Sushila Blackman, ed. Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die—Death Stories of Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, and Zen Masters. Paperback, 158 pages.
If you have ever wondered how truly great spiritual masters leave this Earth, here are 108 accounts of varying lengths that will put your mind at ease: They die in the same spontaneous, easeful manner with which they live out their destinies.
This is a book that confirms to the reader that the great masters neither fear death nor seek to avoid it. On the contrary, they plunge into the jaws of death almost joyously or at least indifferently, since they know that it is just another beginning. For all of them, death is a nonevent. They are not anxious about losing anything, for they have already let everything go as part of their spiritual life. In the end, what the ordinary person dreads is the loss of his or her sense of identity—the cherished ego—and this all the masters referred to here came to appreciate as a powerful illusion.
Sushila Blackman, who was a disciple of the famous Swami Muktananda, harvested her many examples from the rich field of Hindu and Buddhist literature. Each anecdote is a priceless gem, and collectively they instruct the reader to be more serious about rightful living than death itself. If we live rightly, we also will die rightly. That means quite simply: Without becoming morose, we must jettison our attachments to all ephemeral things and focus on cultivating honest awareness. This wonderful book is a timely reminder for everyone, since we never know when our time comes to bid the body and the world as we know it goodbye. In that moment, we have nothing except our spiritual strength.
After completing this anthology, the author died peacefully, no doubt having benefited enormously from contemplating the graceful exits of great teachers. Despite its subject matter, this book is a veritable gospel of hope.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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