Good Life, Good Death
With Jewel Heart Instructor Amy Hertz
Jewel Heart Online Course with
Online Discussion between Weekly Sessions
Dates: April 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
Time: 7 – 8pm Eastern Time
“To my parents for giving me such a wonderful life. And to my masters for helping me learn how to live it,” reads Gelek Rimpoche’s dedication to his spiritual classic. This course will guide participants through the process of creating a practice out the wisdom in Good Life Good Death in order to live our precious lives with more joy, purpose, intelligence, and compassion.
Amy Hertz has been a student of Gelek Rimpoche for nearly 30 years. In her various positions at HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House, she has been the editor and publisher of some of the bestselling Buddhist books for a general audience including The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, The Art of Happiness, The Universe in a Single Atom, several books by Thich Nhat Hanh, and Robert Thurman as well as Gelek Rimpoche’s Good Life Good Death. An active Jewel Heart board member, she has lived in Miami, New York, and San Francisco, and is now settled in Houston, Texas where she is starting Jewel Heart Houston.
Join the discussion on Good Life, Good Death. Moderators will be glad to assist and answer any of your questions.Comment by Kermit Richardson — April 13, 2018
Thank you for arranging the discussion option. I look forward to this course!Comment by Kathleen Laritz — April 13, 2018
If you have any questions from last night, or any feedback we are here to address it.Comment by Amy Hertz — April 20, 2018
knowing that there is reincarnation, or even having a positive doubt about it, what difference does that make for my life now?Comment by Hartmut sagolla — April 20, 2018
Could you define reincarnation?Comment by Judith Lehman — April 21, 2018
Amy, thank you for walking us through this book – it covers alot of ground!Comment by Judith Lehman — April 21, 2018
I’m thinking of reincarnation as the continuation of consciousness propelled by karma, pushing us to take different forms. If that karma is purely virtuous and positive, then our continuation becomes positive. If negative and controlled by neurosis, then we are headed for more trouble and more suffering. If you entertain the notion that we don’t end at death, and entertain the notion of causes and conditions/karma being what determined our present and what will determine our future, then we have a chance to recognize and interrupt the cycle of suffering, right now.Comment by Amy Hertz — April 21, 2018
Makes sense to me – thanks!Comment by Judith Lehman — April 22, 2018
In our group we also talked about evidence for reincarnation. Many stories surfaced. Can you comment on that and what would empirical evidence look/feel like in one’s individual experience? I’ve heard “deja vu” claims of previous life, and also explained neuroscientifically as a micro-second delay and repeat in perception.Comment by Judith Lehman — April 23, 2018
Looking forward to new stories. Ujjen and I shared one with Judith on Thursday, about the young boy who very clearly recalled a recent life (and his death) as a World War 2 Fighter pilot. Here’s a link to a video sharing the story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cn9nRdn5FW4Comment by Kathleen Laritz — April 23, 2018
As for evidence of reincarnation, it’s a little anecdotal, but like the story Kathy mentioned. A family friend had a son who was born very shortly after his grandfather died. When the son was old enough to speak, he was talking to his mother and said “Mommy, remember when I was your daddy?” and then he detailed out some experience he couldn’t possibly have known otherwise.
To build on the larger conversation, particularly back to the point Hartmut posed: knowing about or doubting the possibility of reincarnation and what use that is to us now, if we know that there is reincarnation, karma, etc. and have a firm conviction and evidence that this is the case, we live according to the teachings and with the idea in mind that we shape our future rebirth(s) through our actions and spiritual development in our current lifetime.
If we have doubts, but can reasonably account for at least the possibility of reincarnation, I feel it is pertinent that we apply the teachings in the same way, accounting for this possibility to safeguard ourselves.
If we know that there is no such thing as reincarnation, for example, if science were to prove this to be true, then we can still apply the teachings in the same way (suffering still exists, actions still have results, etc.), since this improves our human experience while we are alive. We can still look back to our spiritual teachers, their teachers before that, the whole lineage of teachings and live better lives, even if there is nothing after.Comment by Tim Keller — April 24, 2018
Lovely Tim. Your reply actually correlates to a question Judith asked onsite in AA.
It does seem to boil down to motivation from either world view.
