapter 3 of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:
[W]hen we accept death, transform our attitude toward life, and discover the fundamental connection between life and death, a dramatic possibility for healing can occur.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that illnesses like cancer can be a warning, to remind us that we have been neglecting deep aspects of our being, such as our spiritual needs. If we take this warning seriously and change fundamentally the direction of our lives, there is a very real hope for healing not only our body, but our whole being.
In this teaching Rinpoche also mentions the practice of Essential Phowa from Chapter 13, which is “as much a healing practice for the living as a practice for the moment of death”. You can find more teachings on the Essential Practice of Phowa here and here.