Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Death and Dying

“They lived and laughed and loved and left.” ― James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

Without understanding who and what we really are, how could we possibly understand and properly relate to death and dying? When we conceive of ourselves as an independent, separate self with something to gain and something to lose, the unknown and uncertainty of death weighs heavily. When we identify with a bigger reality though or with egolessness and complete emptiness, nothing remains to fear.

Not wanting to die represents one of the major ways we fight against reality, deny who we are, and create untold and unnecessary suffering for ourselves and those around us. We want something impossible; and inevitably, we're frustrated and unsuccessful.

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Quotes (155)

“Of all the world’s wonders which is the most wonderful? That no man, though he sees others dying all around him, believe that he himself will die.”

Vyasa व्यास c. 3000 BCE
Hindu immortals, Vishnu avatar, 5th incarnation of Brahma
from Mahābhārata महाभारतम्

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Death is only the beginning...”

Imhotep 2650 – 2600 BCE
First Western architect, engineer and physician

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

Homer 850 BCE - ?
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Love is stronger than death.”

O​rpheus /ˈɔːrfiəs 7th century BCE
"Greatest poet and musician of all time"

“To look too hard for life is to find death.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Death and Dying

“When the powerful make too much of life, the people make light of death.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Death and Dying

“The body comes to its ending but nothing dies.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #16
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“We refer to it as life and death, but there is no life or death.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Stephen H. Wolinsky
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Diamond Sutra

“Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment but they cannot affect the sage's mind which he lets wander in the moral harmony of things. He does not notice the loss of particular objects.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

1. The Unnamed

“How could what is real end? How could it have been created? For if it came into being, it would have had to come from nothing. But nothing is not. Therefore there is no birth or death.”

Parmenides 540 – 450 BCE via Shan Dao
Grandfather of Western philosophy
from On Nature

6. The Source

“Mortals are immortals, and immortals are mortals, the one living the other's death and dying the other's life.”

Heraclitus Ἡράκλειτος 535 – 475 BCE
(of Ephesus, the "Weeping Philosopher")
A Greek Buddha

“Until he is dead, keep the word ‘happy’ in reserve. Till then, he is not happy, but only lucky.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος c. 484 - 425 BCE
“The Father of History”
from Histories

“I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

“Who knoweth if to die be but to live, and that called life by mortals be but death?”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Fear of death is not wisdom, since no one knows whether death may not be the greater good.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE via Bertrand Russell
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization
from Apology

“Excess of grief for the dead is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.”

Xenophon of Athens Ξενοφῶν  (430–354 BCE)
General, Socratic biographer, philosopher

Themes: Death and Dying

“Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, ‘I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.’”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE via Will Durant
(of Sinope)
from Life of Greece

13. Honor and Disgrace
4. The Father of All Things

“Life and death are nothing to the true people of Tao, nothing can touch them.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Death and Dying

7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“Chuang-tzu’s wife died. When Hui-tzu came to offer his condolences, he found him pounding on a tub and singing… Chuang-tzu said, ‘The same process that brought her to birth, in time brought her to death, as naturally as fall turns into winter and spring into summer... if I went around wailing and pounding my chest, it would only show that I didn’t understand the first thing about reality.’”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death we human beings all live in an unwalled city.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

Themes: Death and Dying

“Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved is devoid of sensation, and that which is devoid of sensation is nothing to us.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE via Diogenes Laërtius
Western Buddha
from Maxims

Themes: Death and Dying

“No evil is honorable: but death is honorable; therefore death is not evil.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE
(of Citium)

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

Koheleth c. 330–180 BCE
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Death, of all estimated evils, is the only one whose presence… only causes concern during its absence.”

Arcesilaus Ἀρκεσίλαος 316 – 241 BCE

Themes: Death and Dying

39. Oneness

“A good man never dies.”

