The Zen of Living and Dying: A Practical and Spiritual Guide
Philip Kapleau Shambhala (1998)
To live life fully and die serenely--surely we all share these goals, so inextricably entwined. Yet a spiritual dimension is too often lacking in the attitudes, circumstances, and rites of death in modern society. Kapleau explores the subject of death and dying on a deeply personal level, interweaving the writings of Western religions with insights from his own Zen practice, and offers practical advice for the dying and their families.
"Kapleau has created a profound and practical book that will appeal to people of all religious backgrounds."—Branches of Light
"This is an important and profoundly useful guide for living and dying, reflecting the long experience and realization of the esteemed Zen Buddhist elder Roshi Kapleau. Offering a nonsectarian perspective on being with dying, this clearly written book makes death a truly spiritual experience."—Joan Halifax, author of The Fruitful Darkness
"Philip Kapleau's fine book expands on his seminal work The Wheel of Life and Death, which has supported so many in the early search for the sources of what became the conscious dying movement. It is with a deep gassbo (bow) that we welcome this new work by an elder on the path we all tread. Thank you Philip."—Stephen Levince, author of Gradual Awakening and A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last
"Kapleau draws so effectively and knowledgeably on his own and other religious traditions, but in a manner that is earthy, so ordinary, so enmeshed in what real living and real dying involve. The book is very accurately subtitled 'practical and spiritual guide' because it is practical, almost a handbook, not only for dealing with the painful loss of a friend but with the shock of finitude and the taste of mortality such an occurrence inevitably evokes in ourselves. I am deeply grateful for this serene, mature, and credible book. It bespeaks a life spent probing the deep things of the spirit."—Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School
About the Author
Philip Kapleau's classic Three Pillars of Zen has sold an estimated five hundred thousand copies. He is the author of Awakening to Zen, Zen: Merging of East and West, The Wheel of Life and Death, and The Zen of Living and Dying. Kapleau was the first Westerner to be ordained a roshi. He established the Rochester Zen Center in 1966. He lives in Rochester, New York.
I did not pick this book up and decided to read it. The book drew me to it when I most needed it. I was troubled by the illness and possible death of a loved one, and this book demanded my attention and in return offered the best answers, the most thought-provoking arguments, and the most soothing advice for my death-troubled mind. You don't have to be a buddhist to enjoy this book, or even to gain insight from its arguments. Philip Kapleau makes a great job in offering a complete perspective on Death, Dying, and Bereavement. This book is divided into four parts. Part one deals with Death, and it includes, among other things, anecdotes about the death of famous historical figures (Gautama the Buddha, Socrates, Sri Ramana Maharshi, etc.), an analysis on why we fear death, and an interesting, albeit brief, look at the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Part two deals with dying, and it is a compassionate explanation of how our views of death affect the way we will undergo the inevitable process of dying. It shows how this process is only as painful or liberating as we make it, through our views, our beliefs, and our hopes and fears. Part three explains karma. Like I said, you don't have to be buddhist (or of any particular religion, at that), and if there's anything about this book that is outstanding, it is this part. Rational, logical, well-argued, and convincing, it wraps up the discussion on "Existential Aspects of Death" from part one, and leaves the reader with a strange assuredness about the nature of change and renewal inherent to life. Part four looks at rebirth. the last two parts of the book require an open mind if you do not belive/are not familiar with eastern beliefs, but if that is the case, I know of no better place to start learning about this subject than here. Philip Kapleau writes compassionately, from the heart, such way that the reader is never challenged in his beliefs, yet at the same time he drives his point home with unerring accuracy, like a Zen Archer. This book changed my life and the way I look at death and what lies beyond, and I cannot recommend it enough.
A Note on the Drawings
Part One: Death(Translate into Vietnamese: Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang)
1. Existential Aspects of Death (page: 3)
- What is Life, What Is Death
- The Master’s Reactions to Death
- What is “ Birth and Death” ?
- The Force of the Universe
- Why do we fear Death ?
- Facing Death Fearlessly
2. Meditations on Death (page: 33)
- Reflections on Death: Eight Points of View
- Meditating on the Word Death
- Meditating on a Death Koan
- A Meditating on Death Using Beads
- The Day of the Dead in Mexico
- Matters of Worldly Anxieties
3. Facing Death (page: 44)
- Duncan Phyfe
- Sri Ramana Maharshi
- Gautama the Buddha
Part Two: DYING (Translate into Vietnamese: Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang)
4. The Dying Person and Death (page: 63)
- The Process of Dying
- Daily Dying
- We Die as We Have Lived
- Survival and the Inner Voice
- Should One Struggle Against Death ?
- Dying Well
- Two Different Ways of Dying
5. The Dilemma of Pain (page: 78)
- Exitential Pain
- Physical Pain
6. Suicide and Euthanasia (page: 90)
7. To the Terminally Ill (page: 98)
- The Value of Repentance
- Keeping Your Mind Clear
- Breathing to Dispel Anxiety
- The Mind at the Moment od Death
- Reflections on Death
- Meditations for the Dying Person
8. To the Family and Friends of the Dying (page: 108)
- Dying in the Hospital or at Home ?
