Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying

Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying: Introduction

Noble Living, Noble Caring and Noble Dying describes the outlook we can bring to our human experience. Most of us will receive care and give care to others at some point in our lives. And all of us will die. How do we care for the present moment? Welcoming everything, pushing away nothing? A complete acceptance and openness to all situations, emotions, and people. Experiencing everything including birth, old age, sickness, and death.

In the past few years, we sat with Phakchok Rinpoche several times and began a discussion on this topic that is so important to many of us. We began with a basic question:

How do we age and die with dignity?

Phakchok Rinpoche responded:

We need to learn how to live with dignity. Live without regret, live with compassion, (just a little bit of compassion), live with contentment… live with no regrets. Then you are going to find some degree of dignity, I think that is the only way to die. No regret. Whether you are spiritual or not spiritual it is important to have no regrets. And don’t do “blaming”.

My concern is that when you focus on living and dying with dignity too much, you lose your focus on living. Then sometimes we have no time to think of dignity when we are dying. How we are going to die? You never know. Whether we die very gently or whether we die very suddenly, we don’t know. Are you going to have everybody with you? Or have nobody with you? You never know. This is my sharing.

Noble Living: The Ground of Practice

For this reason, we emphasize that this resource center aims to remind us first of living nobly. For only if we truly engage with that practice, can we prepare ourselves to care for others, and for ourselves in the process of aging, sickness, and death. We can engage in this process by asking ourselves questions with a sense of natural and open curiosity.

  • In what ways can our Buddhist practice inform our living, caring, and dying so that they are noble: filled with dignity and with grace?
  • Can we care for others who are sick and dying and care for ourselves as well?
  • Can we embody the practice of caring?
  • How do we train in love and kindness that are aspects of noble caring?
  • How do we preserve and cultivate our respect for human dignity?
  • How do we enter the healing space between two people and ease the physical, spiritual, and emotional distress?

Intention and motivation are key in caring and in dying. We benefit ourselves and others by being clear and steadfast. These traits increase our self-awareness and aid us in deep listening at the bedside. Caring is integrating knowing and not knowing. The emphasis of caring is on being, not doing. Exchanging self for others is part of the practice of caring.

Together we embark on the journey, the bond of caring is established, is shared, and unfolds.

Note on Guided Meditations

We offer a small selection of guided meditations within this resource center. You may find these meditations helpful in many situations. Some of them may help you relieve any stress or tension that you carry when caring for others, and thus can be an aid for self-care. And others may be useful for use at the bedside, or for families. We encourage you to make use of the audio recordings in whatever context works for you.

Noble Living, Noble Dying

In addition to the units here, we encourage you to explore Samye Institute’s offering, The Noble Wisdom of the Time of Death Sutra. This home study program features a line-by-line discussion of this classic Mahayana Sutra. For those who are interested in practicing meditation and contemplation to prepare for death, this presentation can be very beneficial.

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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.