on October 31, 2003
If you look at death as a transition state from where you are now, to where "you" will be when you have exceeded your body's limits, then this book provides a guide to understanding some of that journey. This book provides one with a new viewpoint on how life and death are connected. I found it fascinating and very helpful in answering many of my own questions about what we can expect in the dying process. The level of detail is quite remarkable and can only be attributed to the few enlightened beings that have experienced some of this process and found a way to share that experience with those of us still here. The scary part is how reading this can bring back memories of actually being in the "between" state and those memories are what help validate the book's message. If you only read one book this lifetime, perhaps this should be the one.
on February 4, 2003
After I had a dream I saw myself dying in a very specific way, I looked for an answer and I have been recommended this book. I thought it would take me forever to read it but it took me only two days to go through it. Based on the advice of my mom who is an advanced buddhist student, I read it without trying to analyse it. And it was great. The book is easy to read, it's like a story and you just keep on reading. I learned a lot about the Bardo and had a great explanation for my dream. It's a great book to start your Buddhist teachings with. Everything makes sense. It's been 2 weeks I read it and still all the stories are coming back into my head. I am still digesting this wonderful book. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the process of dying and living.
on January 8, 2001
This book is like an armour for those like minded people that want a deeper understanding of life and the nature of mind. Sogyal Rinpoche takes lengths to explain in detailed chapters, the MEANING and PURPOSE of life, death and dying; how we can use our true nature of mind to overcome difficulties, and use compassion and meditation to become enlightened in this life. This is a serious book for those that want to follow the spiritual path, of believing and listening to the inner self and overcoming obstacles by healing one's self first. Sogyal Rinpoche has a lot of wisdom to teach and share through his words, and you will find that the end of the last page, you had everything to gain.
on July 1, 1998
There's a lot of very interesting material in this book. I found descriptions of the human condition and basic tenets of Buddhism to be intelligently written, and to be inspiring at times. However, I'd like to issue a warning to skeptical people like me who have little interest in unproven or unprovable opinions and expressions of "faith" in their Buddhism. This book spends a lot of time on Tibetan ritual. It cites numerous examples of things the author has seen that seem to prove reincarnation, the possibility and power of enlightenment, karma, near death experiences, etc. When enlightened monks die, did you know that their bodies often don't rot? Or that their bodies disappear into thin air, or that rainbows appear thousands of miles away? That dead monks bodies stay warm for weeks? These things may or may not be true, but I'm just skeptical enough to not want to take the author's word for them. If you tackle this book, brace yourself to read about a lot of belief topics, and then prepare to be accused of being too cynical and capitive of your own ego for doubting it. I would categorize this book as religious Buddhism, as opposed to philosophical Buddhism. An aside: the author's reverence and love for his teachers and his faith is truly touching. His knowledge is great, his love is great, but I'm not sure that makes him the best possible reporter for those who are seeking truth instead of opinion.
on March 13, 2004
All of the above reviews that I have sampled, are falling into a trap many 'western' philosophers get caught in. The psychologist Jung saw only the exoteric meaning. This is not a book on the act of actually dying physically, it is all a metaphor to confuse the non-initiates. The book is about ego-loss, specifically 'non-game ectasy' ego-loss. It is the death dying and rebirth of the ego. The 3 bardo's just represent states that are commonly encountered in the journey. The goal is to die, transcend briefly, and then the ego is reborn and the choice lies in ascending to a higher state (permanent growth) or to go to a lower level (or the same/similiar). That is the esoteric meaning, the entire book is metaphorical, if you aren't aquainted with altered consciousness then you will be lost. Useful in psychadelic ego-loss as well.
The book itself is an excellent guide, I recommend strongly to pick up a version of The book of the dead if you seek consciousness alteration, and/or ego-loss.
on October 1, 2009
Using anecdotes and stories and the inspiration of Tibetan Buddhism, Sogyul writes a manual for life and death, providing a clear and inspiring introduction to the practice of meditation, to the nature of mind, to karma and rebirth, and to compassionate love and care for the dying, and ultimately how to face our own death. Focusing on death will lead to a much richer life.
One of the few books I have read many times, it provides understanding and approaches to dealing with the illness and death of loved ones. I found the writing style clear and understandable. I especially liked the step-by-step meditation exercises.
on March 2, 2004
This is a book which is extremely difficult to review due to the vast wealth of knowledge contained within the actual text. Sogyal Rinpoche was raised by some of the most prolific Tibetan teachers of modern times, the most well known may well have been Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. He had been an authority on all of the traditions of Tibet and a leader in the so called, "non partisan" movement. At any rate, this book does a lot of things for us. Rinpoche explores and explains the difficult and esoteric teachings of the famous Holy Text "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" to us, as well as some most interesting autobiographical looks at his own life. The most important thing to keep in mind when reading this book, is that it's as much about life as it is about death. Sogyal Rinpoche has a great sense of humor, something that is almost a necessity when explaining texts like this to the modern reader; it helps take the edge off of the weighty material at hand. The one and only reason I gave this book four stars is that indeed many of the issues explored are very cryptic; as some reviewers have pointed out. Some of it merely must be taken in with a grain of salt. But all around it is absolutely a worthwhile read that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone. Enjoy!
on December 20, 2002
After reading other reviews, I feel it might help to say this:
Yes, there is quite a substantial amount of Tibetan ritual encased in this book. But that shouldn't be a surprise, or a hindrance - it IS the "TIBETAN Book of Living and Dying", and not the "Generically Believable For Everyone, Book of Living And Dying".
