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Akindes, Fay Yokomizo 1. Alexander, F. Alpert, Richard. Santa Cruz, Calif. Anderson, Tyson. Badham, Paul.

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  4. Badiner, Allan Hunt. Bailey, Lee W. Barham, Denise. Barrett, Deborah J. Barua, Archana. Batchelor, Stephen 1. Becker, C. Becker, Carl B. Breaking the Circle : Death and the Afterlife in Buddhism. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, The Raft is Not the Shore Bhatnagar, R.

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    BOND, G. Bowker, John. The Meanings of Death Cambridge Univ. Press, BOYD, J. Boyd, James W. Burford, Grace G. New York: P. Lang, Catemario, Armando. Cohen, Maurice. Cuevas, Bryan J. New York: Oxford University Press, Cuevas, Bryan Jare. London: Rider, Desjarlais, Robert. Desjarlais, Robert R. Dillion, Matthew. Dogen, Roshi, and Vacher. Fitzgerald, Timothy. Fremantle, Francesca.

    Boston: Shambhala, Garces-Foley, Kathleen. Goss, R. Green, J. Hitchens, Christopher. Hoh, Erling. Holton, Brian.

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    Hopkins, Jeffrey. Hulsizer, Liz. Humphrey, Caroline. Ikeda, Daisaku. London: Macdonald, Kapleau, Philp eds. Karma Lekshe Tsomo. New York, N. Kartomi, Margaret, Phong T. Nguyen, Tsan-huang Tsai, Paul D. Miller, and Hwee-san Tan. Keown, Damien. Klima, Alan. Lang, Lany T. Parry, Lauf, Detlef Ingo. Secret Doctrines of the Tibetan Books of the Dead. Lecso, Phillip A. Leggett, Trevor. Levine, Stephen. Who Dies?

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    Anchor Book ed. Garden City, N. Li, Hui. Eliot's Poetry. Loy, David. Atlantic Highlands, N. MacDougall, John M. Macy, Joanna. McDermott, J. Milcinski, M. Milcinski, Maja. Milcinski, Maja 1. Mullin, Glenn H. Death and Dying : The Tibetan Tradition. Our future fate—whether we will be happy or unhappy—depends on our habitual tendencies, mental concepts, and ingrained emotions, as well as the ways in which we have expressed these habits in words and deeds. Mind, in its true nature, is open and pure. Its innate quality is peaceful, joyful, omniscient, and benevolent.

    This quality is called the enlightened nature or buddha-nature. In our ultimate universal nature, not only is our mind omniscient, but space is boundless and time is timeless. In this way, our real nature has become unconscious and foreign to us. In order to uncover the true nature of our mind, we must embark on vigorous meditation with total dedication.

    We must recognize and meditate on the right ways of viewing, thinking, feeling, believing, and being. Timeless Tib. We might believe that we have become too mired in our negative habits to adopt new ways of thinking, viewing, and feeling. In reality, however, every moment is a chance to start, restart, or change the direction and quality of our life. Contrary to what it seems, our mind is not one single, solid stream.

    It is not one piece, like an iron rod. We grasp at events as mental objects and conceptualize them as truly existing entities. Actually, events have already changed before we can even think about them. Every event, every moment, is new and fresh, like childbirth. We are malleable and can educate and train ourselves as we would a newborn baby. Through meditation we can improve at every juncture of every moment and thus uncover our enlightened nature.

    Why Meditate? Some people question this emphasis on meditation. How can you claim to care about others? In reality, everything we think and feel generates a corresponding positive or negative imprint in our consciousness. But it is only when we leave our gross bodies and cross into the bardo that many of these will become visible and audible to us, as we will read later on.

    Meditation is a powerful tool to create sublime forms, sounds, and feelings that can help us and countless others who are open to them. Beings in the bardo, in particular, are very receptive to meditation and prayers, as they live in a world of thought. Blown around in this way, they often feel exhausted, scared, and alone. Meditation is a more powerful way to help these beings than our usual discursive thoughts and feelings because it comes from a deeper, more peaceful level in our mind.

    The longer we remain in contemplation, the longer we can comfort these beings and the greater the chance to improve their futures. Meditation lets us contribute greatly to the living, too. Meditation is a way to purify our impurities, strengthen our virtuous qualities, and awaken our true nature. It may be an experience of virtuous qualities, such as devotion, peace, love, and strength generated by heartfelt thoughts and feelings. This is conceptual meditation.

    Or it may be an experience of the awakened state of the mind. That is nonconceptual meditation. We become a source of love, peace, and joy for all associated with us. Our mere presence brings solace to others. If we could involve our feelings, nothing would be able to stop us from practicing. So how do we get there? There are two basic sources of motivation to practice: one is inspiration; the other, shock or fear.

    Life is a rich source of both. Meeting an amazing teacher, for instance, can be a pivotal event to inspire us. Or perhaps it will take an event like our own illness, the sudden passing of a loved one, or a large-scale tragedy, such as the tsunami disaster in South and Southeast Asia, to awaken us from the slumber of our daily lives.

    They are the naked truth about our lives. It is just that our attention needs to be deliberately drawn to them because we otherwise take them for granted, or feel too uncomfortable to even think about them. However, it is not necessary to sit in one-pointed concentration to ponder them. We can think about them anywhere, anytime. As we do, we will see how they teach us what life really is, set us on the right spiritual path, and spark in us the enthusiasm and commitment to follow it through.

