RSF resident co-authors new book ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Beginners’

While the book is intended to help people face death with calmness, peace and acceptance, it is also meant to help the living

Author Mordy Levine
Author Mordy Levine

Mordy Levine became a Tibetan Buddhist more than 40 years ago. But it wasn’t until he turned 60 and his thoughts turned to his own mortality that he began to closely study the religion’s teachings about death and dying.

“Buddhists know that how we live is how we’ll die. If you live with joy and kindness, you can approach death with confidence and ease,” said Levine, 63, a Rancho Santa Fe resident.

Levine’s inquiries led him to Lama Lhanang Rinpoche, a Buddhist teacher and artist, who oversees the Jigme Lingpa Center in San Diego, an organization dedicated to sharing Buddhist teachings and promoting fellowship.

Cover of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Beginners”
Cover of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Beginners”

The two men collaborated on a book meant to help people navigate the complex and often fraught journey of dying and death. “The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Beginners” was published Dec. 20 by North American Resellers LLC. The book is available through online sellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble and in many bookstores nationwide.

The primary motivation for writing the book, said Levine, was the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the deaths of so many people, who were often alone and frightened.

While the book is intended to help people face death with calmness, peace and acceptance, the slender, 80-page volume is also meant to help the living.

“These teachings and this book are not just about the dying process, these teachings show how to live a freer and happier life now, the same instructions that will help us die peacefully,” Levine said. “The book is for anyone or any family that wants to live a happier life, with the greatest ease, calmness and freedom. And the result of that will be a peaceful, liberating death experience.”

In the preface to the book, the authors wrote, “Is it possible that death can be a celebratory empowering event? Is it possible to enjoy our lives and, as a result, be better prepared for death as it approaches? What if death can truly become part of the cycle of life?”

The authors continued: “The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as stated by scholars, was to have been composed in the 8th century by the great Buddhist Master Padmasambhava and then discovered in central Tibet in the 14th century. The text describes practices that prepare the advanced Buddhist practitioner for the experience that awaits us from the time we start to die until we are reborn. As one becomes more accomplished in this preparation, our level of confidence while alive and as we prepare for death increases. Through these practices, we also experience a sense of calm, compassion and wisdom.”

The book is Levine’s first, and he said he worked closely with his co-author, asking him thousands of questions, as well as studying Tibetan Buddhist teachings and texts.

“I was the channel for his knowledge,” Levine said of Rinpoche, his co-author and collaborator.

Before settling down to write the book, Levine enjoyed a successful business career in which he specialized in launching new companies, growing and selling them. In all, he started 28 companies.

He also created a series of audio meditation lessons that have been listened to by about a million people, and he currently produces a podcast called “It’s Not What You Think,” which can be found on his website,

Levine is president of the Jigme Lingpa Center, which is led by his collaborator on the book, Lama Lhanang Rinpoche.

Levine and his wife, Elizabeth, have one grown son, and “many dogs” living with them at their Rancho Santa Fe home, Levine said. In addition to his Buddhist endeavors, Levine is CEO of Lizzy James Designs, Inc., a jewelry manufacturer founded by his wife.

His interests include walking and training the family’s dogs, and rock climbing.

Profits from the book will go to charity, Levine said. “I just want to get the book out there as much as we can.”