The essence of the Buddha’s teachings is that while formal practice can help us to develop direct experiences of emptiness, wisdom, and compassion, such experiences are meaningless unless we can bring them to bear on every aspect of our daily lives. It’s in facing the challenges of daily life that we can really measure our development of calmness, insight, and compassion.

— Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

To know the four foundations intellectually is not enough. We have to contemplate and meditate on them until we personally experience them from the depth of our hearts the preciousness of this human life; and that our life’s end can come at any time. This is how you practise the four foundations. Although we have this precious human body with its 18 qualities, if we do not develop bodhicitta, love and compassion in our hearts, this human life is of no use. There are many material things in this world but none of them can accompany us at the moment of death. The only thing we can take with us from life to life until enlightenment is our development of love, compassion and bodhicitta.

— Garchen Rinpoche

It is hard to believe that despite all the dangers that we face every day, we tend to take our lives for granted and go on with our daily routines. Therefore, we cannot afford to lose mindfulness and awareness for even a moment.

— Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche

Based on the observation of mere cognisance, the non-observation of [outer] referents arises. Based on the non-observation of referents, also the non-observation of mere cognisance arises. Thus, one engages in the characteristic of the nonexistence of both apprehender and apprehended. Therefore, observation is established as the nature of non-observation, because if there is no referent to be observed, an observation [of it] is not suitable. Thus, one should understand observation and non-observation as being equal.

— Vasubandhu

Kindness is a wonderful two-way street: like so many good things, the more we give it away, the more it will grow in us, nourishing our happiness like water that we use to feed the flowers.

— His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigme Pema Wangchen

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.
You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

— His Holiness Dungsey Garab Rinpoche

If I do not exchange my happiness for the suffering of others, I shall not attain the state of Buddhahood and even in Samsara I shall have no real joy.

— Shantideva

Advice for a Dying Practitioner
by Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima

You will need to make preparations before the time comes to pass away. There are many aspects to this, but I will not go into too much detail here. Briefly, then, this is what you should do as you approach the time of death.

Think to yourself again and again: “Whether death comes sooner or later, ultimately there is no alternative but to give up this body and all my possessions. This is just how it is for the world as a whole.” Thinking along these lines, sever completely the bonds of desire and attachment. Confess all the harmful actions you have committed in this and all your other lives, as well as any downfalls or breakages of vows you may have incurred, wittingly or unwittingly, and make repeated pledges never to act in such a way in future.

Don’t feel nervous or apprehensive about death. Try instead to raise your spirits and cultivate a clear sense of joy, bringing to mind all the positive, virtuous things you have done in the past. Without feeling any trace of pride or arrogance, celebrate your achievements over and again. Dedicate all your merits and make repeated prayers of aspiration, so that in all your future lives you may be able to take to heart the complete path of the supreme vehicle, with the guidance of a virtuous spiritual friend, and with qualities such as faith, diligence, wisdom and conscientiousness — in other words, all the most perfect circumstances, both outer and inner. Pray too that you never fall under the influence of evil companions or destructive emotions.

The texts of the Vinaya explain that one of the principal causes for taking a supreme form of rebirth, as one who leads a disciplined life in the presence of the Buddha, for example, is to make prayers and aspirations at the moment of death. This is why it is said that ‘whatever is the closest and whatever is the most familiar’ will have tremendous power.

Any aspirations you make should be given additional impetus by making determined pledges such as this: “In all my lives, I will do all that I can to train on the path of emptiness with compassion as its very essence!” To appreciate the importance of this, consider how much more effective it is to say strongly to yourself, “I will wake up early in the morning!” than simply to make the aspiration “May I wake up early.”

In order to accomplish more easily whatever prayers you have made or intentions you have formed, it is profoundly beneficial to rely upon an embodiment of spiritual power. Bring to mind therefore the one for whom you have the greatest devotion, or to whom you feel the deepest connection through your practice, whether it is the great and glorious master of Oḍḍiyāna, Guru Rinpoche, or Noble Avalokiteśvara, the Lord of the World, and, with the confident trust that he or she is the embodiment of all the precious sources of refuge, pray one-pointedly for the fulfilment of your aspirations.

At the actual moment of death, it will be difficult to gather sufficient strength of mind to meditate on something new or unfamiliar, which is why you must choose an appropriate meditation beforehand and train until you are familiar with it. Then, as you pass away, you should devote your thoughts to meditation as much as you possibly can, whether it is remembering the Buddha, focusing on the feeling of compassion, cultivating the view of śūnyatā, or remembering the Dharma or the Sangha. In order for this to happen successfully, it is also important that you train yourself beforehand to think, “From now on, as I pass through this critical juncture of the time of death, I will not allow any negative thoughts to enter my mind.”

The saints of the past had a saying: “Better than plenty of virtuous activity done with a dull and clouded mind is just a single day’s virtuous action done with mental clarity.” As this says, if you practise all this having first made every effort to develop a sense of inspiration and joy, it will be that much more effective.

Even though it is difficult for the likes of me to benefit others, I will recite the verses of refuge and pray that in all your future lives you may follow the Mahāyāna teachings.

Written by the one called Fearless (Jigme).

The categories of teachings are endless. The entrance doors to the vehicles are innumerable. The words to be explained are extensive. Even if you succeed in memorising millions of volumes of dharma scriptures, unless you are able to practice the essential meaning, you can never be sure that they will help you at the moment of death. And even if your education in studies and reflections is boundless, unless you succeed in being in harmony with the dharma, you will not tame your enemy, negative emotions. Even if you succeed in being the owner of a trillion worlds, unless you can curtail your plans from within with the feeling that nothing more is needed, you will never know contentment. Unless you prepare yourself with the attitude that your death could happen at any time, you cannot achieve the great aim that is surely needed at the time of death.

— Longchenpa

If you don’t develop beforehand a genuine aspiration to gain the temporary and ultimate benefits of the enlightened mind, since those benefits derive from having generated that mind, although you may claim that you will strive to generate it, this will be mere words. If you examine this point within your own mind, it will become exceedingly clear.

— Lama Tsongkhapa