That’s the same way, actually. In a way, the way you prepare others for death and the way you prepare yourself for death is more or less similar. You have to see what would work and what would not work for yourself. It’s important that as a practitioner facing death you try to prepare yourself, because when you are prepared then you don’t leave things unfinished. If you have a property, or if you have money you do whatever is necessary, you just give them to whoever you want to give to, make things clear, so that there are no problems afterwards for those left behind, fighting and things like that. Then you can concentrate on your own path and not on other irrelevant things.
Also, I think that it is important that in your life maybe you have done some good things, maybe not so good things but that’s all past so we have to forgive everything, forgive everybody, including yourself and then start a new way of life, from now. The past is past, whatever I have done, something not so good, that’s ok, it’s done, finished; if it’s something good, that’s very good. Now this moment I don’t have to feel guilty, I don’t have to feel bad about things because there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s all done but now I don’t hold onto it, I start fresh in a positive way because if I can do that, that’s the best purification.
So, about yourself, you just do what you want, really preparing yourself to die, be ready to die and then concentrate on your practice, inspire yourself, remind yourself of the teachings, listen to inspiring teachings and as much as possible you can kind of put your mind on something positive. That’s why thinking about the Buddha, thinking about the Buddha realms like the realm of Amitabha, or any other Buddha, whatever is interesting to you and also listen to the teachings of Bardo and things like that is also important. And if you can read yourself, or listen or otherwise if you cannot listen then whatever abilities you have, the main thing is that as everybody has to die, then just get ready for it, just let go, relax and don’t hang onto anything positive or negative of the past, just let go.
Q- Would Rinpoche say that we die as we have lived, that our experience of death reflects the engagement we have had with dharma and life generally?
Of course, we die as we live, it is about a state of mind, it’s not so much what I do but how I experience. So whatever happens, if I have certain emotions, strong emotion like too much attachment, too much ignorance, too much anger, too much fear then that can become stronger so therefore what I experience in my life now creates the circumstances for what I do in the practice; that we try to let go of our fear and our aversion and attachment are the three most important things. And if you can a have a little bit of control or have a little bit less aversion, less attachment, less fear and not too much clinging then I think you can face death with much more clarity, much more confidence.
So, therefore, it’s like that but when we are in a disturbed state of mind at the time of death, death is not easy, death is not always easy, it can be a challenging time. Some people are lucky and they don’t have much pain but, because of different circumstances, different diseases, different situations, some people have more pain, some have less pain. But the most important thing is that the life has to be a preparation for the death, the practice for life is actually the practice for death. If we look into most of the vajrayana practices, the sadhanas, the creation stage and the completion stage practices, all of them are actually a direct preparation for death, this is very important to understand.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Article first appeared in Living and Dying in Peace