The entire meaning and purpose of life is reflected in death. Just as the sky holds the whole environment and all the beings within it, so too, death encompasses the totality of life. Only by understanding death can we fully understand life and its true meaning. So we need to come to know death, and actually make friends with it. Ask yourself:
  • What is death really?
  • Who are you?
  • Why death?
  • What is the meaning of death, on the deepest level?
“If we can only learn how to face death, then we will have learned the most important lesson of life: how to face ourselves, and so come to terms with ourselves, in the deepest possible sense, as human beings.”
Sogyal Rinpoche

When we actually face death, we need essential spiritual teachings which remind us of the most important points to keep in mind, and which act as a support and guide throughout the painful bardo of dying and beyond.

Rinpoche continuously essentializes the most important and relevant teachings into crucial points, into his heart advice for us. These teachings help us to transform our minds, so that we become stable in the View and are able to face death well prepared, whatever circumstance we encounter. And so we discover that just as in life, so too in the process of dying, the main point of the spiritual path is to continually work with and transform our minds.

Eventually, we will find our simple formula with which we can conclude our lives well. Key elements of this are to:
  • deeply let go of attachment and aversion, change the environment of mind and dissolve any lingering fear, confusion and suffering;
  • keep our hearts and minds simple and pure, and create an inspiring and transformative environment;
  • inspire and stabilize our practice and unite our minds over and over again with the wisdom mind of the buddhas; and
  • enter more and more into the warmth, love and compassion of the nature of mind.

The two most important ways to prepare for the moment of death are to realize the ultimate nature of mind, and to cultivate heartfelt faith and devotion. Having studied these teachings, one will realize that this is not only the heart advice on how to die, but on how to live fully as well.


There are seven teaching collections in this compilation. In collection 1, Rinpoche describes what happens at the moment of death. Collections 2-5 follow the structure of this ‘essential heart advice’:
  • Let go of attachment and aversion.
  • Keep your heart and mind pure;
  • Unite your mind with the wisdom mind of the buddhas;
  • Rest in the nature of mind.
Collection 6 shares some advice from great masters of the past, and collection 7 contains short, soft, warm teachings to remind us of invoking, uniting and resting in the deathless, unending nature of mind when we are too weak for anything else.
Together, they span the last 20 years of teachings and compile Rinpoche’s advice on how we can enter in the bardo of dying with confidence. Each of the seven collections has sub-divisions and contains Rinpoche’s short, pithy, direct teachings and heart advice, given to students who were facing illness and death.
Since Rinpoche always teaches in a ‘non-linear’ way, he will cover many topics in each extract, so keep your eyes and ears open and be ready to pull out what you find most inspiring for your own simple formula on how to conclude life well. In each collection you will find a content description to help you finding what you might need most.



Collection 1: The Merging of the Two Luminosities

This collection contains two sections:

This collection of teachings shows us how to prepare for death while we are still alive and find the certainty and stability to meet death with confidence. If we look deeply, death shows itself as an opportunity to end samsara because at the moment of death, the ultimate ground of our being arises as the child luminosity. If we recognize it, the child and mother luminosity will merge, as naturally, it is said, as a child running into the mother’s lap, and just as the masters have taught and demonstrated.
  • 1.1. Recognizing the Nature of Mind in Life and the Merging of the Two Luminosities at Death
This section contains 9 teachings.
  • 1.2. Direct Heart Advice on the Merging of the Two Luminosities
This section contains 3 teachings.


Collection 2: Let Go of Attachment and Aversion - Changing the Atmosphere of Mind

This collection contains five sections:
  • 2.1. Letting Go
Life is impermanent, and all that we hold on to is impermanent too. The main cause of our suffering is this grasping and attachment. We need to learn to let go and find healing in this. Death is the greatest opportunity to let go because this life is finishing, we have no choice. Letting go happens to us.

This section contains 3 teachings.
  • 2.2. ‘Changer l’Esprit’
We need to come to terms with death. This life is just a small chapter in the book of life. Living and dying is like a dream—what matters is the state of our minds. We need to inspire and uplift ourselves; pull ourselves together and clear out what occupies our minds.

This section contains 4 teachings.
  • 2.3. Working with the Fear of Death
Contemplating death is the heart and soul of the spiritual path. Death is universal, so we have to accept and learn from it, and understand its message. Our fear of death can dissolve when we come into touch with our true nature, or when we invoke Guru Rinpoche and learn to transform our worries into prayer.

