Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom Program
In this week-long program, Andrew Holecek guides us through the rich teachings on death and dying from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. From practices and teachings to prepare you for dying to a thorough view of the Bardos, you’ll learn the overall view and the specific tools needed to transform your outlook on death and dying.
Schedule of Upcoming Programs
Andrew will also cover many of the practical issues around dying, including legal concerns before, during, and after death, as well as difficult issues such as organ donation, euthanasia, suicide, and death of a pet
This program combines practices, teachings, and discussions that will profoundly enhance your understanding and experience of both your own death as well as the death of your loved ones. Anyone committed to transforming their relationship to death—experienced practitioners and those new to the path—as well as those who work in helping professions, will find this program deeply enriching.
The View of the Program
Death Is A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
In the approach to death taken by Buddhists, and most Eastern religions, death is not the end. It’s just the end of one lifetime in a beginningless and endless play of life and death. The karma that brought us into this life is exhausted, leaving a temporarily clean slate, and the karma that will propel us into our next life has not yet crystallized.
At this time, according to Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, we can make rapid spiritual progress and directly influence where we will take rebirth. We can even attain enlightenment. Buddhist masters proclaim that because of the karmic gap, the bardo between life and death, there are more opportunities for enlightenment in death than in life.
Even for Spiritual Practitioners, Often Death Remains a Dreaded Event
We dread it because we don’t know about it. We do not look forward to death because we don’t know what to look forward to. For most of us, it’s still the great unknown.
Death is not the time for hesitation or confusion. It is the time for confident and compassionate action. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, “This is when people MUST do something for the person who has died; this is the most crucial time for the person.” The Tibetan Book of the Dead says, “This is the dividing-line where buddhas and sentient beings are separated. It is said of this moment: In an instant, they are separated; in an instant, complete enlightenment.”
This program will help you prepare. It is based on the richness of Tibetan thanatology (the study of death and dying). Tibetan Buddhism is not the only Buddhist tradition that teaches the bardos, but it is the most complete. Other faith traditions have different views of what happens after death. Even within Buddhism, the views differ from one school to the next.
The Tibetans describe in detail the three death bardos: thepainful bardo of dying, the luminous bardo of dharmata, and the karmic bardo of becoming. As a brief overview: the painful bardo of dying begins with the onset of a disease or condition that ends in death. In the case of sudden death, this bardo occurs in a fl ash. It is called “painful” because it hurts to let go.
The luminous bardo of dharmata begins at the end of the bardo of dying. For most of us it passes by unrecognized. “Dharmata” means “suchness,” and refers to the nature of reality, the enlightened state. It is fantastically brilliant, hence “luminous.”
It is so bright that it blinds us and we faint. We then wake up dazed in the karmic bardo of becoming. Suchness is gone, and confusion re-arises as karma returns to blow us into our next life. The entire process takes about forty-nine days.
Why I Teach About Death and Dying from the Tibetan Buddhist Perspective
On a personal note, my conviction about the importance of presenting these remarkable teachings is born from glimpses of experience. I have been meditating for thirty-five years and have completed the traditional three year retreat. I have engaged in most of the practices presented below, under the guidance of some of the greatest masters in Tibetan Buddhism. I’m still a beginner, but spending so much time penetrating the mysteries of my own mind has shown me the truth of these mind-bending bardo teachings.
My conviction is also reinforced by twenty years of experience with many masters in India, Tibet, and Nepal. These extraordinary individuals display a fearlessness around death that is as contagious as it is awe-inspiring. They are absolutely unshakable. I marvel at the confidence, almost playfulness, they bring to the formidable topic of death. They know something we don’t. In this program, I hope to convey some of what they know, through the lens of my own understanding. I will share what this gentle but fearless tradition has offered as a cherished gift to humanity.
Who Should Attend?
“Graceful Exit: Preparing for a Good Death” is for anyone interested in learning how to prepare for death from a Buddhist perspective, both spiritually and practically. It is also for those who want to learn how to help someone else who is dying, both during the time of illness and death as well as after death.
Some Topics We Will Cover
- The Guiding View
- Practices and teachings to prepare you for dying
- The Bardos and the Trikaya
- Letting go
- Dissolution and Signs
- What to do for others as they die
- Hopes and fears of the dying
- Holding Environments
- What to do after death
- Involution – Evolution
- Yogachara and the Eight Consciousnesses
- Advice from the Tibetan Book of the Dead
- Legal Concerns Before, During, and After Death
- Difficult Issues: Organ Donation, Euthanasia, Suicide, Death of a Pet
We see others dying all around us but somehow feel entitled to an exemption. In the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, the sage Yudisthira is asked, “Of all things in life, what is the most amazing?” Yudisthira answers, “That a man, seeing others die all around him, never thinks he will die.” If we acknowledge death and use it as an advisor, however, it will prioritize our life, ignite our renunciation, and spur our meditation.