From accepting reincarnation as a possibility, we can tweak our motivation through the dharma points of compassion for ourselves and for others up through the desire to end suffering via an enlightened capacity.
From a no-reincarnation world view, we can still tweak our motivation by initially recognizing suffering and developing a personal sense of responsibility to ourselves and others.
Both require seeing ourselves in a context of living with others (inhabitants and environments) and being responsible to the whole for the good of the whole.
I sometimes wonder if that isn’t what was meant in the genesis story in the old testament that identifies life as fraught with suffering while also assigning stewardship for the garden and inhabitants to the first beings.
Stewardship wasn’t ownership but recognition that we can be helpful to the whole and have a responsibility to do so.Comment by Kathleen Laritz — April 25, 2018
I do have questions and wanted to share them for discussion purposes:
For pages 1-22:
Negative emotions seem to be defined as anger, attachment, hatred, and jealousy (page 20). What are negative actions?
I tend to plan for contingencies and, admittedly, worry too much. I have frequently been called “negative” because of it. It is common in today’s culture for people to call others “negative”. Is this “negative” label different from the “negative” reference by Gelek Rinpoche?
For pages 25-41.
There is a reference on page 36 to “eighteen volumes of return-from-death stories…”. Are these Tibetan texts being referenced?
What are the means to purify negative karma?
Though in my 60s now, I connected with Buddhism in my 20s. The more I learn about death from the Buddhist perspective the more terrified I am. It goes without saying that I will have no control over my rebirth, that the statistical probability of a human rebirth (I’m thinking of the tortoise coming up through the inner tube in the ocean analogy here) are next to none. So, not only am I more terrified, I am utterly hopeless there will be a substantial positive result from my positive actions today. This is not to say that efforts in that direction should cease, just that my Buddhist practice is not a source of comfort for the transformations ahead. That’s disappointing to say the least. Just being honest.
In the next assignment, please elaborate on “you can’t make a deal with delusions” p. 48
Liked the explanation how anger consumes a lot of fuel on page 51. That’s a less moralistic way of understanding it.Comment by Jo Anne Bowman — April 27, 2018
These are great questions and issues that others have as well. Would it be ok if i addressed them iver thenext few sessions?Comment by Amy Hertz — April 28, 2018
Perfect, Amy. Look forward to it.Comment by Jo Anne Bowman — April 28, 2018
I’d been missing the discussion. finally found it. I directed a question to another part of the JH network and got an answer, but i’ll repeat here. “I am getting used to the dark, a little. do you think that is good practice for the Bardo?. My poet husband said “the dark is light enough for those who would see”. I remember that when the lights are out.”Comment by brenda frazer — April 29, 2018
Joanne, a couple of things here: yes the return from death texts are Tibetan.
Purification of negative karma can be found in almost every lam rim including Odyssey to Freedom. Let me know if you have trouble finding references.Comment by Amy Hertz — April 30, 2018
Hi Brenda, I’ll repeat the answer here too. I don’t know about the dark and being a practice for the bardo. It’s my understanding that the best practice to prepare for a good death is to transform negative emotions. We will be addressing that in the next three sessions.Comment by Amy Hertz — May 1, 2018
Anger as energy – is there a constructive use for it? If yes, how does one go about channeling it?Comment by Judith Lehman — May 3, 2018
Hi Judith, actually Rimpoche was super specific about this. Anger is the desire to harm. Whatever is fueled by that will have negative results and will result in burnout. It doesn’t mean that compassion can’t be fierce. Maybe that’s the energy you mean?Comment by Amy Hertz — May 3, 2018
Hmmm- yes, transforming negative energy into fierce compassion…Comment by Judith Lehman — May 4, 2018
that’s nice Judith. Maybe the enlightened beings can use anger properly. it’s pretty clear that i don’t yet. Brenda MilamComment by brenda frazer — May 4, 2018
Anger is a delusion. A negative emotion. So how can an enlightened being, free of delusion and suffering, have a negative emotion?Comment by Amy Hertz — May 4, 2018
Consider: are all feelings of forcefulness anger?Comment by Amy Hertz — May 4, 2018
Such as a protector? but i’ll try to stick to the discussion at hand thanks.Comment by brenda frazer — May 4, 2018
I mean our feelings. There seems to be a confusion that all forceful feelings must be anger. But Rimpoche defines anger as the desire and intent to harm. Can you find a way to think about strong emotions, forceful feelings, that have a different motivation other than to harm? Are there other names for those emotions?Comment by Amy Hertz — May 4, 2018
