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Buddhism has made its way into American popular culture, particularly within the arena of death and dying. The growing influence of Buddhism on the American way of dying has been fostered through its connection with the American hospice movement. This paper describes the developing contact between Buddhism and hospice and documents the efforts of several prominent Buddhist organizations to revolutionize American death practices. The Buddhist approach to death has captured the interest of an American public attracted to its nonsectarian language of spirituality and pragmatic techniques for dealing with death.

This narrative ethnography explores the value of Buddhist consciousness of death, kamma, and the gift, by following the transformation in Thailand from a political order based in the global, military-gift economy of the cold war to the liberal free-market exchange of a "new world." At key moments in the transformation, the Thai military has massacred unarmed citizens in Bangkok streets. As actors struggle to harness the unstable symbolic power of corpses in public culture, the meaning of death becomes increasingly subject to the political economy that shapes mass media. While benefitting from both the sensational value of violent death and from the powerful argument for liberal freedoms which military massacres provide, the new order does not acknowledge the sacrifice of the demonstrators for its sake. Their death is divested of value, in part because of the flattening and anaesthetizing effect that mechanical reproduction has when representing violence, but ultimately because the form of political economy that may be gaining ascendance in Thailand is a cultural system inherently immune to symbolic exchange with the dead. The dissertation then explores alternatives to this economy of forgetting. Buddhist meditative visualizations of corpses, like mass media, seize upon gory detail as a powerful source of value, and yet the economy of the "charnel ground" meditation can avoid anaesthetizing effects. Never-the-less, the parallels between the image-realms of Buddhist meditation and media experience suggest that the utopian hopes some theorists have placed in mechanical reproduction are not unfounded, but unrealized. The problem of public memory that jettisons the dead is ultimately one of alternate cultural-economic realities in Thailand, and can be critically understood through a Buddhist consciousness of mind-body, and of the kamma haunting capitalist politics. The dissertation concludes by describing how rural villagers bring an ur-form of free-market capitalism, the casino, into the household funeral, where Buddhist consciousness of kamma, within a complex of family, economic, societal, political, and historical relations, provides fertile ground for a critique of political economy and for further development of the anthropological theory of the gift.

Objective: Health care professionals report a lack of skills in the psychosocial and spiritual aspects of caring for dying people and high levels of moral distress, grief, and burnout. To address these concerns, the “Being with Dying: Professional Training Program in Contemplative End-of-Life Care” (BWD) was created. The premise of BWD, which is based on the development of mindfulness and receptive attention through contemplative practice, is that cultivating stability of mind and emotions enables clinicians to respond to others and themselves with compassion. This article describes the impact of BWD on the participants. Methods: Ninety-five BWD participants completed an anonymous online survey; 40 completed a confidential open-ended telephone interview. Results: Four main themes—the power of presence, cultivating balanced compassion, recognizing grief, and the importance of self-care—emerged in the interviews and were supported in the survey data. The interviewees considered BWD's contemplative and reflective practices meaningful, useful, and valuable and reported that BWD provided skills, attitudes, behaviors, and tools to change how they worked with the dying and bereaved. Significance of results: The quality of presence has the potential to transform the care of dying people and the caregivers themselves. Cultivating this quality within themselves and others allows clinicians to explore alternatives to exclusively intellectual, procedural, and task-oriented approaches when caring for dying people. BWD provides a rare opportunity to engage in practices and methods that cultivate the stability of mind and emotions that may facilitate compassionate care of dying patients, families, and caregivers.
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Ambivalence is widely assumed to prolong grief. To examine this hypothesis, the authors developed a measure of ambivalence based on an algorithmic combination of separate positive and negative evaluations of one's spouse. Preliminary construct validity was evidenced in relation to emotional difficulties and to facial expressions of emotion. Bereaved participants, relative to a nonbereaved comparison sample, recollected their relationships as better adjusted but were more ambivalent. Ambivalence about spouses was generally associated with increased distress and poorer perceived health but did not predict long-term grief outcome once initial outcome was controlled. In contrast, initial grief and distress predicted increased ambivalence and decreased Dyadic Adjustment Scale scores at 14 months postloss, regardless of initial scores on these measures. Limitations and implications of the findings are discussed.
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Many studies in humans suggest that altered temporal lobe functioning, especially functioning in the right temporal lobe, is involved in mystical and religious experiences. We investigated temporal lobe functioning in individuals who reported having transcendental "near-death experiences" during life-threatening events. These individuals were found to have more temporal lobe epileptiform electroencephalographic activity than control subjects and also reported significantly more temporal lobe epileptic symptoms. Contrary to predictions, epileptiform activity was nearly completely lateralized to the left hemisphere. The near-death experience was not associated with dysfunctional stress reactions such as dissociation, posttraumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse, but rather was associated with positive coping styles. Additional analyses revealed that near-death experiencers had altered sleep patterns, specifically, a shorter duration of sleep and delayed REM sleep relative to the control group. These results suggest that altered temporal lobe functioning may be involved in the near-death experience and that individuals who have had such experiences are physiologically distinct from the general population.
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There are a great many books now available describing the complex rituals and esoteric significance of the ancient practices of Buddhist tantra. But none take the friendly, helpful approach of Geshe Tashi Tsering’s Foundation of Buddhist Thought series. Understanding the many questions Westerners have upon first encountering tantra’s colorful imagery and veiled language, Geshe Tsering gives straight talk about deities, initiations, mandalas, and the various stages of tantric development. He even goes through a simple tantric compassion practice written by the Dalai Lama, using it to unpack the building blocks common to all such visualization techniques. Tantra is a fitting conclusion to the folksy and practical wisdom in the Foundation of Buddhist Thought series.

Translated by Agurme Dorje. Edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa. Introductory Commentary by His Holiness The Dalai Lama