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Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition Paperback – July 9, 2013
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About the Author
Andrew Holecek is an author, spiritual teacher, and humanitarian. As a long-time student of Buddhism, he frequently presents this tradition from a contemporary perspective - blending the ancient wisdom of the East with modern knowledge from the West.
Andrew has completed the traditional three-year Buddhist meditation retreat, and offers seminars internationally on meditation, dream yoga, and death.He is the author of "The Power and the Pain: Transforming Spiritual Hardship into Joy," "Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Perspective," and the audio learning course, "Dream Yoga: The Tibetan Path of Awakening Through Lucid Dreaming" (Sounds True). His work has appeared in the Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma, Light of Consciousness, Utne Reader, and other periodicals.
He is also the co-founder of Global Dental Relief, and travels each year to India and Nepal to provide free care to impoverished children. globaldentalrelief.org/
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Mr. Holecek's book is a true magnum opus, containing the most powerful teachings on how to make the most of THIS life I've ever read and the clearest and most detailed account of the dying process, intermediate state and rebirth from the Tibetan tradition available, with a richness of pithy practice advice. The author's warmth, enthusiasm and willingness to share his own challenges in truly living these teachings make the book even more inspiring. There is so much here, and just the small sections on creating a Dharma will and dealing with hospice and health workers are alone more than worth the price of the book, in my opinion.
While I've practiced in the Tibetan tradition myself for over 35 years I also have a good grounding in the Theravadin and Zen traditions, and have long been keenly interested in Buddhist history. Mr. Holecek is such a dyed-in-the-wool "true believer" in the Tibetan tradition that he doesn't stop to think how off-putting some of what he says could be to readers with other backgrounds, and he also takes the party line beliefs from within his tradition at face value even when modern scholarship clearly shows they are incorrect.
The bardo teachings are unique to the Tibetan tradition, and as Donald Lopez has shown in his excellent "Tibetan Book of the Dead," they are as much Bön (pre-Buddhist shamanism) as Buddhist. These are teachings on reincarnation, in the HIndu sense, not Buddhist rebirth, and they are far removed from what we know (which is a great deal, these days) of what the historical Buddha of the Pali canon taught. This isn't to say they aren't valid, but merely to point out that while the Tibetan teachings on death and dying get all the attention these days, there are older and far simpler teachings on dying in the Buddhist tradition that don't require such a long list of assumptions and presumptions.
The historical Buddha never taught about bardos, peaceful and wrathful deities, bodhichitta, guru devotion, transference of consciousness (pure shamanism) or any sort of timeless essence of mind ("primordial awareness" and other quasi-atman theistic notions). This isn't to say that the Tibetan tradition teachings may not be even more profound, but the danger is that a prospective reader could think that these teachings are representative of Buddhism as a whole, and that belief in them is necessary to benefit from the book. That would be unfortunate, for the teachings on renunciation and putting first things first, combined with a dedication to practice and a willingness to otherwise rest in the "don't know mind" of the agnostic, may prove more appropriate for many readers.