Re-examining death: Doors to resilience and wellbeing in tibetan buddhist practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper explores how conceptions of death and the ways in which such conceptions shape responses to death determine ways of living as well as valued approaches to dying. The paper posits the question: can a fundamental understanding of death contribute to the development of adaptive social traits that lead to more sustainable phenomenological experiences of happiness and flourishing? Employing an anthropological lens, this work starts from the initial inquiry of “what is death?” by looking at cross-cultural historical and theoretical accounts of death and comparing the modern (medicalized) death to the Tibetan Buddhist notion of death. It examines how the practice of a “medicalized death” has shaped the understanding of contemporary death and the ways in which dying is approached. It employs the hermeneutic of a biopsychosociospiritual death to gain a holistic understanding of human mortality. This analysis, based on an 18-month ethnographic study among a Tibetan refugee community in southern India, explores the conception of death for this community using biological and cultural lenses. Moreover, it presents conceptions of death in Tibetan Buddhist culture, paying particular attention to how death is employed as an adaptive cultural tool in pursuance of positive behavioral changes and happiness at both individual and societal levels. In doing so, the paper presents both the theoretical conception of death and dying as well as its role in animating Buddhist cultural values and beliefs. Importantly, it presents a general landscape of Tibetan Buddhist cultural models that facilitate multiple ways of dying that are specifically dependent on an individual’s familiarity with practices related to death and dying and his or her own level of engaging such spiritual practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number522
JournalReligions
Volume12
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Grant. The author’s time was supported by the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grants TL1R002493 and UL1TR002494. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Science.

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Grant. The author?s time was supported by the National Institute of Health?s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grants TL1R002493 and UL1TR002494. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health?s National Center for Advancing Translational Science.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Keywords

  • Biopsychosociospiri-tual
  • Brain
  • Consciousness
  • Death and dying
  • Resilience
  • Tibetan Buddhism
  • Tibetan medicine

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Re-examining death: Doors to resilience and wellbeing in tibetan buddhist practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this