Spiritual Preparation for Transition

“What is it that dies? A log of wood dies to become a few planks. The planks die to become a chair. The chair dies to become a piece of firewood, and the firewood dies to become ash. You give different names to the different shapes the wood takes, but the basic substance is there always. If we could always remember this, we would never worry about the loss of anything. We never lose anything; we never gain anything. By such discrimination we put an end to unhappiness. (118-119)”
― Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

Workshop Session 1 – Spiritual Preparation

with Swami Karunananda

Swami Karunananda

Zoom Recording

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Grief Counseling

The Integral Yoga Ministry is available for Grief Counseling.

Now is a time when many people may want the solace of being able to reach out to Integral Yoga sannyasins and ministers to talk on the phone and through email.

We are here for you and can provide spiritual support to aid you in maintaining your inner peace during the stressful times of life.

Five-day course: “Help for the Hurting Heart”



Blog Posts on Grief and Loss

When Death Teaches About Life

When Death Teaches About Life

New York Times opinion writer Lydia Polgreen talks about how a father's death helped his son live better.  He writes "I thought about the principles for dying and realized that they are also rules for living. A set of maps for navigating a broken world on a dying...

Could you suggest a prayer that a sick person might say?

Could you suggest a prayer that a sick person might say?

There’s no need for a suggestion. If he or she is really sick, the prayer will come. You don’t need to worry about the words. God will know what you mean. And remember, a really hearty cry relieves a lot of psychological problems. Don’t ever be ashamed of crying. I...

Comfort from a Physicist

Comfort from a Physicist

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of...

Near Death Experiences

We can’t know what happens when we die, but sometimes a small number of us who occupy that space between life and death, even for a few moments, catch a glimpse.

Swami Sivananda

From the Divine Life Society




Sri Swami Sivananda

(the Guru of Sri Swami Satchidananda)


Download free ebook.


Originally published August 12, 2020 in Integral Yoga Magazine.

Why Study About Death and Dying?


One of the most important things we can do to prepare for death is to think about it. Bring it into your life, and as Don Juan said, “Use death as an advisor.” What would you do if you had six months to live? What would you cut out of your life? What would you do if you had one month, one week, one day? The Indian master Atisha said:

If you do not contemplate death in the morning, the morning is wasted. If you do not contemplate death in the afternoon, the afternoon is wasted. If you do not contemplate death in the evening, the evening is wasted.

One of the best ways to prepare for death is to acknowledge that we really are going to die. We are falling in the dark and have no idea when we will hit the ground. Buddhist scholar Anne Klein says:

Life is a party on death row. Recognizing mortality means we are willing to see what is true. Seeing what is true is grounding. It brings us into the present.

We all know that we’re going to die. But we don’t know it in our guts. If we did, we would practice as if our hair was on fire. Trungpa Rinpoche said that until we take death to heart, our spiritual practice is dilettantish. Author Sam Harris wrote:

Tibetan Buddist painting.

While we try not to think about it, nearly the only thing we can be certain of in this life is that we will one day die and leave everything behind; and yet, paradoxically, it seems almost impossible to believe that this is so. Our felt sense of what is real seems not to include our own death. We doubt the one thing that is not open to any doubt at all.

We see others dying all around us but somehow feel entitled to an exemption. In the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, the sage Yudisthira is asked, “Of all things in life, what is the most amazing?” Yudisthira answers, “That a man, seeing others die all around him, never thinks he will die.” If we acknowledge death and let it counsel us, it will prioritize our life, ignite our renunciation, and spur our meditation. The Buddha said:

Of all footprints, that of the elephant is the deepest and most supreme. Of all contemplations, that of impermanence is the deepest and most supreme.

Realize that life is like a candle flame in the wind. Visualize friends and family and say, “Uncle Joe is going to die, my sister Sarah is going to die, my friend Bill is going to die, I am going to die.”