More questions from me later no doubt. Looking forward to next chapter on pure love.Comment by brenda frazer — May 5, 2018
Ah, good distinction between anger and the energy, fierce (intense/powerful), applied to other emotions such as love, gratitude, joy, inspiration to effect positive results.Comment by Judith Lehman — May 6, 2018
An example that I believe has been used before, of forcefulness as love: a child does something potentially harmful in front of its parent and the parent yells at the child to get its attention and correct the behavior. While not necessarily anger, in the heat of the moment, when force is required, such as raising one’s voice or even grabbing a hold of the child and pulling it away from potential harm, it may seem outwardly hostile, but is in fact driven from a very active place of love and concern for the well-being of somebody else.Comment by Tim Keller — May 7, 2018
What is relationship of ego to self esteem? Self confidence? Is there such a thing as “healthy” ego?Comment by Judith Lehman — May 17, 2018
Hi Judith, re: your question about ego, self-esteem, self-confidence. It is addressed at the end but yes there is a big difference, and there is such a thing as a healthy sense of self, which we need to function. But the ego here–not the ego talked about in psychology–is the thing that misperceives itself as the most important, as separate, and inherently existing. It’s the thing that forces “me first” in almost every daily situation. It’s the thing that makes us believe we deserve better, we deserve what others have more than they do, that makes us overreact, hyper sensitive, and never satisfied. But a clear eyed, realistic assessment of our qualities, capabilities, and things we need to work on is another story. It’s healthy and smart to have confidence in our real abilities; but not to have confidence based on a distorted sense of who we are and what we are capable of. If I have confidence that I can beat Hussein Bolt running, well, that would be silly. Self-esteem is a trickier thing, and maybe this is enough. Is it ok? Let me know if I missed the mark.Comment by Amy Hertz — May 17, 2018
Technical trouble: they are aware of the problem. We will post the talk tomorrow for sure. So sorry everyone.Comment by Amy Hertz — May 17, 2018
Loving the discussion and hoping to join in. The points/questions raised are compelling and well thought out.Comment by Kathleen Laritz — May 18, 2018
Exploring how anger’s consequences undermine my desired outcome and in fact take me further into creating suffering for myself and for others is always helpful for me to reflect on. It highlights the difference between anger and compassionate wrath because I can see that anger throws me off track; away from a naturally kind, connected, and compassionate state – a more true nature of mind. I notice that not only does wrath that is rooted in compassion not lose that stable state of mind but it moves to action/to function entirely in alignment with the truer nature of mind. It becomes evidence of how delusions like anger are disturbances of mind, disturbances that take me away from mind’s naturally peaceful, connected state.
Yes, that helps by defining ego as negative part of conventional self…and like anger, intent is key. The intent of Ego is to separate and overtake, regardless of harm to self or other. Self-esteem, self-compassion equalizes and includes with peaceful and harmonious result. It supports wisdom in relationships.Comment by Judith Lehman — May 18, 2018
Beautifully said Judith.Comment by Amy Hertz — May 20, 2018
Just thought I’d share a couple things that struck me during the lesson on meditation—fixation vs. concentration is a distinction that is meaningful. It’s interesting how easy it is to fixate on our email, our videos, our photos, our FB and other apps, and not want to be interrupted, but how difficult it is to purposefully concentrate on one image or topic. Even as I play music, I notice how difficult it is to stay with the music and not start multi-thinking so as to let my people thoughts be able to run their course as well, at which point the musicality definitely suffers! Is it true that with the developed mind, one can carry the absolute with the relative and dual-process effectively—one with music and people both? ;<)Comment by Judith Lehman — May 25, 2018
I really appreciated your application of benefits of developing the single-pointed concentration as it applies to our daily ordinary lives, reducing panic and emotional reactions to fine-tune executive function and timing (glad you didn’t fall off the cliff!), being present in conversation, and completing tasks. So much to do, so little time! Thanks again for your efforts with this class.
I think I understood that enlightened beings know everything there is to know simultaneously.Comment by Amy Hertz — May 28, 2018