Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying

Conversation with Tulku Migmar: How We Live is How We Die

In this conversation, Tulku Migmar speaks about living a meaningful life. This is good advice regardless of whether we are Buddhist or not. And he emphasizes the fact that we all write the story of our own death. If we spend our lives behaving correctly and kindly, and practicing with a confident energy, then we should have no fear of death.

As Buddhist practitioners, we especially should remember how precious our human life is, and then we can make our life meaningful. And we should not just sit back, not control our emotions, judge and cling, and then believe that at our death the Buddha will jump forward to save us. This is incorrect understanding—we can’t rely on others to save us. The Buddha himself said he could not save each of us—that he can show us the way and then we can save ourselves.

Living a Meaningful Life

Exercises for Reflecting on Our Life

Exercise One: Obituary Writing

In this segment of the conversation, Ani J continues with this theme by suggesting an exercise she often uses—writing our own obituary. What would we like others to think or remember about us when we die? How much are your actions and words in line with that portrait? It’s an easy way to ask ourselves if we are living the kind of life we’d like others to remember us for?

Exercise Two: Legacy Project

Similarly, Andrea expresses the idea of a “legacy” project where we can pass on things that represent our life. We can look at objects that symbolize things we use for caring, for example. What objects would we include in our legacy—what would we want to share with others to let them remember what was important in our lives? This can have a similar effect as the obituary writing, but when we use tangible objects, we may be able to call upon more senses and express ourselves in varied ways.

“Meaning making ”, Andrea reminds us, is an important part of the awareness that how we live is how we die. We all want to live meaningful lives, so it makes sense to take stock and check to see how we are doing on that front!

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.