Saying Goodbye to Our Spiritual Teachers: How to Process and Prepare for their Passing
with Venerable Thubten Chodron
Many of us derive great inspiration and comfort from our spiritual teachers. We feel a deep heart connection regardless of distance and rely on their advice to guide us in the daily and long-term aspects of our lives.
Yet as Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh recently reminded people all over the world, death is an inevitable part of conditioned life. Given this reality, how might we best relate to our teachers while they are still alive, and how might we cope with the emotional grief, deep sense of loss, and abandonment that may come with their passing?
The Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist perspectives can also be intricate and cryptic. Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh said, “This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died.” Furthermore, our teachers are considered to manifest the aspects of illness and death in dependence upon our own spiritual practice. For instance, months before Lama Yeshe passed away, he told Lama Zopa Rinpoche that he “could live for ten, twelve years, but it depends on the karma and hard prayers of the students.”
Why might our activities influence the lifespan of our teachers, and do long life prayers really work? If our teachers pass away, should we consider this a failure from our side? And how might we view our teachers’ passing in relation to a timeless existence without boundaries, which is quite different from the reality that appears to us?
In this two-session series, Venerable Thubten Chodron will help us explore these complex questions by drawing upon her deep practice, scholarship, and lived experience.
About the Teacher
Venerable Thubten Chodron is an author, teacher, and the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, one of the first Tibetan Buddhist training monasteries for Western nuns and monks in the US. She graduated from UCLA, and did graduate work in education at USC. Ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun in 1977, she has studied extensively with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche, and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She received full ordination as a bhikshuni in 1986.
Venerable Chodron teaches worldwide and is known for her warm, practical, and humorous explanations of how to apply Buddhist teachings in daily life. She is also involved in prison outreach and interfaith dialogue. She has published many books on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, and is currently assisting His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the writing and publication of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, a multi-volume series of teachings on the Buddhist path. Visit thubtenchodron.org for a media library of her teachings, and sravasti.org to learn more about Sravasti Abbey.