Fate Magazine Book Review

Death and Dying: The Tibetan and Tradition edited by Glenn H. Mullin
Arkana, Boston, Mass., 1986, 251 pgs., $7.95, paperback.

How prepared are we for death? Not very well, according to Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition. Instead of consciously withdrawing our consciousness from the body before death to control the inner recesses of the mind, we unwittingly wait until it is too late. When death does come, our attention is overpowered by the hidden karmic forces raging in the unconscious. Consequently we must reincarnate again into a body and reap the fruits of our good and bad actions.

Glenn H. Mullin's new collection of treatises on death from Tibetan Buddhism represents a gallant effort to enlighten Western man on "how to die well." Drawn largely from the writings of the Dalai Lamas, Mullin's work is a worthy successor and companion volume to Evan-Wemtz's The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Here in gripping prose and poetry the reader learns what happens to consciousness after death. Entering the "bardo" state (intermediate realm between death and rebirth), the deceased encounters numerous manifestations, all projections of his own mind. Yet, instead of recognizing the illusory nature of these visions as embodiments of one's unfulfilled desires, the neophyte reacts as if they were real. Thus an individual gets lost in a myriad of forms, colors and sounds.

The secret to transcending the bardo realm is to merge with the Clear Void Light, which Buddhists believe to be the true and essential reality. To realize and surrender to this light at death is nearly an impossible task unless one has experienced it while living. Thus Tibetan Buddhists firmly believe that it is necessary to "rehearse" for death. Perhaps this is what St. Paul had in mind when he wrote, "I die daily." Mullin's collection provides an ample selection on such practices, including "Longevity Yogas," "The Yoga of Consciousness Transference" and "A Ritual Caring for the Dead."
--David Christopher Lane