- The Last Hours of the Dying
9. Cremation or Burial ? (page: 113)
- Six Options for Taking Care of the Body
- Prepaying Your Funeral
- Are Funeral Directiors Necessary ? - Wakes and Vigils
- The Body;s Presence at the Funeral
- Waiting Until the Life Force Leaves the Body
- Religious Aspects of Cremation
10. Creating the Funeral Service (page: 122)
- The Service
- The Value of Chanting
- Funerals for Newborn Babies
Part Three: KARMA (Translate into Vietnamese: Most Venerable Thich Nhu Dien)
11. Understanding Karma (page: 139)
- Life’s Seeming Injustices
- The Wheel of Life and Death
- Why Believe in Karma ?
- Karma and Causation
- Karma and Intention
- Karma is not Fate
- Primary and Secondary Causes
12. Changing your Karma (page: 146)
- Can “Bad” Karma be Prevented ?
- Simultaneous and Progressive Cause and Effect
- Variable and “Constant” Karma
- Transcending Karma
- Collective Karma
- Lightening the Karmic Burden
- When Others Are Wrong I am Wrong
13. The Interconnectedness of All Life (page: 159)
- We are Our Brothers
- Karma and Suicide
- Karma and Abortion
- Karma and Euthanasia
- Karma and Retribution
- Karma Realized Now and In the Future
- Karma and the Intention to Learn
- Karma and Compassion
- Karma and Change
- Creating Good Karma
Part Four: REBIRTH (Translate into Vietnamese: Most Venerable Thich Nhu Dien)
14. The Case for Rebirth (page: 175)
- What lies Beyond ?
- Belief in Afterlife
- The Intermediate Realm
- Rebirth Distinguished from Reincarnation
- What passes Over ?
- The Power of Will
- Can Fear Be Carried from Life to Life ?
- Remembering Past Lives
15. Futher Implications of Rebirth (page: 196)
- The Moral Effects
- Heredity, Environment or karma
- Parents, Children and Rebirth
- Rebirth and Special Affinities and Aptitudes
- Near Death Experiences
APPENDIXES (page: 209)
Appendix A: Living
- Living with Teachnology
- The Rise of Patient Autonomy
- Advance Direction
- Physician Assistance for the Dying
Appendix B: Hospice Care
Appendix C: What to Do upon Someone’s Death: A Checklist
Appendix D: Consoling the Bereaved: Do’s and Don’t
There are three possible answers to this question. Those who believe in a god or gods usually claim that before an individual is created, he/she does not exist, then he/she comes into being through the will of a god. He/she lives their life and then, according to what they believe or do in their life, they either go to eternal heaven or hell.
A few months ago, in sun-drenched, seemingly timeless July, my eighty-eight year old mother-in-law, Norma, entertained her long-time friend, Marvin, also an octogenarian and a recent widower. The setting was the front porch of an old homestead in a small village in northern New York where both had lived for more than half a century.
This teaching appears in the March-April, 1997 issue of Mandala, the newsmagazine of the FPMT. Reflecting on impermanence and death in itself is not really a big deal, but thinking about it because of what follows after the death is important. If there is negative karma, then there are the lower realms of unimaginable sufferings, and this is something that can be stopped immediately.
This is a study of the practices that Vietnamese lay Buddhists make to prepare their next life. It recounts two personal stories of my parents, whose deaths reflect the two traditional practices among of ordinary Vietnamese Buddhists. As a result, the stories of my parents’ deaths mirror the major issues that Vietnamese Buddhists in general face in their preparation for the next life. Their lives and religious practices not only underline some of the teachings generally seen in East Asian Buddhism, but also reflect the basic beliefs of Pure Land Buddhism which widely practiced in Vietnam. Their stories, in one way, are a personal matter the family members may keep in their private memories. Yet, looking on the broadest perspective, they reflect two major elements commonly seen in Vietnamese Buddhist communities.
As a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, working as a Buddhist chaplain at several of Melbourne's hospitals and as well as Melbourne assessment prison, I have witnessed many personal tragedies faced by the living and of course the very process of dying and that of death and many of these poor people faced their death with fear, with misery and pain before departing this world. With the images of all these in my mind, on this occasion, I wish to share my view from the perspective of a Buddhist and we hope that people would feel far more relaxed in facing this inevitable end since it is really not the end of life, according to our belief.
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
In India in the 6th century BC, Sakyamuni, "a wise man of the Sakya tribe", had been meditating under a tree when, suddenly, he was struck with the comprehension of all things. He became Buddha, meaning the « Illuminated ». His message, based on a pragmatic philosophy, taught how to free oneself from all needs in order to achieve illumination. After the death of the Enlightened One, his disciples – a few monks – began to spread his teachings all over India, from Ceylon to the Himalayan. Fearing man’s penc
No matter who we are – pop star, nurse, teacher, real estate magnate, gardener, atheist, CEO, secretary, road sweeper, agnostic, film critic, Buddhist, home maker – each and every one of us will die. We have no choice, no alternative option, no wiggle room. Death is inevitable. So why do so few of us even think about death, let alone make any effort to prepare ourselves for it?
In his new book, 'Living is Dying', Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche offers a broad spectrum of advice about how to prepare for dying, death and beyond no matter who you are. Inspired by nearly one hundred questions that were put to him by friends and students, Rinpoche describes how to:
prepare for our own death
help, comfort and guide a dying friend or loved one
approach the moment of death
navigate the bardos (intermediate states)
guide the dead
help loved ones who have died