    Precious Human Life Is Rare Our precious human life provides us with the foundation to enhance not just this life, but also all our lives hereafter. If we realize our enlightened nature, the universe will become a source of peace and joy for us, and we will become a source of peace and joy for the universe.

    If we recognize how precious this opportunity is and understand the value of our own existence, we will immediately feel a sense of great Human Life That gratitude will turn into a strong determination never to waste a moment of this life, and to dedicate it entirely in the best way that we possibly can. Let us consider how many beings in the world have this extraordinary opportunity, as doing so can help us realize just how fortunate we are.

    Looking around, we can see that there are countless beings in the world. If we turn over a single rock, hundreds of insects could be crawling. If we had a microscope, trillions more creatures would become visible. Billions of bacteria, I am told, live in our intestines alone.

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    According to Buddhism, every one of them has a mind and seeks happiness. The beings we can see, moreover, are just the tip of the iceberg. Like the cultures around the world that traditionally believe in invisible beings such as angels, gods, demons, and ghosts, Buddhists also believe in numerous classes of invisible beings. Many of these beings exist in our midst, in the very place where we now sit and breathe.

    Yet among this vast and wondrous array of visible and invisible life, human beings possess the greatest potential for realizing enlightenment, as we have the intellectual capacity, incentive, and stamina to seek a spiritual path and stick with it. Consider animals and hell-beings, to take two examples.

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    6. These beings endure such fear, pain, and dullness that they lack the strength to gather even a trace of the qualities of enlightenment. Now take beings like the long-lived gods, who might seem to be luckier than we are, what with their beautiful light-bodies and access to all sorts of delights. The truth, however, is that the gods—unlike human beings, who taste both happiness and suffering and therefore have the incentive and the ability to seek enlightenment—are too rapt in their sensual pleasures and lack any experience of pain that might spur them to do spiritual work.

      Yet even among human beings, if we look closely, we see that there are actually very few who have the disposition and are likely to seize the opportunity to work toward enlightenment. This is so even among some educated people.

      Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth

      Some people are too submerged in the struggle against poverty or illness or too caught up in addiction to indulgences and excitements to give time to spiritual development. Others pour every ounce of their energy into achieving material success and fame. And still other people, who might have some spiritual inclination, never get on track because they fall in with the wrong crowd and pick up the wrong values. So when we boil it all down, only a tiny percentage of human beings have a realistic chance of taking advantage of the opportunity for spiritual growth.

      Buddhist teachings lay out the ideal conditions for spiritual progress. They are known as the eight freedoms and ten endowments.

      The eight freedoms are the freedom from being born in the realms of 1 hell, 2 hungry ghosts, 3 animals, or 4 the long-lived gods, for none of these realms offers beings as good a chance to make spiritual progress as the human realm does. One must also be free from having 5 a perverted viewpoint, 6 barbarous behavior, 7 a nihilistic view, or 8 being born in a place where no enlightened teacher has appeared.

      The ten endowments include having 1 a human life with 2 sense faculties intact and 3 a wholesome occupation, or right livelihood. Finally, one must 8 have faith in the teaching, 9 follow the teachings, and 10 have the guidance of an authentic living teacher. As you can see, it is extremely rare to have all eighteen of these ideal conditions. Those who do have them possess what Buddhists call a precious human life. Regardless how many of these ideal conditions we possess, we should rejoice over whichever ones we do have, recognize that they are blessings, and take full advantage of them.

      We should also work to obtain the conditions we are lacking. If we realize what precious blessings we have, we will never dare waste this golden chance, and, sooner or later we will realize the meaning of precious life—true peace, joy, and openness. After all, while human beings have the sharpest intellect among all beings, we also have the strongest emotions. It is all too Human Life When we contemplate our mortality and the impermanence of life, it is hard not to feel a sense of urgency to make the most of our precious human life.

      We simply take it for granted that our life will last a long time. In fact, we stay alive only as long as the mind resides in the body. Many things could very easily separate that fragile union. Not only could sickness and accidents be fatal, but even medicine, food, houses, recreation, and friends could turn deadly. The phases of birth and death alternate back and forth continuously, like the turning faces and bodies of dancers.

      Not only life, but everything else—nature, friendships, possessions, and positions—is ever-changing. The turns of births and deaths of beings are like watching a dance. The speed of human lives is like lightning in the sky. Life passes swiftly like a stream down a steep mountain. Gungthang Tenpe Dronme tells a poignant parable. A man is taking a pleasant walk one day when he accidentally falls off a steep cliff.

      Halfway down the rocky slope, he breaks his fall by grabbing on to a tuft of grass. He hangs on to the grass with all his might to keep from tumbling down the rocky slope to his death. But soon a white mouse comes along and starts to nibble on a bit of the grass. Then a dark mouse arrives and eats a bit more of the grass. In this parable, the white mouse represents day and the dark mouse, night. Little by little, the passing of each day and each night brings us closer and closer to the end of life. Fortunately, we are alive for a while, but all along we have been heading for death.

      The Buddha said: Whatever is accumulated will end up exhausted. Whatever has arisen will end by falling down.