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Lions Roar : November 2017
HETHER WE FIGHT IT, deny it, or accept it, we all have a relation- ship with death. Some people have few encounters with death as they are growing up, and it becomes personal for them only as they age and funerals begin to outnumber weddings. Others grow up in violent surroundings where sudden death is common, or see a family member die of a fatal illness. Many of us have never seen a person die, while people who work in hospitals and hospices see the realities of death and dying every day. But whether death is something distant for us or we are in the thick of it, it haunts and challenges us. Death is a strong message, a demanding teacher. In response to death’s message, we could shut down and become more hardened. Or we could open up, and become more free and loving. We could try to avoid its message altogether, but that would take a lot of effort, because death is a persistent teacher. Teacher death met up with us the minute we were born, and is by our side every moment of our life. What death has to teach us is direct and to the point. It is profound but intimate. Death is a full stop. It interrupts the delusions and habits of thought that entrap us in small-mindedness. It is an affront to ego. JUDY LIEF is a Buddhist teacher in the lineage of Vajrayana master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She is the author of Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality and leads “Courageous Women, Fearless Living,” an annual retreat for women touched by cancer. Death The Greatest Teacher The Buddha said the greatest of all teachings is impermanence. Its final expression is death. Buddhist teacher JUDY LIEF explains why our awareness of death is the secret of life. It’s the ultimate twist. W LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 45