This section contains 5 teachings.
  • 2.4. Direct Heart Advice: Transforming Suffering
When you go through intense suffering and pain, give it meaning and purpose: see suffering as a purification, or transform it into an act of compassion; find ease by recognizing your true nature, listen to the teachings, call out to Guru Rinpoche and never, ever give up.

This section contains 4 teachings.
  • 2.5. Written Advice from the Great Masters of the Past
This section contains 2 texts:
  1. Turning Suffering and Happiness into Enlightenment by Dodrupchen Jikmé Tenpé Nyinma
  2. An instruction on how to use both happiness and suffering as the path to enlightenment; an indispensable advice for leading a spiritual life.
  3. How to Transform Sickness by Gyalsé Tokmé Zangpo
  4. Ways of bringing sickness and other circumstances onto the spiritual path, in the form of a poem.
You can also find these texts also on Lotsawa House in different formats.


Collection 3: Keep your Heart and Mind Pure - Creating an Outer and Inner Environment

This collection contains two sections.
  • 3.1. Enter Undistracted into the Clear Awareness of the Teachings
  • In order to prepare for the moment of death we have to do two things. First is to gather and recall the essence of the teachings that we have received into an essential flavour, called ‘the View’, which needs to become part of our fundamental awareness. Second is the recognition of the nature of mind, which we need to ascertain and stabilize.
    Now is the time to use, apply and integrate the teachings, because when we die what matters most is how the everyday mind is transformed. When we are able to abide by the recognition at all times and in any situation, we can remain confident at the moment of death.

    This section contains 3 teachings.

  • 3.2. Direct Heart Advice: Create an Environment
  • Listening to the teachings again and again, your whole perception becomes pervaded with teachings; Dharma becomes your perception. Always remain in that pure, unpolluted, positive environment.
    Spend your time well. Don't stress yourself, don't worry. Relax, treat yourself well and enjoy whatever you do.
    When your mind is too confused or dispersed to practise, you can still be in an environment of practice that can inspire, transform and alleviate suffering. Listen to the teachings and enter into their spirit. They are louder than your thoughts!
    Have spiritual friends who can remind you of the essential points of the teachings. Don’t lose faith; be confident, and unite your mind with the truth. Sogyal Rinpoche will pray for you, the sangha will support you and many great masters will be praying for you, so you will be taken care of.

    This section contains 9 teachings.


Collection 4: Unite your Mind with the Wisdom Mind of the Buddhas

In these teachings, Rinpoche teaches on Guru Yoga from the space of the nature of mind. He shows how it is possible to bring all practices into the single practice of Guru Yoga, which is a quick and powerful way of arriving at the nature of mind. Guru Rinpoche is the All-embodying Jewel, in life and in death. The more we trust in Guru Rinpoche, the more we can relax our ordinary mind into his wisdom mind, the state of rigpa. At the moment of death, this is the merging of the two luminosities.
Buddhas are omniscient - when we open our hearts, they can bless us. The more we learn to surrender and unite our minds, the more mind becomes like the wisdom mind of the buddhas which is as limitless as the sky and ocean.

This collection contains 3 sections:
  • 4.1. Essential Phowa
These teachings show us how to practise phowa essentially.

This section contains two teachings.
  • 4.2. Direct Heart Advice: Unite your Mind through Guru Yoga
Rinpoche gives direct advice on merging our minds with Guru Rinpoche at the moment of death through what he calls ‘Guru Yoga phowa’.

This section contains 11 teachings.
  • 4.3. Evocative Guru Yoga Teachings
Three powerful evocative teachings on how to practise Guru Yoga particularly at the moment of death.

This compilation contains 3 teachings.


Collection 5: Finding Confidence in One’s True Nature (Rest in the Nature of Mind)

The two most important things to hold in mind at the moment of death are the direct realization of the nature of mind that gives complete confidence, and strong faith in the buddhas and masters.

Reflecting on death reveals not only the illusory nature of everything but leads us to discover “something” in us that nothing can neither destroys nor alter, something that cannot die; the deathless, unending nature of mind. Since fear only exists in the domain of the ordinary mind, we will find confidence and joy by remaining in the nature of mind.

This collection contains 4 sections:

  • 5.1. Nature of Mind
  • The best way to prepare for death is to repeatedly recognise and stabilize our experience of the nature of mind while we are still alive. The truth is always present, right now, only we do not realize it, because we have forgotten how to be. If we can manage to return to our innermost nature, we will find real ease, just as if a knot within us were being released. In the realization of the nature of mind there is nothing to hold on to; even the idea of grasping is dissolved and so we can finally remain in the freedom of simply being.

    This section contains 8 teachings.

