What will happen to me when I die?


Karin Behrendt, student and German translator for Sogyal Rinpoche writes: “For many people, including myself, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is not just “a book” but the long awaited answer to many very personal questions about life and death.

I had the great privilege to come in contact with Sogyal Rinpoche before “The Book” was written, and I was able to witness, first hand, Rinpoche’s meticulous process of essentializing and translating into our modern society the teachings that had been handed down to him by the great masters of the past.

Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings, and later his book, answered the two most important questions that I had been carrying with me before I met the buddhist teachings: “What will happen to me when I die?”, and “Who will teach me about myself?” (Don’t ask me where these came from, I guess that would be a whole long story in itself).

What better answer could I have asked for than to actually meet someone who not only introduced me to my true nature but taught me so clearly and precisely about the process of  death and dying. As Rinpoche wrote in his book: “Realization of the nature of mind, which you could call our innermost essence, that truth we all search for, is the key to understanding life and death.”

For many months and years after I met him, Rinpoche taught about the process of dying, about how to prepare for the moment of death and about how to accompany someone else through this process. It was such a relief to find someone who not only openly adressed death, but also showed how to deal with it. Twenty years later I can say with confidence, that Rinpoche’s book has fulfilled his wish “to inspire a quiet revolution” on a personal level and in the wider world.

This became vividly clear to me a few years ago when one of my aunts was dying . Throughout the process of her death, I noticed a marked difference in the attitude of both my family and the hospital staff to caring for someone dying, from what they would have had 20 years earlier. Rather than prolonging her suffering by trying to continue to treat her very advanced and incurable cancer, they suggested finding a hospice where my aunt could spend the last period of her life in a more dignified, peaceful and human way. Just two decades earlier this would not have happened. It is wonderful to see how hospice care has become an acknowledged part of our society. This is, of course, due to many people’s efforts, but I am sure Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings have contributed to this change tremendously.

If I had to choose one book to take with me to a deserted island, my choice would still be The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I’ve read it so many times, and the more teachings I receive and the more I practice, the more I discover the depth of what it contains. As you might know, the teachings on Death & Dying are just one aspect of the book. For you, it may turn out to be mainly a book on love and compassion… but whatever appeals to you the most, if you put it into practice, it really could help you to change your life for the better.”

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