Buddhist Books About Death & Dying

There are plenty of Buddhist books with helpful advice about how to help dying people—and how to die yourself.

Lion’s Roar
25 October 2021
Illustration by Nolan Pelletier.

Question: I have a loved one who is approaching death. Can you recommend some Buddhist books to help me care for her?

Answer: Death is kind of a Buddhist specialty. In a way, it’s the central premise of the religion: that every compound phenomenon dies. (We call it impermanence, but that’s really just a euphemism.) Combine that with Buddhism’s famed techniques for working with the mind and its recognition that facing the reality of death is the key to living fully, and it’s not surprising that Buddhists have a lot of helpful advice about how to help dying people—and how to die yourself.

Here are seven books we recommend (and there are many more good ones):

  • The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, by Frank Ostaseski (Flatiron)
  • Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End-of-Life Care, edited by Koshin Paley Ellison and Matt Weingast (Wisdom)
  • Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality, by Judith L. Lief (Shambhala)
  • No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh (Riverhead)
  • Living in the Light of Death: On the Art of Being Truly Alive, by Larry Rosenberg (Shambhala)
  • Leaning Into Sharp Points: Practical Guidance and Nurturing Support for Caregivers, by Stan Goldberg (New World Library)
  • Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, by Joan Halifax (Shambhala).

Good luck. We are sure you’ll be of great benefit to your loved one at this time of poignancy and love.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.