  • 5.2. Buddha Nature
  • Our buddha nature pervades our being. It is not just a seed or a potential that gradually matures us until enlightenment: we actually are buddhas already.
    When we get stuck in difficulties, pain and suffering, the realization that our fundamental nature is the Buddha frees us in such a profound way that nothing else matters any more, and we find freedom, confidence and fearlessness. We can be transformed by realizing that the nature of our own mind is the Buddha.

    This section contains 5 teachings.

  • 5.3. Faith and Devotion
  • Old women in Tibet are happy to recite the mani mantra without even knowing its meaning and have unshakable confidence and faith. They might not be educated, but they nevertheless have discovered a devotion and faith that can bring them all the way to liberation. This is the strength of faith we need to develop for ourselves. In the end, all doubt brings us is trouble, so keep things simple and have faith that you will find peace and confidence in the moment of death.

    This section contains 4 teachings.

  • 5.4. Direct Heart Advice: the Most Important are the Nature of Mind and Faith and Devotion
  • If you are troubled by a fear of death, don’t worry, you're not alone. It is possible to see death as an opportunity for transformation, to put fear aside and find confidence in your true nature, which is beyond death.
    The heart of spirituality is faith. The Buddha said, “Whoever thinks of me, I’m in front of them”, so trust in that and rely on him with all your heart.
    When you feel low, listen to the teachings as a means of letting go of the mind and its fears and pains, and enter into the nature of your mind.
    Transform your suffering and pain into a practice of compassion, and dedicate your death to the relieving of the pain and suffering of others. The main point is to believe in something greater than the pain and suffering of the ordinary mind.

    This section contains 5 teachings.


Collection 6: Heart Advice from the Great Masters of the Past

Many great masters have shared their knowledge and experience of the stages of dying and the bardos with us. Here is a small collection of such heart advice, from realized masters such as Longchen Rabjam, Patrul Rinpoche and Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima.

This collection contains 2 sections:

  • 6.1. Heart Advice from the Great Masters of the Past with Comments by Sogyal Rinpoche

  • This section contains 1 teaching.

  • 6.2. Written Advice from the Great Masters of the Past

  • This section contains 3 texts:

    1. Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima, ‘Advice for a Dying Practitioner’
    2. A brief advice on what to do as we approach the moment of death.

    3. Patrul Rinpoche, ‘A Brief Introduction to the Bardos’
    4. A description of the bardos of dying, dharmata and becoming, and the crucial points on how to practise as we die.

    5. Longchen Rabjam, ‘Crucial Advice: A Complete Set of Instructions for the Bardos’
    6. A description of the bardo of dying, bardo of dharmata and bardo of becoming in verse form.

You can also find these texts on Lotsawa House in another format.


Sherab writes: “When my best friend was dying of cancer, she watched all the teachings from the ‘Meeting Death with Confidence’ compilation and then insisted that I started a collection called ‘Whatever’. This collection is meant to become YOURS. It’s made of your favourite teachings, which work for you. That way you have them at your disposal when you are too weak for anything else. My friend told me what she loved most: teachings where Rinpoche’s voice is warm and soft and that have a slow pace; teachings which say ‘it’s okay’, ‘you don’t have to do anything; just be’. In this collection you will find examples of such teachings, including her favorite one, 7.2. ‘The moment of death is such an opportunity’).”

Now it’s over to you: what will you place in your ‘Whatever Works’ collection?

This collection contains 8 teachings.

Other linked topics:

Learning How to Forgive

Planned releases:

Transforming Suffering
Pain, the Tough Task Master
Worry, Fear and Panic

Also don’t forget to consult the ‘Are You Ready’ website, our richest Rigpa resource on preparing spiritually and practically for death, which a vast collection of prayers and guided practices.

Bardo Teachings for Rigpa Mandala Students Facing Death

Rinpoche has given his blessing and permission to share a specially compiled teaching package with Mandala students who are facing a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis. The package includes teachings on the bardos, Essential Phowa, the nature of mind, and other support materials.  Due to the nature of these teachings, special requirements are in place for how they can be shared. Trained Rigpa members of the bardo network offer support to ensure that the teachings bring the most benefit to the student based on their individual needs and situation. Where possible, network members visit the student and watch the teachings together, and offer care and support. They also offer follow-up phone or skype conversations and, if needed, communicate and clarify with family members and friends about the student's spiritual wishes.

The bardo network is active in 12 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and the USA. Several national networks offer their assistance and support to Rigpa students who live in countries without a bardo network. 

For further information you can reach your national bardo network coordinator by clicking here.