A Treasure in My Hands


Cristina Iglesias from Madrid writes: “In August 2008, my partner and father of my daughter, whose name is Paris, was diagnosed with third stage pancreatic cancer. They didn’t give us any hope, but hope is the last thing there is to lose, and so we started a series of natural treatments and Paris came home with us. Among the friends who were coming to visit us at our home at that time was Carmen, who first told me about The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

I had been interested in Buddhism for many years, and I had read several books, among them the beginning part of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I had abandoned half way through because at that time I could scarcely understand anything the text had to say.

When my friend talked to me about The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I immediately made the connection between the two books, and I told her I would not be able to read it because I had not understood the other one, and because I had to devote my time to Paris’ illness and take care of my daughter Ananda, who was 4 years old at the time.

But my friend gave me her copy, and left it at my house.

Many days went by, maybe even a whole month, and the book was there, closed, in plain view in my house, but I never stopped to read it. I just saw it every time I happened to pass the bookcase.

When it became clear that Paris’ death was imminent, I inwardly reconnected with my vision of death, learned and internalized throughout my years of reading and practising according to Buddhist precepts I had learned. And I wanted to share that vision with Paris, who was afraid of dying and was tormented by ideas of going to hell.

It was then that the book called me. As on many other days, I walked past the place where the book was, but that day I opened it. Just reading the prologue by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I understood that I had a treasure in my hands.

This was confirmed again when I read the first pages of the book where Rinpoche talks about his childhood in Tibet and recounts Samten’s death while he was travelling with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö.

Immediately I understood that this was what Paris needed: to read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and to listen to Rinpoche’s teachings on the process of dying and the bardos.

I remember that I immediately suggested to him that we should read it together. Paris was Greek and he didn’t read very well in Spanish, and by this stage he was very weak and had trouble focusing his attention. But he asked me to read it for him, so I read aloud to him the parts of the book related to death, and afterwards we shared our insights about them. I am sure that this helped him to go in a much more relaxed and fearless way… and this was, in fact, the way he left us.

After Paris died, I continued reading the book, and I felt I needed to meet the lama who had written it, because every word I read was touching me at the very depths of my being in a very special way. It was as if each and every one of those words were resonating inside me. I connected especially with the parts on death, because for a long time my wish had been to dedicate my life to supporting people in their final days, feeling that it was, along with birth, the most important moment in our lifetime. With my partner’s experience of death, reading those chapters was for me a confirmation of my desires and feelings, showing me in a realistic way that that was the path I had to follow in this life.

Even before finishing the book, looking for a way to reach Rinpoche, I looked at the back of the book and saw that he had an organization called Rigpa. And so I went to the Internet to search, and to my surprise and joy I saw that there was a Rigpa group in Madrid.

Since then, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is always with me, and so is my master, Sogyal Rinpoche, as well as my sangha friends and the Dharma.

I think I can state that, thanks to The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I have found my Path in this life. And every day I give thanks for that.”

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