Callimachus Καλλίμαχος 310 – 240 BCE

39. Oneness

“The contented person finds rest in death, and for the greedy person, death puts an end to his long list of desires… Death, then, for everyone is a kind of homecoming.”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 4th C. BCE via Eva Wong
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

Themes: Death and Dying

“A dragon is still. Hence, it is able to constantly transform itself. A tiger is restless. Hence it dies young.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE via Edward Erkes
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)
from Lao-tzu-chu

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“Once plants reach their height of development, they wither. Once people reach their peak, they grow old. Force does not prevail for long. It isn’t the Tao. What is withered and old cannot follow the Tao. And what cannot follow the Tao soon dies.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE via Edward Erkes
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)
from Lao-tzu-chu

55. Forever Young

“The whole life of the philosopher is a preparation for death... I quit life as if it were an inn, not a home.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from Tuscalanes Disputationes, 47-44 BCE

“Death is nothing to us and no concern of ours since our tenure of the mind is mortal... We have nothing to fear in death. One who no longer is cannot suffer... pain and sorrow will never touch you again.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE via R.E. Latham
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

Themes: Death and Dying

“Think to yourself that every day is your last; the hour to which you do not look forward will come as a welcome surprise.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“This is our big mistake: to think we look forward to death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

“Death is not the enemy. Live life in joy and welcome death in peace.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Didymos Thomas
from Gospel According to Thomas

“I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“Not death or pain is to be feared, only the fear of death or pain.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

50. Claws and Swords

“Roving amiable little soul,
Body’s companion and guest
Colorless, unbending, and bare
Your usual distractions no more shall be there…
Ah! gentle, fleeting, wavering sprite, Friend and associate of this clay!”

Hadrian 76 – 180 CE
from Memoirs of Hadrian

Themes: Death and Dying

“Have you ever, on earth or in the heavens, seen a being who was born but will not die? Have you ever heard that this had happened? Or even had suspicions that it might?”

Ashvaghosha སློབ་དཔོན་དཔའ་བོ། 80 – 150 CE
(Aśvaghoṣa)
"Bodhisattva with a Horse-Voice" (because even horses listened to his talks)

Themes: Death and Dying

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what's left and live it properly. What doesn't transmit light creates its own darkness.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

Themes: Death and Dying

“All birth ends in death, all creation ends in dissolution. All accumulation ends in dispersion. All that appears real is transitory. Ignore these omens and drink the elixir of fearlessness!”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन c. 150-250 CE via Keith Dowman

“This tomb reunites both our bodies. May an identical sojourn be reserved to our both souls!”

Proclus Lycaeus Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος 412 – 485 CE
"The most influential Ancient Greek philosopher you've never heard of"

Themes: Death and Dying

“All life ends in death; every meeting ends in parting… so why grieve?”

Kaṅkāripa ཀངྐཱ་རི་པ། 8th C. CE
(”The Lovelorn Widower”)
Mahasiddha #7

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Birth and death apply to everybody constantly, at this very moment.”

Padmasambhava པདྨཱ་ཀ་ར། 8th century CE via Chögyam Trungpa & Francesca Fremantle
("The Lotus-Born", Guru Rinpoche)
from Tibetan Book of the Dead

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“If you have genuine insight, birth and death will not affect you.”

Rinzai Gigen 臨済義玄 ? - 866 CE via Irmgard Schloegl
(Línjì Yìxuán)
from Zen Teachings of Rinzai (Record of Rinzai), Irmgard Schloegl translation 1976

Themes: Death and Dying

39. Oneness

“I have come to see these bones as the very nature of all things completely freeing all activity.”

Kapālapa ཀ་པཱ་ལ་པ། 9th Century CE via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Skull Bearer”)
Mahasiddha #72
from Masters of Mahamudra

“Our lives pass from us like the wind, and why
Should wise men grieve to know that they must die?
The Judas blossom fades, the lovely face
Of light is dimmed, and darkness takes its place.”

Ferdowsi فردوسی 940 – 1020 CE
(Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi)
"undisputed giant of Persian literature"
from Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (977–1010 CE)

“Your spouse is going to be dead soon. You are going to be dead soon. Be nice to each other.”

