Tibetan Buddhist Perspectives on Death and Dying

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

Comparative Philosophy of Religion book series (COPR,volume 2)




Tibetan Buddhist understandings of the death process bridge scientific, materialist observations and religio-spiritual interpretations. Tibetan Buddhism and medicine overlap in the context of death, and doctors of Tibetan medicine are trained in tantric Buddhist theories as well as anatomy and pharmacology. Based on written as well as contemporary oral sources, this essay explores Buddhist concepts of the process of dying and the experiences of consciousness as it transitions from one life to the next. It describes end-of-life rituals and funerary customs, notions of timely versus untimely death, and the possibility of returning from death to one’s previous life. A Tibetan Buddhist perspective challenges reductionist western medical theories that refuse to allow for the continuation of consciousness at death. In modern medical contexts, Buddhist theories of karma and rebirth influence treatment decisions such that, as opposed to prolonging life for as long as possible, people are encouraged to accept the certainty of death and learn to face death with less anxiety. From a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, a good death is more valuable than a prolonged life.


Copyright belongs to Springer. Information regarding the dissemination and usage of journal articles can be accessed through the following links.