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Our Attitude toward Death (Part 2) — To be continued.

By Matthieu Ricard on May 02, 2010

(Radio Canada interview) 

To think about death is a healthy process, which is neither sad nor morbid. It shows lucidity because, otherwise, to mask reality is inevitably a source of frustration: when our death will approach and that of those dear to us will occur, we will be shocked and completely at a loss. But if we understand that death is a natural part of things, if we try to do what we can so that this transition happens as smoothly as possible, without distress or fear, and if we surround those who are departing with the greatest affection, love, tenderness and presence, we will be able to and known how to deal with death with serenity instead of being overwhelmed. I have heard Sogyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan master, say, ‟Don't worry. To die is very simple: You breathe out, and you can't breathe in.”

To eradicate death from the field of our awareness will not enable us to tackle it from a better angle. A Tibetan text describes our attitude as follows, ‟At first, we see death as if we were an animal caught in a snare.” This means that the idea of death is unbearable, a source of deep anguish, and that we struggle with it.

Next, if we take steps toward inner transformation, our attitude toward death will resemble that of a farmer who has ploughed his field, sowed it, and who, having done all that was necessary, has now no regrets. Whether hail hits his field or animals devour part of his crop, he has nothing to reproach himself with.

Finally, for an experienced practitioner, death is like a friend; in other words, it has become something very familiar—it is unavoidable, it is a transition, a good death is the crowning achievement of a good life—and we no longer experience feelings of panic, revulsion, or injustice in the face of death; we cease to think that the world should be otherwise because our rebellion against reality only compounds our agony. We must come to understand death and allow it to give meaning to each moment of our life as it unfolds.