The death process

48 The Foundation of Buddhist Practice

Part of an ongoing series of teachings (retreat and Friday) based on the book The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, second volume in “The Library of Wisdom and Compassion” series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron.

  • Working with our mind, considering different scenarios for our own death
  • Outline of eight steps one goes through while dying
  • Body loses ability to support coarser levels of consciousness
  • Element, aggregate, internal sign, external changes
    • Earth, form, mirage like, body weakens
    • Water, feeling, smoke, skin becomes dry
    • Fire, discrimination, sparks of light on a dark night, body loses heat
    • Wind, miscellaneous factors, dim candle about to go off, external breath stops
  • Mind becomes more subtle
  • Vivid white, red increase, black near attainment, fundamental clear light mind
  • Duration of each stage varies for each being
  • Our attitudes while living shape our experiences at the time of death

The Foundation of Buddhist Practice 48: The Death Process (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Make a chart of the death process and what occurs. Meditate upon it.
  2. How do you wish for yourself to die? Are you well prepared?
  3. If meditation upon death is not yet part of your daily meditation, what hinders you from meditating thoroughly about the death process?
  4. Why is meditating upon your death important?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.