Death as a Part of Our Meditation on Impermanence

Guest post by Randy Owens. I received this before the Aurora, Co, incident, but it seems very salient now that we are all reflecting on that tragedy. -Kevin

I have observed in our society and in my own experience we don’t like thinking about death. In fact, we avoid pondering on death as if we might thereby somehow avoid it. But just yesterday I found a very pertinent quote from the Dalai Lama, “At a personal level, as a Buddhist practitioner, I deliberately visualize and think about death in my daily practice. Death is not separated from our lives. Due to my research and thoughts about death, I have some guarantee and some conviction that it will be a positive experience.”
I think it is unhealthy to avoid thinking about death until it happens to someone we know or until we should face it ourselves with fear and anxiety of mind upon our proximity to it. Because we all die as part of life, we should consider following the example of the Dalai Lama’s sensible approach and at least spend some time in thought or meditation about the impermanence of life, not thinking morbidly but meditating on it as a sort of preparation.


From childhood, Tibetan monks spend some time in meditation in front of hanging skeletons as part of their preparation of the way things really are: impermanent. I try to remember to include the reality of impermanence in my daily meditation or thoughts so it follows that the subject of death should be part of my meditation of impermanence.

I recently listened to an audio series by Robert Thurman, a religious professor at Columbia and former Buddhist monk and student of the Dalai Lama. He was reading and explaining his own translation of the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” or, as he translates it, “Liberation upon Hearing in the In Between.” I don’t know how the Tibetan masters figured out so much about the stages in between life and re birth. But it must have been through incredibly long, deep and profound meditation which could give insight that we would otherwise not know. Anyway, to hear about the Buddhist view it doesn’t seem so bad when we are prepared.

To learn more about Tibetan Buddhism you may call Randy Owens at  916-216-1010.  Also, you are welcome to attend weekly Monday night services at Friends Church on 57th Street and H. The sessions start at 7:00 pm and end at 8:30. All teachings are free but a Dana or generosity offering to the Dharma center is appreciated.

Randy Owens: Studied Economics and obtained MBA in Economics and Strategy. Although these subjects are interesting, my passion is now for Buddhist practice. I am a member of the Lion’s Roar Dharma Cente, a Vajrayana practice in the tradition of the Dalai Lama.. My teacher is Yeshe Jiimpa who received direct dharma transmission from his teacher who traces his lineage through generations of teachers tracing their dharma teachings all the way back to the Buddha. This lineage of teachers is important in Buddhism. Lama Jimpa is also known by his American name, Steve Walker who is a psychotherapist at the Middle Way Health Center.

  • Maria

    Great post. Being reminded of one’s own mortality can be an incredibly jolting experience, however practicing non-attachment and living each day with the mindfulness of impermanence keeps us grounded, in many ways. Thank you for sharing.