What the living can learn from the dying

A Buddhist teacher on what the living can learn from the dying

Vox.com, Sean Illingsean.illing@vox.com

“When we come close to the end of our life, what’s really important makes itself known.”

A Buddhist teacher on what the living can learn from the dying

“We know that we will die, yet we spend much of our lives trying very hard not to think about it. But is it wise to ignore death? Could we live better if we spent more time thinking about our own mortality?

Frank Ostaseski is the author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach the Living and helped found the Zen Hospice Project’s Guest House.

In an interview with

“Buddhist practice, with its emphasis on impermanence, the moment-to-moment arising and passing of every conceivable experience, is an important influence in my life and work with dying. Facing death is considered fundamental in the Buddhist tradition. Death is seen as a final stage of growth. Our daily practices of mindfulness and compassion cultivate the wholesome mental, emotional, and physical qualities that prepare us to meet the inevitable.

Through the application of these skillful means, I learned not to be incapacitated by the suffering, but allow it to become the ground of compassion within me. Meditation practice develops the equanimity that often allowed me to be the one calm person in a very chaotic situation.

Finally, in Buddhist thought, one aspect of compassion is boundless and all embracing. We might call this universal compassion. Then there is everyday compassion. The compassion that gets expressed in daily life, when we feed the hungry, stand against injustice, change soiled sheets or listen generously to a friend’s broken heart. We may be effective or ineffectual in our efforts, but we do the best we can. These two facets of compassion rely on each other.”

For the full interview, visit: A Buddhist teacher on what the living can learn from the dying.

For other resources, visit: End of Life Resources.

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