This multi-sited ethnography in Queens, NY, Kathmandu, and Dharamsala, India, investigates how Tibetans conceive of, and prepare for death. Using death as a site of inquiry, this project considers an apparent paradox: how a temporal focus on life beyond death may enhance agency and empowerment in the present. This project engages a multi-generational sample, in three transnational locations and uses ethnographic research methods to learn how gender, as well as generation, affects the notion of a “good death.” There is a vast literature on death among Tibetan Buddhists, and yet, little is known about how Tibetans, a diverse and highly mobile population, navigate death in transnational contexts. This study examines the ways that limited access to traditional death practices may hinder an easeful end of life, but notably, it also considers how transnationalism itself, may yield innovative contemplative methods and approaches among Tibetans in exile. In particular, this study investigates the ways that globalized discourse on gender may change how Tibetan women conceive of end-of-life and hopes for rebirth. This research will contribute new perspectives on the life-course, as well as broadening notions of contemplative practice in cultural context by investigating how cultures navigate death within rapidly changing social contexts.

Sara Lewis, PhD

Wellesley College

Dr. Sara Lewis is Associate Professor and Chair of Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology at Naropa University. She is author of Spacious Minds: Trauma and Resilience in Tibetan Buddhism (Cornell … MORE