Atisha ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ 980 – 1054 CE via Alan Wallace
(Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna)
from Seven Points of Mind Training, Lojong བློ་སྦྱོངས་དོན་བདུན་མ;

“Plan for this world as if you expect to live forever; but plan for the hereafter as if you expect to die tomorrow.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Ascher
(Avicebron)
from Choice of Pearls

“Among ten people, three seek life because they hate death, three seek death because they hate life, and three live as if they were dead.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE

50. Claws and Swords

“Some we loved–the loveliest and the best–one by one crept silently to Rest.”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Death and Dying

“You should meditate on death without thinking of anything else, like a mother whose only child has died.”

Gampopa སྒམ་པོ་པ། 1079 – 1153 CE via Herbert Guenther
(Sönam Rinchen, Dakpo Rinpoche)
from Jewel Ornament of Liberation

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Then what should I fear? I have never become less from dying.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Masnavi مثنوي معنوي‎‎) "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning”

50. Claws and Swords

“As long as a human being worries about when he will die, and what he has that is his, all of his works are zero.”

Kabīr कबीर 1399 – 1448 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“As a day well spent makes it sweet to sleep, so a life well used makes it sweet to die.”

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 – 1519 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

39. Oneness

“This is the real fear presaging my dying: what if my fire be only straw and flame?”

Gaspara Stampa 1523 – 1554 CE via Jane Tylus
from The Complete Poems

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Fear of death is the cause of all our vices... to philosophize is to learn to die.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE via Stephen Greenblatt
Grandfather of the Enlightenment

“A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
Grandfather of the Enlightenment
from Essays, French Essais

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
Grandfather of the Enlightenment

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“A worthy and heroic death is better than worthless and despicable triumph”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE

“Though neither miserable in pain nor courageous in battle, men die from the weariness of boredom, doing the same things over and over.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via James Spedding, Shan Dao
from Unlisted SourceEssays, Civil and Moral 1625

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“… any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE

46. Enough

“While living, be a dead man, be thoroughly dead – whatever you do, then, will always be good.”

Bunan 至道無難 1603 – 1676 CE
(Shido Bunan Zenji Munan)

“Everyone fears death and knows they will die but still continue to fool themselves into thinking there is plenty of time.”

Karma Chagme Rinpoche I ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱས། 1613 – 1678 CE via Shan Dao

50. Claws and Swords

“We never came into being and we never go out of being. All of these coming and goings are just pulses in the pattern.

Bankei 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE
(Bankei Yōtaku)

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“We are not people because of our bodies but because of our spirits... 'death' means resurrection and a continuation of life.”

Emanuel Swedenborg 1688 – 1772 CE
Scientist, mystic, influential philosopher

from Heaven and Hell​​

“Now, now my good man, this is no time to be making enemies.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“the science of fulfilling nature and comprehending life is the great work of appropriating yin and yang, taking over evolution, reversing the process of life and death”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

“Rest not - life is sweeping by
Go and dare before you die.
Something mighty and sublime,
leave behind to conquer time.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

70. Inscrutable

“It appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy and sorrow, should only be organized dust—ready to fly abroad the moment the spring snaps, or the spark goes out, which kept it together. Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist

“We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.”

Madame de Staël 1766 – 1817 CE
(Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein)
"The greatest woman of her time"

Themes: Death and Dying

“Life is a constant process of dying.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“'Tis solitude should teach us how to die; it hat no flatters; vanity can give no hollow aid; alone—man with his God must strive.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity
from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1808-1817)

“Animals learn death first at the moment of death... man approaches death with the knowledge it is closer every hour... It is for this reason chiefly that we have philosophy and religion... Death is the true inspiring genius, the muse of philosophy”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from The World as Will and Idea (1819)

“Death is as unexpected in his caprice as a courtesan in her disdain; but death is truer – Death has never forsaken any man”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins”

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allen Poe 1809 – 1849 CE

“Others will enjoy the wealth we as misers kept. Even our body we hold so dear will be left behind.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

57. Wu Wei

“I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula
from Song of Myself, Part 52

“When the commonplace 'We all must die' transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness 'I must die—and soon,' then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel; afterwards, he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

Themes: Death and Dying

“We have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death… my body is but the lees of my better being, it is not me”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

