Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek's _Good Life, Good Death: Tibetan Wisdom on Reincarnation_ is a humane account of the dying process, particularly of the very subtle experiences of death when a person's consciousness dissolves. Gelhek draws upon his own personal experiences with dying persons (through sixty-plus years of life) as well as the numerous Tibetan Buddhist texts that focus on death and dying. The latter tradition has a scientific precision in its analysis of death, furnishing valuable, specific information for any person, regardless of his or her religious beliefs. Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek's mix of personal experience and Buddhist empiricism makes for a wonderful book.
Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek is incredibly humble about his experiences. He explains in a frank manner how he came to his views on reincarnation and the dying process. His style is non-dogmatic, and his writing is easy to understand. For instance, he writes early in the book, "I'm not here to try to convince you about reincarnation. That's my culture, my system--not yours. I would simply like to ask you to entertain the idea for a moment, to give it the benefit of the doubt and see how it changes your perspective on your life and your death." In this context, he discusses the anxieties he had when he began his own investigation into the dying process, first as an eleven year old novice monk in a Tibetan monastery and then later as an adult living in America.
In an early chapter, he describes how frightened he was when he first heard Buddhist teachings on the lower realms: "I was crying constantly, day and night. I was soaked in tears from the fear of falling into the lower realms--and from a slightly artificial compassion at the thought of others falling into them." With similar candor, the book then describes methods to prepare for death, both when one is healthy and when one is at the actual time of death. These instructions about death, ironically, provide a manual for living a good, productive life, where fear is replaced by a well-trained mind and a positive, loving outlook.
Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek includes a long poem, entitled "Do the Meditation Rock," by his late friend Allen Ginsburg. This poem and Gehlek's reminiscence of Ginsberg's own death offer a vivid sense of what actually happens at death. At the conclusion of the book, he offers this simple advice for achieving a clear mind and outlook: "Keep a watch on anger, attachment, and Ego all day long." This is the root of the practice of training the mind.
As a complement to _Good Life, Good Death_, another excellent book with specific information about the dying process is Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's _Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully: The Profound Practice of Transference of Consciousness_. Geshe Kelsang's book outlines in even more detail--like an artist's fine brushstrokes on a canvas--the actual meditation practices a person can engage at his or her own time of death or to assist loved one's during this time.
_Good Life, Good Death_ contains priceless instructions, based on the accumulated wisdom of an on-going tradition of knowledge and the depth of personal experience.