Mind Beyond Death
"Hey, I'd like to read a book about death!" Perhaps this is not what comes to mind as you browse the "New Books" section at Borders, but if you are interested in Tibetan Buddhism and ideas about the cycle of life and death, I may have a book for you.
Somewhere between a conversation and a textbook, Mind Beyond Death, is an expansion upon a series of lectures given by author Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2003 at the Treasury of Knowledge Retreat. The book focuses on Buddhism's six bardos, or stages of life. Of these, the text focuses most heavily on death and on preparing for death, not just in response to an impending crisis such as illness, but as a part of everyday life. The book also offers a fascinating, if sometimes challenging and intricately detailed, storehouse of Tibetan Buddhist thought. It provides some practical thought exercises, visualization techniques and yogic techniques on how to become focused on the present, along with more ambitious and esoteric goals such as "planning your last thought." If most of your knowledge about karma comes from what you've learned on episodes of My Name is Earl, the book may be a bit overwhelming.
Still, Mind Beyond Death retains the gentle, conversational tone of a lecture delivered by an accomplished teacher to an audience of eager students who may all be at different levels of interest. For those new to reading about Buddhism, the book may be intriguing at times and baffling verging on incomprehensible at others, with its incredibly specific appendix charts describing the Stages of Death or The Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities. If you're game and up for a challenge, Mind Beyond Death is rigorous and demanding. It's worthwhile if you are curious about Tibetan Buddhism, in general, and willing to devote a large chunk of time to exploring a subject, death and our response to it, that most of us try to ignore.