“‘if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?’ The begrimed-with-sweat farmer answered, ‘I would plow.’”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE via Elbert Hubbard

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“We do not know what death is. If we know so little about life which we have experienced, how shall be know about death which we have not — and in the nature of things never can?”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Note-Books (1912)

Themes: Death and Dying

“Erewhonians, therefore, hold that death, like life, is an affair of being more frightened than hurt.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

39. Oneness

“We must die to one life before we can enter another.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“If you would endure life, be prepared for death.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from An Outline of Psychoanalysis (1940)

Themes: Death and Dying

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

63. Easy as Hard

“The fear of death is the beginning of Slavery.”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Only the dead have seen the end of war”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet

“We say indeed that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say this we imagine that hour in a vague and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any relation the day already begun.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Death and Dying

“Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Death and Dying

“I feel I shall find the truth on my deathbed and be surrounded by people too stupid to understand—fussing about medicines instead of searching for wisdom.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

“Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

39. Oneness

“If no one else, the dying must notice how unreal, how full of pretense, is all that we accomplish here, where nothing is allowed to be itself.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE
Profound singer of universal music

“The ancients adorned their sarcophagi with the emblems of life and procreation, and even with obscene symbols... These men knew how to pay homage to death. For death is worthy of homage as the cradle of life, as the womb of palingenesis.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from The Magic Mountain (1924)

“But only a brief moment - one breath or two - is granted to the brave , whose wage is the long nights of the grave.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“If you understand waking and sleep properly, you will understand life and death. But waking a sleeping happen every day, so people don't notice the wonder of it, but only want to know about life and death.”

Ramana Maharshi 1879 – 1950 CE via Stephen Mitchell

Themes: Death and Dying

“Be living, not dying.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)

Themes: Death and Dying

“Did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her… somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Mrs. Dalloway

“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

50. Claws and Swords

“Two equally steep and bold paths may lead to the same peak. To act as if death did not exist, or to act thinking every minute of death, is perhaps the same thing.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Zorba the Greek

Themes: Death and Dying

15. Inscrutability

“An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’ Which of us was right, boss?”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Zorba the Greek

22. Heaven's Door

“Where I had seen omnipresent death, I saw now everywhere the pageant and triumph of life.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Transition

“Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish, the circumcision of the superfluous... We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

Themes: Death and Dying

“We don't actually fear death, we fear that no one will notice our absence, that we will disappear without a trace.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“Death they all knew, for each knew his end, but a kind death, a gentle death stealing like a dream upon the old or like healing upon the sick... But this new death was monstrous, a destruction beyond the mind of man.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

Themes: Death and Dying

“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

58. Goals Without Means

“Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

“There is no birth there is no death… it’s all a concept, it’s all an illusion.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj 1897 – 1981 CE via Maurice Frydman
Householder guru of non-duality
from I Am That

“Carry the fear of death forever in your heart—for that ends all glory. Use it as a spur to ride your life across the barriers.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

Themes: Death and Dying

“People living deeply have no fear of death.”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

39. Oneness

“Death is the greatest teacher!”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

“a myth is need to express the dark and unmentionable fact that passion is linked with death and involves the destruction of anyone yielding himself up to it with all his strength”

Denys de Rougemont 1906 – 1985 CE
Non-conformist leader, influential cultural theorist
from Love in the Western World

“As long as you have not grasped that you have to die to grow, you are a troubled guest on the dark earth.”

Mircea Eliade 1907 – 1986 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

“I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.”

Thurgood Marshall 1908 – 1993 CE

55. Forever Young

“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

67. Three Treasures

“Come to terms with death. Thereafter, anything is possible.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE
from Notebooks

Themes: Death and Dying

“The word for death is not pronounced n New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.”

Octavio Paz 1914 – 1998 CE
Persuasive poet and convincing social commentator

Themes: Death and Dying

“People don't die of old age, they die of neglect.”