Put pictures of dead loved ones on your desk; put sticky notes with the word “death” or “I am going to die” inside drawers or cabinets to remind you; read an obituary every day; go to nursing homes, cemeteries, and funerals. The essence of spiritual practice is remembrance, whether it’s remembering to come back to the present moment, or recalling the truth of impermanence.

Do whatever it takes to realize that time is running out and you really could die today. You are literally one breath away from death. Breathe out, don’t breathe in, and you’re dead. Death is one of the most precious experiences in life — if we are prepared. The karma that brought us into this life is exhausted, leaving a temporarily clean slate, and the karma that will propel us into our next life has not yet crystallized. This leaves us in a unique “no man’s land,” a netherworld the Tibetans call “bardo,” where all kinds of miraculous possibilities can materialize. At this special time, with the help of skillful friends, we can make rapid spiritual progress and directly influence where we will take rebirth. We can even attain enlightenment. Tibetan Buddhism is not the only Buddhist tradition that teaches the bardos, but it is the most complete. Other faith traditions also have different views of what happens after death. For some of these views see How Different Religions View Death and Afterlife, edited by Christopher Jay Johnson, Ph.D, and Marsha G. McGee, Ph.D; and What Survives? Contemporary Explorations of Life After Death, edited by Gary Doore Ph.D. Even for spiritual practitioners, death often remains a dreaded event. We dread it because we don’t know about it. We do not look forward to death because we don’t know what to look forward to. For most of us, it’s still the great unknown. Death is the ultimate blackout, something to be avoided at all costs. With bardo Yoga we can bring light into this blackness, see where we’re going, and go in a fruitful direction. The purpose of bardo Yoga is to radically alter our relationship to death, and to embrace it for the opportunity it truly.


Book List 

Death, Dying Book List

(curated by Swami Murugananda)


Peaceful DyingTobin, Daniel R


Wheel of Death– Kapleau, Philip [Buddhist point of view]
Kindness Clarity Insight – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Who Dies? – Stephen Levine [the classic, excellent]
Meditation and the Art of Dying – Anya, Pandit U
On Death & Dying – Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth [the classic book. She had many books.]
To Live Until We Say Goodbye, Living Until We Say Goodbye etc. by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
How Can I Help? Stories & Reflections on Seva – Ram Dass
[one of the great books on the subject]
Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition, book cover


Death & Dying: The Tibetan TraditionMullen, Glenn H; translator

Philosophy of Death & Dying –Kamath, M.V. Philosophies of Life and Death, book cover
Letting Go, book cover Letting Go –Boersteler, Richard W
Meetings at the Edge – Levine Stephen [excellent] Meetings at the Edge, by Stephen Levine, book cover
How to Survive the Loss of a Love, book cover How to Survive the Loss of Love – Colgrove, Melba


Gentle Death: Personal Caregiving of the Terminally ill – Callan, Elizabeth

A Gentle Dearth: Personal Caregiving for the Terminally Ill, book cover
The Tibetan Book of the Dead


The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between

On Living & Dying – Krishnamurthy [he was a brilliant writer worth checking] On Living and Dying, book cover
Still here, by Ram Dass, book cover Still Here – Ram Dass [he was always brilliant, spoke directly from the heart]
Ultimate Journey:… – Rosen, Stephen J

Ultimate Journey, by Stephen J Rosen, book cover


Love & Roses from David, book cover Love & Roses From David – Grant, Robert J

Loss, Life, Love  by Nalanie Harilela Chellaram

Loss Life Love, by Nalanie Chellaram, cover



Inspiring Documentaries About Death & Dying

The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1994)

Narrated by Leonard Cohen

Tuesdays with Morrie (1999)


Nalanie Chellaram talks about reincarnation and past lives and presents explanations and examples in support of the concept that we have all lived before! Broadcast via Zoom and FaceBook Live on 26th May 2021.

Why do some people die young?

Rupert Spira says he doesn’t know, but a rational answer wouldn’t dispel grief, and relief comes by turning towards anger and grief. From the retreat at Garrison Institute, NY, 10–17 October 2021.