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Question
Hello. I am doing a group project on Buddhism. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions that are mostly related to healthcare. As providers we must know about different beliefs to be able to provide the best care.

1. What inspired you to begin your journey as a Buddhist?

2. How have your views about life changed from the way you viewed it before and after becoming a Buddhist?

3. Can you explain the significance of the 3 jewels?

4. What treatments will you or won't you accept? For example, life support. In what way could the health care provider provide the best care for you?

5. How do you feel about receiving pain medication? What about medication for mental illness?

6. What is the process of death and dying like for a Buddhist? What do you require in a hospital setting/long term care facility/ or home for that process? For example, a quiet atmosphere.

Answer
Dear Michelle,

I'm afraid I don't have time to go into your questions at any length that would take pages and pages, which I expect you don't want anyway! But briefly:

1. I read a few books that got me interested, but things really took off when I met my first deeply experienced Buddhist teacher (or "lama").

2. I realised that cultivating compassion, both as a feeling and has a way of acting, is the only way to give any life real value.

3. I'm going to have to pass on that question since you ask the question at all, you will know that they are the Buddha, the teachings and the community of committed and realized practitioners. But more than that, you really do have to read a good book, and this is not the place to write one!

4. I would like to have a "do not resuscitate" order once I've gone, I've gone. Every one of us has to go, and death can be painful enough. I would not want to turn it into a prolonged, even more painful and confusing experience.

5. Unsurprisingly enough, I do not like pain. I think we are very lucky to have effective pain medication, and I would want to be offered it. The question about mental illness is much more tricky, because it is much more complex. What sort of mental illness? Who has diagnosed it? How severe is it? Just what sort of medication?

6. Your question seems to refer particularly to a slow, natural death. We believe that once the body has stopped working as a support for consciousness, the dying person will probably fall into a swoon, and then gradually emerge into a dreamlike state in which they are blown by the winds of the thoughts and emotions that they have cultivated during their life and the actions they have performed, until at some point they get attached, assuming they have not become enlightened, to some new form of life somewhere. a peaceful atmosphere, especially with the possibility of being surrounded by friends and fellow practitioners, is held to be very helpful.

I hope that helps.

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Alex Wilding

Expertise

I have practiced and studied Tibetan Buddhism in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions since the early 1970s, and have a good knowledge of theory, history and of the struggles of trying to practice the teachings, including meditation, while leading a normal, modern life. I am also available to provide background information for journalists.

Experience

I have been a practitioner since the early 1970s; have run a small Buddhist centre in the English Midlands and was vice-president of Kagyu Benchen Ling e.V. in Germany, for whom I managed three large Buddhist summer-camps. More importantly, I maintain a habit of personal practice. I am the "owner" of the Kagyu list at Yahoo.

Education/Credentials
My first degree was an M.A. from Oxford. I later obtained a Master of Philosophy degree for a research thesis in "Initiation in Tibetan Buddhism" from Leicester University. I also have engineering and educational qualifications.

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