Jack LaLanne 1914 – 2011 CE

“Pain and death expose the pretense that one's inmost self is permanent, that it is in control. Hence the obscure but powerful feeling that one ought not to suffer or die.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“Only by living at the edge of death can you understand the indescribable joy of life.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian

Themes: Death and Dying

“When your body vanishes... there remains what does not below to self but was only 'loaned' to it, a universal mind”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong…, turn to your death and ask if that is so.”

Carlos Castaneda 1925 – 1998 CE
from Journey to Ixtlan

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“A person doesn't die when he should but when he can.”

Gabriel García Márquez 1927 – 2014 CE
(Gabo, Gabito)
The greatest Colombian

Themes: Death and Dying

“Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

“To Lao Tzu, not to fear dying and not to fear killing are equally unnatural and antisocial. Who are we to forestall the judgment of heaven or nature, to usurp the role of ‘the executioner’?”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

74. The Great Executioner

“life is a day, a passage through green where light is more certain than leaves”

Gesshin Myoko Roshi 1931 – 1999 CE
Moon heart miraculous light
from A Sudden Flash of Lightening: Words Out of Silence

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives... it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference — the way in which we are like no other life.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)

“Death is a state of non-being. That which is not, does not exist. Therefore death does not exist.”

Woody Allen 1935 CE –

Themes: Death and Dying

“He lives as if he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

Themes: Death and Dying

50. Claws and Swords

“Sometimes the only answer to death is lunch.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”
from Warlock

Themes: Death and Dying

“The process of birth and death is continual, taking place all the time… in the West people make birth more important. You congratulate someone for having a child, and you have parties for birthdays. But there are no parties for dying.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Six States of Bardo

Themes: Death and Dying

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“Death could be said to be birth at the same time… The moment something ends, the next birth takes place naturally. So death is the re-creating of birth.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Six States of Bardo

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“I'm not afraid of death because I don't believe in it. It's just getting out of one car, and into another.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

50. Claws and Swords

“You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now.”

Joan Baez 1941 CE –

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Let me ask you one question,
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

53. Shameless Thieves

“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you're going to be right.”

Muhammad Ali 1942 – 2016 CE
(Cassius Clay)

Themes: Death and Dying

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Destroying is a necessary function in life. Everything has its season, and all things eventually lose their effectiveness and die.”

Meg Wheatley 1944 CE –
Bringing ancient wisdom into the modern world.

Themes: Death and Dying

“Money can't buy life.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE via final words to his son Ziggy

“Our unexamined sense of immortality teams up with the 8 mundane concerns to shape a working hypothesis that death is so far in the future that it is functionally irrelevant.”

B. Alan Wallace 1950 CE –
(Bruce Alan Wallace)
from Buddhism with an Attitude

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool for making the big choices in life… external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

“The suicide rate among ranchers and farmers in the US is now about three times higher than the national average. The issue briefly received attention during the 1980s farm crisis, but has been pretty much ignored ever since.”

Eric Schlosser 1959 CE –
Investigative journalist and author.
from Fast Food Nation (2001)

Themes: Death and Dying

“Proud families spend fortunes on a one-day wedding ceremony for a marriage that may or may not last, while on the same day, in the same village, people are dying of starvation.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

30. No War

“recognizing the ephemeral nature of existence, and being able to look death in the eye or float on its ocean, is perhaps the most crucial ingredient of carpe diem living”

Roman Krznaric c. 1964
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained (2017)

“There are few things humans are more dedicated to than unhappiness… the frailty of our bodies, the fickleness of love, the insincerities of social life, the compromises of friendship, the deadening effects of habit… we might naturally expect that no event would be awaited with greater anticipation than the moment of our own extinction.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from How Proust Can Change Your Life

“Love is fusion in the sun’s core. Love is blurring of pronouns. Love is subject and object. The difference between its presence and its absence is the difference between life and death.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –

39. Oneness

“Only people who think they have a future fear death.”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from Broken Earth

“If you can understand what happens to you as one moment ends and another moment begins, you will also understand what will happen to you at the moment of death.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

“But when you see death, things change. It doesn’t matter if you can’t smile or blink properly”

Malala Yousafzai ملالہ یوسفزئی 1997 CE –
from I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

39. Oneness

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