Death, Dying, and Beyond: Buddhist Perspectives

School of Consciousness and Transformation PARA 6357 3.00

In this course, we explore through texts and exercises both Western and Indo-Tibetan Buddhist understandings of bodily impermanence, decay, old age, dying, and post-mortem (after death) experiences. What is, if any, the religious/spiritual meaning of such processes? How does a consideration of dying and death itself foster a deep valuing of living? We examine Western cultural formations, medieval traditions, Todestanz (Dance of Death), Heidegger’s Sein-zum-Tode (Being toward (one’s own) Death), Bynum’s Fragmentation and Redemption, as examples. From the Buddhist perspective, we examine the body in its frail, impermanent modes, as well as its resilient luminous modes of being. The death process is explored in detail, with attention to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Finally, we explore rebirth, going to heaven (or hell) and the ethical edge that such death-focused traditions invoke.

Learn more about the Asian Philosophies and Cultures program at CIIS.

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