With that in mind, I loved reading this book. From the first page, I was drawn into a world where compassion and mindfulness reign, and it's these tools that will help us face the inevitable truth that we *are* all going to die, at some point.
Rinpoche skillfully shares his own wisdom, that of many other masters, and anecdotal evidence of what may happen when we physically die, and the stages we may go through during the process.
Topics discussed include the Bardo states, reincarnation, the concept of karma, and fear of the unknown. The book is very readable, and covers the material therein with sensitivity and warmth. At times, it may be difficult to the average Western mind to grasp the concepts of such things are reincarnation - but as Buddha himself did advise, the goal is to read, absorb and take what YOU find important from the lesson...not to read blindly and accept everything blindly.
To anyone even vaguely interested in Buddhism, death and dying or simply becoming more aware of their own self, this book is an invaluable addition to your library.
Truly a classic.
on September 19, 2002
Whenever I read a book, I generally use highlighter and underliner to mark the sentences and words that convey the true meaning and essence of what the author wants to say. While reading The Tibetan Book of Living And Dying, I had to stop using the highlighter after a few pages only as the most of the words on each page were worthy of being highlighted. Indeed, the author has said so much precious on every page that a reader must read and re-read the book and with every reading she/he gets more and more knowing.The subject of death has been most puzzling and perplexing to humankind since the time immemorial. The Eastern way of looking at the death as only a 'transition' is explained by the author in a profoundly simple manner. The book certainly helps one to understand the true meaning of the phenomena called death. This understanding helps one to reduce the irrational fear of death. From the lives of the great men and women we know that those who 'lived' a life can only meet the 'death' with equnimity. Thus the author has first taught the art of 'living'. It is only through right type of living that we can 'live' the death also.
I suggest that this book be read by all the Buddhist as well as by non buddhists also. Every one who reads it will find something for him/her.
I salute Sogyal Rinpoche for giving us a wonderful gift of THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING.
on August 31, 2002
This book fully captures the essence of Tibetan Buddhism. I don't claim to be an authority on the subject, but I was born into a Buddhist household that has remained faithful and reverent to both Mahayana and Hiyana traditions of Buddhism. From the information I've had passed on to me by both family and Tibetan Buddhist clergy, this book has never been contradictory to anything lecture I've heard. In fact, everybody seems to recommend it enthusiastically!
Essentially, according to Tibetan Buddhism, the purpose of living is to cultivate the mind and purify the body and soul to prepare for death. Westerners may, at first glance, find this philosophy morbid. However, we must remember that reincarnation is integral to Buddhist text (and most world religions, for that matter; the 'one life' theory is actually relatively new). Death is explained as a transitional period, like the end of a chapter to a book. To waste away ones life is like wasting away all your money without care for the future. Basically, this philosophy heavily emphasizes living in the present with thoughtfulness and offers a plethora of Buddhist insight into life and death. It also stresses the urgency of cultivation in a day and age when we disregard life, old age, and disease as trivial matters and nothing that science cannot combat.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is written by a Rinpoche. For those who are not familiar with Tibetan titles, a Lama is essentially a monk who has abandond wordly comforts for a spiritual pursuit, and a Rinpoche is a recognized reincarnation of an esteemed Lama.
If you are a Buddhist, I highly recommend this book. It is enlightening, insightful, and an absolute must in any Buddhist library. Whether you follow the traditions of Chinese Buddhism, Zen or Chan, take the Amitabha or Guan Yin approach, etc., as a fellow Buddhist to another, you should not go without having this book. It's available in Chinese, as well, for the Buddhists out there who are more adept at Chinese than English.
For seekers, this is a wonderful guide, as well. The best part with any book as wonderful as this is that everytime you read it, you'll find new insight in the words. Beginners and established Buddhists alike will take in much insight.
I also highly recommend this to Buddhists who are unfamiliar with the Tibetan traditions. The Tibetan texts will open a whole new door for you. I know from personal experience, because my mother (who is the spiritual leader of the family) was originally a student of Chinese Buddhism, but after reading this book, our entire family discovered a whole other arena of philosophies that have done nothing but enrich our practices.
So whether you're already a Buddhist wishing to broaden your knowledge, a Buddhist who would like new material to absorb, or a seeker who is just curious of the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, this book is definitely a must.