Living and Dying in Peace
A lifetime is like a flash of lightening in the sky.
To consider old age and death is the second contemplation of 'The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to Dharma' and according to the teachings of Buddha, provides the impetus for living our life in a fulfilling and inclusive way. Awareness of impermanence and death can stimulate an alertness to our everyday experience and interactions with others, as we recognise the preciousness of our own life. Despite our best hopes, life is finite: we'll be gone soon enough, so how we face the final departure depends not only on how we live our life, but also requires practical measures and thinking not only of ourselves, but also of our families, friends, material belongings: what we will be leaving behind (which put another way, means everything we can't take with us).
Here we are offered a fresh perspective to all these things, and also asked that we pay attention to how we can meet death as Buddhists, how we can prepare ourselves in mind, body and spirit.
The information shared on the Living and Dying in Peace website overflows with advice on all these matters, practical and spiritual: on one page Rinpoche answers common and uncommon questions about death and dying and he talks about the tendency we have in the west especially, to imagine we are immortal - doing our best to avoid the topic. We are given an opportunity to venture tentatively into the likelihood of our own mortality and start to figure out how we might attend to it. There are suggestions for ritual and prayer; helpful notes for relatives; advice for nurses and doctors who may not be familiar with the Buddhist approach to death; and on making a will or setting up power of attorney. There are suggestions for books to read and links to support services. Most of the spiritual content originates from teachings on the topic by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, there's a talk from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and contributions from Tsering Paldron from Bodhicharya Portugal, who also designed the website.
For a number of years until her recent retirement Margaret has been instrumental in developing the work of Rigul Trust, a charity originally set up by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche with Margaret Ford in the mid 1990s. Rigul Monastery is Rinpoche's seat in Tibet. As Abbot of Rigul, Rinpoche takes responsibility -in absentia- for its upkeep, through the Rigul Trust, that raises funds to feed, educate and also care for the medical needs of the monastery residents. It also helps the shedra, medical clinic, the monks, nuns, adults and children and their associate families.
See also an inspired article on the hospice work of Kerry Egan recommended by New York Chaplain Justin Von Bujdoss of the Goshir Dharma Centre in Brooklyn.